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RE2 Robotics and JLG Industries are teaming up on a robotics system for solar field construction. RE2’s Sapien robotic arm technology, Detect perception system and Intellect software will be integrated with a JLG aerial work platform to support the transfer, manipulation, and placement of photovoltaic modules for solar field construction.
JLG, a global manufacturer of mobile elevating work platforms, is supplying engineering support during the technology development phase of the project. Joint work is being completed on the mechanical and control system interface between the robotic arm and the lift.
The system will use computer vision to autonomously retrieve solar panels from a delivery vehicle and precisely place the panels onto a racking system. An onsite human worker then follows to secure the panel. The RE2 Sapien intelligent robotic arm offers a high strength-to-weight ratio to place the burden of the heavy lifting on the robotic system. This system is expected to significantly improve productivity and reduce the amount of time required to construct a solar field.
“The future of work is here,” said Jorgen Pedersen, RE2’s president and CEO. “Humans and robots are working more closely together, and the construction industry is no exception. Our developmental partnership with JLG will enable us to apply our proven robotic technology to specific applications, including those that require working at height and repetitive lifting such as solar field construction. We are excited to partner with JLG to bring industry-transforming innovations to the construction market.”
This collaboration is in conjunction with RE2’s program with the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office to develop a robotic system for the Outdoor Autonomous Manipulation of Photovoltaic Panels (O-AMPP).
RE2 won a 2021 RBR50 Robotics Innovation Award for the O-AMPP system. Commercial PV installations are growing at a record rate, and the market is currently understaffed with installers to meet the demand for green power. A solar plant can require the installation of hundreds of thousands of panels. RE2 is solving this market need with a completely automated PV panel installation solution. No other autonomous solution exists in the market.
“While JLG has been leveraging and developing robotics in specific areas of our business for quite some time, our focus has shifted to developing and incorporating solutions that integrate with our lifts to help offset labor shortages and provide assistive technologies to a now 5-generation workforce,” said Frank Nerenhausen, Oshkosh Corporation executive vice president and president, JLG Industries. “The relationship with RE2 allows us to partner with an organization who has the same drive for excellence as JLG, enabling us to accelerate the integration of robotics across our product line to move the access industry forward.”
Pedersen recently joined The Robot Report Podcast to discuss the evolution of the company. RE2 was focused nearly 100% on defense work in 2016, but now the defense sector accounts for less than one-third of its business. We also discussed RE2’s Sapien line of intelligent robotic arms, which were new at the time of the podcast recording. The arms, which were originally engineered for the rugged requirements of the U.S. military, can operate in both structured and unstructured environments. You can listen to that podcast below.