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CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2023: Innovations in Machine Control Technology

Machine control technology has long been a transformative force across industries, including construction, paving, mining, smart agriculture, and the marine industry. The integration of high-precision positioning solutions, GNSS, and RTK technologies is ushering in a new era of efficiency and precision and the landscape of these industries is evolving rapidly. 

This article delves into the cutting-edge advancements in machine control technology presented at the recent CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. We’ll discuss their influence on various sectors and the upcoming innovations to watch out for.

Recent Innovations in Machine Control Technology

The recent CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2023 in Las Vegas, one of the largest construction and heavy machinery conferences in the world, showcased some of the most exciting innovations in machine control technology. 

Digital Twin Technology

One innovation is the concept of the Digital Twin Technology (DTT) also known as a virtual job site. Digital Twin Technology is redefining how industries approach planning and resource allocation. By creating a virtual job site, this technology allows the engineers to  diverse scenarios, optimizing both planning and resource deployment. Satel USA Inc.’s  CEO, Paul Tacci, had the privilege to see these innovations live at the show and witness these seismic shifts to the industry first-hand, one the key takeaways was that advancements in machine control technology are no longer a nice to have but are now becoming necessary in some way or another. If you do not implement these new technological advancements for your projects or for your clients, it’s very likely that your competitors will be more than happy to do so, saving costs and increasing efficiency along the way. 

Machine Control 2.0

Industry giants are all competing to be the best  in this technological race. Komatsu, for instance, unveiled their intelligent Machine Control 2.0 for excavators, a technology aiming to harmonize the expertise of seasoned operators with the enthusiasm of newcomers. Simultaneously, Hexagon is carving a niche with its autonomous robotic carrier and pioneering the first-ever autonomous LiDAR UAV. These strides are not just expanding the horizon of possibilities but are also recalibrating industry benchmarks for efficiency and productivity.

Trimble’s Spot – Boston Dynamics Robot Dog

The future of construction and land surveying is not just confined to the latest machinery and tools. It’s also about the integration of advanced technologies that redefine how tasks are accomplished. In addition to some of the largest heavy machinery we have ever seen in person, the spotlight is on the integration of Trimble’s X7 laser scanner with Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot dog. This combination is set to transform site scans, reality capture tasks, and even the very essence of construction progress tracking.

At the Trimble station, attendees witnessed how the robot dog seamlessly navigated through an array of obstacles, simulating the future landscape of land surveying. This demonstration was a testament to the evolving land surveying technology. This shows how Trimble’s X7 laser scanner integrates with Boston Dynamics’ Spot robotic dog. This integration provides an unparalleled solution for site scans and reality capture tasks. The precision of the X7 laser scanner, combined with the mobility and agility of Spot, ensures accurate and comprehensive site scans.

Moreover, this integration is not just about capturing the present. It is about tracking the progress of construction sites. The autonomous laser scanning capability of this integrated solution offers real-time tracking of construction progress, ensuring that projects stay on track and any discrepancies are immediately identified.

Furthermore, another Boston Dynamics robot dog was on display, designed specifically for the security and monitoring of predefined geographical spaces. This robotic sentinel followed a predetermined route, ensuring the safety and integrity of the area it was tasked to monitor.

Impact of These Innovations on Different Industries

These cutting-edge innovations are already reshaping the very fabric of industries:

  • Construction: Digital twins have emerged as a powerful tool for cost management in construction. By facilitating rapid and accurate estimations, they offer teams real-time data access. This enables early identification of areas for cost reductions during planning phases, ensuring budgets stay on target. Moreover, they provide invaluable insights into possible future expenses, thereby optimizing project timelines.
  • Marine: Enhanced precision in positioning solutions is revolutionizing navigation and underwater mapping handled by autonomous or semi-autonomous water crafts.
  • Agriculture: Smart machine control technologies are fine-tuning planting, fertilization methods,  and earthmoving processes, culminating in better crop yields and increased profits.

Future Innovations in Machine Control Technology

The next wave of machine control innovations promises even greater advancements. We foresee a future where excavation becomes fully automated, elevating productivity throughout construction workflows. Machines, in their evolved forms, will double up as sensors, overseeing project milestones and churning out detailed productivity reports. This will inevitably lead to streamlined construction methods and significant reductions in project delays.

Machine control technology isn’t merely a passing phase; it symbolizes an industry-wide revolution with lasting impacts. Its potential to recalibrate industry standards and bolster efficiency marks an exciting phase in technological evolution.

Conclusion

In summary, the evolution of machine control technology is making a big impact, touching everything from construction to agriculture. At SATEL USA, we’re not just watching from the sidelines; we’re actively supporting our clients who are part of this change. Discover how our advanced solutions can help elevate your projects here.

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The Role of Automation in Machine Control

In industries like construction, mining, and agriculture, the role of automation in machine control is becoming increasingly pivotal. As the demand for efficiency, precision, and productivity intensifies, automation offers a solution that can redefine operations in these sectors.

Efficiency Through Automation in Machine Control

Automation is a key player in the ongoing evolution of machine control. By reducing manual undesirable tasks and limiting human errors, the result is increased efficiency, reliability, and precision.

How is this achieved?

  • Powerful computer tools and smart systems can quickly handle lots of information, making instant changes that are hard for manual methods to achieve.
  • Automated systems operate continuously, leading to less downtime and more productivity.

Practical Applications of Automation in Machine Control

Here are some real-world examples:

  • Autonomous Construction Equipment: Many machinery manufacturers are now producing autonomous equipment to improve efficiency and safety on construction sites.
  • Robotics in Construction: Robots are becoming more common in construction, handling tasks like bricklaying and concrete pouring, reducing errors and improving safety.
  • Digital Twin Technology: Software systems allow operators to test scenarios virtually before deploying them in real situations.

Challenges of Automation in Machine Control

Automation offers many benefits, but there are challenges to consider:

  • Financial Constraints: The initial investment into automation technology can be high, which might be a hurdle for smaller companies. However, the long-term benefits often outweigh these initial investments.
  • Workforce Implications: Automation can mean that workers need new skills, and there’s a potential for a shakeup in the number of workers needed in specific positions and jobs.. It’s important to manage the transition carefully.
  • Data Security: With the heavy reliance on data, strong cybersecurity measures are essential.

In the world of machine control, Satel radios is a trusted name. While we don’t offer full machine control systems, Satel USA is your go-to resource for Satel radios. Our radios are known around the world for their long range thanks to high quality transceivers, reliability, and dependability in machine control environments.

Our goal is to ensure machine control systems work effectively over long distances, regardless of terrain challenges.

Interested in how our Satel Radios can boost the reliability of your machine control systems?

Contact our team for more information or visit our Construction Machine Control page.

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Machine Control 101: Understanding How It Works

In the world of construction, agriculture, mining, and related industries, precision is everything. That’s where the power of machine control shines. Before we delve deeper into the intricate world of machine control, if you’re looking for foundational knowledge like understanding what is machine control and why it is important, our previous article, Machine Control Explained: What You Need to Know, addresses those topics and more.

Once you’re up to speed or if you’re already familiar, read on to gain a comprehensive understanding of the subject and dive deep into the mechanics and features of these systems.

Decoding Modern Construction: Machine Control Systems Explained

Positioning Fundamentals: Beginning in the Atmosphere

Precision in machine control starts high above the site in the atmosphere with GPS satellite constellations. These satellites determine their positions through triangulation, offering location accuracy down to the centimeter. Software engineers then create a digital model of the construction site. By using the precise positions of assets and machines, they sync the machinery on the actual construction site with this digital plan, ensuring the desired outcomes of the job are achieved on the ground.

Base Stations: Crucial Players on the Ground

Base stations are essential components on the construction site. They capture GPS signals and then broadcast correctional data across the job site. Whether through their built-in radios or using powerful external radios like the Satel EASy Pro+ 35W, they guarantee centimeter-level accuracy throughout the site. This level of precision is indispensable in today’s era of smart construction.

The Role of Rovers in Advanced Construction:

Rovers, equipped with advanced receivers like the internal MR-TR4+, tap into the signals and receive the correction data. The onboard computers map their location in the onboard display which shows a 3D map of the site, pinpointing their exact location on the site and guiding their actions accordingly giving the operators a competitive advantage over traditional machines

Alternative Systems:

Cellular Systems/NTRIP: These are a modern twist, leveraging cellular signals and connecting to offsite reference stations, eliminating the need for onsite base stations.

IMUs (Inertial Measurement Units): These are the unsung heroes in the background, rapidly calculating position changes and working in tandem with other systems to ensure precision in the relative location of the machine in the digital blueprint.


The Building Blocks: Components of a Machine Control System

External Components:

  • Satellite Constellations: Orbiting the Earth, these are the primary sources of the GPS signals.
  • GNSS Base Stations: Acting as the middlemen, they refine the signals for on-ground precision.
  • Radio Base Stations: These radios, both high and low power, transmit signals across the job site from a central antenna location, often amplifying the signal for greater coverage.
  • Cellular Reference Stations: A modern alternative to base stations, they provide signals over vast distances.

Rover Components:

  • Rovers & Machines: While man rovers help in calibration and layout, machines like dozers and excavators reshape the landscape.
  • Receivers & Antennas: They are the ears of the system, constantly listening for signals.
  • Data Collectors: The brain of the operation, processes signals and guides the machinery using advanced software systems designed for precision positioning.
  • Machine Blades & IMUs: While blades reshape the ground, IMUs ensure every move is measured and precise.

In Action: Machine Control Systems on the Ground

From the initial excavation to the final touches, machine control systems play a role in every step:

  1. Excavating: Precision digging to craft the site’s foundation.
  2. Paving: Guiding vehicles for perfect alignment and slope.
  3. Piling: Strengthening foundations by ensuring correct material placement.
  4. Compacting: Ensuring a firm surface, ready for construction.
  5. Drilling: Precision drilling, ensuring safety and accuracy.
  6. Dozing & Scraping: From rough leveling with dozers to fine-tuning with scrapers, machine control ensures a perfect finish.

Designing with Precision: Factors to Consider for Machine Control Systems

When venturing into the design of a machine control system, it’s not just about integrating advanced technology. It’s about ensuring that the system is robust, reliable, and tailored to the specific needs of the project. Here are some pivotal factors to consider:

  1. Purpose & Application:
    • Understand the primary purpose of the system. Is it for excavation, drilling, paving, or another specific task? The design should cater to the primary application to ensure maximum efficiency.
  2. Environmental Conditions:
    • Consider the typical environmental conditions of the job site. Factors like temperature extremes, moisture levels, and terrain can influence the performance of the system.
  3. Accuracy & Precision:
    • Determine the level of accuracy required. While some projects might need centimeter-level precision, others might be more forgiving. Design the system to meet or exceed these requirements.
  4. Integration with Other Systems:
    • Ensure that the machine control system can seamlessly integrate with other onsite systems, whether it’s data management tools, communication systems, or other machinery.
  5. User Interface & Training:
    • The system should be user-friendly, with an intuitive interface. Consider the training required for operators and ensure that resources are available.
  6. Scalability & Upgradability:
    • As technology evolves, so should the machine control system. Design it with scalability in mind, allowing for future upgrades and expansions.
  7. Safety & Redundancies:
    • Safety is paramount. Incorporate multiple redundancies to ensure that in the event of a component failure, the system can still operate safely or shut down without posing risks.
  8. Budget & ROI:
    • While it’s essential to have a state-of-the-art system, it’s equally crucial to consider the budget. Ensure that the system offers a good return on investment by improving efficiency and reducing errors.

By taking these factors into account, one can design a machine control system that not only meets the technical requirements but also ensures smooth operations, safety, and long-term value.

Bringing the Pieces into Focus

Machine control isn’t just a trend—it’s the linchpin and backbone of modern-day construction, agriculture, mining operations, and many other jobs. As you embark on the journey of precision work and aim to make your tasks smoother and more accurate, understanding the basics is essential but only the starting point. Reflect and think:

How can these insights and knowledge help elevate your daily tasks?

Are you leveraging and maximizing the potential of this groundbreaking technology to its fullest?

Consider any gaps or aspects you might be missing in your current operations and workflow that could be revolutionized by the efficiency and precision of machine control systems. The future of your job is in your hands, so ensure you’re equipped with the right tools.

To ensure you’re at the forefront of this technological evolution and to discover how machine control can elevate your projects, subscribe to our newsletter or reach out to our expert team for personalized advice and solutions. We’re an authorized dealer for Satel Radios in the USA, our mission is to provide reliable wireless communications hardware in Machine Control Systems and other mission-critical applications. We’re here to help.

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Machine Control Explained: What You Need to Know

Machine control has revolutionized various industries, from construction and smart agriculture to mining and forestry. By integrating advanced GPS and positioning systems with heavy machinery, it optimizes efficiency, accuracy, and safety. In this article, we delve into the fundamentals of machine control, its evolution, common applications, and where you can get your next machine control system.

What is Machine Control and Why is it Important?

Machine control, also known as machine guidance or automated machine control, refers to the integration of positioning technologies with heavy equipment to improve its performance and precision. By utilizing GPS, GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System), and other positioning technologies, machine control systems enable real-time data exchange, allowing machines to perform tasks with enhanced accuracy, speed, and efficiency.

The Evolution of Machine Control

Machine control technology has come a long way since its inception. Initially, it relied on basic laser leveling systems and manual grade control. However, advancements in GNSS and GPS technologies have revolutionized the industry, paving the way for more sophisticated and automated solutions combining software applications, real time positioning, and sophisticated 3D models of job sites.

Common Applications of Machine Control

Machine control systems have found widespread use across various industries. Some of the most common applications of Machine Control include construction, agriculture, mining, and water and waste management.

Where Can You Get a Smart Machine Control System?

To find the complete range of equipment tailored to your project needs, your local GNSS dealer will be your best resource. While Satel USA proudly serves as an authorized dealer for Satel Radios in the USA, it’s essential to note that our primary focus is providing the radio communications link for Machine Control Systems. If you’re unsure of where to start, we’d be happy to introduce you to a local dealer or Satel Reseller to ensure you’re fully equipped.

Tying it all Together

In today’s industrial world, machine control systems are indispensable. Paired with advanced GPS in heavy machinery, we’re seeing an industry revolution. These systems amplify productivity, heighten precision, reduce costs, and significantly elevate safety. This isn’t just a passing tech trend; it’s reshaping the very way industries function. As automation takes center stage, Smart Machine Control isn’t just an option – it’s becoming the standard. Leading construction firms are already harnessing their power, consistently finishing jobs ahead of schedule and under budget. Don’t let progress leave you in its dust.

Ready to optimize your construction projects?

Experience the difference that a well-integrated system can make in streamlining your construction workflows. Visit our machine control application page to learn more and dive deeper.

Understanding the Complete Setup

While we offer a pivotal component for your Machine Control System, understanding the complete setup is essential. Reach out to Satel USA today, and we will guide you through how our products fit into the bigger picture. If you are unsure of your next steps, our dedicated support team is here to assist, even introducing you to local dealers or Satel Resellers to ensure you get the full range of equipment you need.

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Tech Note: Adding a Channel List to the SATELLINE-4Pro

Because the SATELLINE-4Pro is only available with “Survey Mode” firmware, Configuration Manager software is essential for loading a channel list and changing most settings. The most recent version of the software can be downloaded from our Support page.

Following are step-by-step instructions on loading a channel list to your 4Pro radio:

  • Connect the 4Pro to power (check that you have the right voltage).
  • Open SATEL Configuration Manager & click the “Program Preferences” tab.
  • Confirm that the correct COM-port is selected and that the baud rate matches that of the radio (default baud rate of the 4Pro is 115200 bps). (Important: to be able to change settings, in the “Program Preferences” tab, under User Level Settings enter the maintenance password and login.)
  • Select the blue “Connect” tab to fully access the modem settings.
  • Select “Modem Settings” tab
  • Select “Channel Selector”, blue button at the top right.
  • If creating a new channel list, in the Channel Selector Window, select “Add” and the Channel Editor Form will appear. Here you can set the User Channel (1-XX), Tx and Rx Frequencies, Bandwidth (12.5, 20 or 25 kHz), and Channel Tx Power (NOTE: if Tx Power is left blank, the radio will default to the max. power of that unit and the saved channel list can be reloaded to any SATEL radio. See previous blog post here for more information.). Input your selection for the user channel and press OK. Continue this process for each subsequent channel, to complete your channel list. (If loading an existing channel list, in the Channel Selector Window, select “Load”, where you will then be able to browse for your saved CFG or CSF file)
  • It is recommended that you then click the “Save” button, to save your new channel list to your PC.
  •  When done, click “Close”. Change “Channel List In Use” to “ON”. The edited settings will show in red font. 
  •  Select the blue “Write Settings” button. Once complete, these settings will change to black font, indicating they’re loaded to the radio.
  •  We recommend you select “Save Configuration to File” to save all specified settings to your PC, before selecting “Disconnect”.

For additional questions, or if you’d like to suggest a technical topic for us to review in our blog, please email support@satelusa.com.

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SATELLINE-3AS Product Family EOL

 With the establishment of the SATELLINE-EASy product family, made with additional features and flexibility over the original SATELLINE-3AS product, the 3AS has been gradually reaching end of life. SATEL has announced that last orders for SATELLINE-3AS products shall be placed by June 26, 2019, at the latest. Additional SATEL development and improvements can be expected by end of year, of which we will keep you updated.

NOTE: SATEL USA does have a few used &/or refurbished units of the SATELLINE-3ASd EPIC units in stock! Contact us if interested, while supplies last.

The products that will be ceased in production are:

YM1013 SATELLINE-3ASm/LC

YM1014 SATELLINE-3AS/OA

YM1020 SATELLINE-3AS/TC

YM1025 SATELLINE-3ASm-OA

 YM1029 SATELLINE-3ASm-SMA EMI

YM1050 SATELLINE-3AS/KR

YM1070 SATELLINE-3AS NMS

YM1075 SATELLINE-3ASd NMS

YM3004 SATELLINE-3AS Epic DB

 YM3006 SATELLINE-3AS Epic C DB

YM3007 SATELLINE-3ASd Epic C DB

YM3010 SATELLINE-3AS Epic NMS

YM3012 SATELLINE-3AS Epic C NMS

YM3014 SATELLINE-3AS Epic NMS DB

YM3016 SATELLINE-3AS Epic NMS DB C

YM3017 SATELLINE-3ASd Epic NMS DB C

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Application Note: Drones


Bring Accuracy and Flexibility On-Site with SATEL’s Compact-Proof

Laser Specialists Inc, a long-time, valued dealer of Satel USA, has been using the SATEL Compact-Proof together with SenseFly’s eBee mapping drone for added RTK accuracy and flexibility on-site. This easy set up has been ideal for Laser Specialists’ mining and construction clients, finding use in quarries, stock piles, excavation and highway construction, where accurate maps and 3D models are needed to calculate volumes and perform site surveys.

The added flexibility the SATEL Compact-Proof provides is an operational advantage. Versus being physically tied to the RTK base at a specific location, the SATEL radio link allows the drone operator to place the base anywhere onsite and move around as needed throughout operation. With the Compact-Proof’s built-in battery and IP67 housing, the radio is conveniently mobile and can easily operate for a full day on-site, holding up to the dust and rugged elements of a construction site.

The improved accuracy is also significant. In standalone operation, the drone flies within 10-15 ft accuracy. With the RTK base and SATEL Compact-Proof in place, that accuracy ranges from .9 to 1.5 cm, a drastic improvement that is especially valuable across construction and earthwork movement applications. As Eric Wischropp of Laser Specialists explains, this accuracy is appreciated even in the operational task of landing the drone. With RTK accuracy, the drone can easily be brought down in most locations on the job site. Without this accuracy, the operator has a more difficult and tedious task, needing to strategically identify a larger area for safe landing.   

The Compact-Proof connects via USB data cable to the drone operator’s laptop, which runs the eMotion software that routes the UAV through its predetermined route. The Compact-Proof provides a real time data link to the base, which sends position corrections to the GPS receiver on the eBee every second, with an audible indication as images are captured. The built-in battery on the Compact-Proof makes for an easy, mobile solution, allowing the operator to move across the job-site as needed.

The SATEL Compact-Proof can also be used as an external radio at the base, if the GPS unit is without a built-in radio. At 1W output power, the Compact-Proof can easily cover the range needed for most drone flights. The UHF signal also outperforms 900 MHz ISM and makes for much more reliable connectivity. In other cases, such as a long-range roadway project, Laser Specialists has integrated the SATELLINE-EASy Pro 35W, either at the base or as a repeater, to allow for a larger working range. This solution provides the possibility of integrated machine positioning and robust onsite capabilities.

Satel USA provides a complete Compact-Proof kit for easy set up. For more information and pricing, please contact Laser Specialists Inc. (Ph. 913-780-9990, eric@lasergps.com), or your local Satel USA dealer.


Screenshot of drone routing software, with connection to SATEL radio. Accuracy reported at .023 ft

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Troubleshooting SATEL Radios

The most frequent cause of Satel Radio issues is a mismatch in settings between the transmitting radio and the receiving radio. The key settings that must be the same on both radios are:

  • Frequency
  • Channel Spacing
  • Radio Compatibility/Protocol
  • Error Correction (FEC)

Note: On other Satel-compatible radios, or via 3rd party interfaces (such as Leica or Carlson Software), these terms may have different names. Other settings, such as Error Checking are uncommonly used.

Troubleshooting Steps

Base Radio

  1. Start with the base/transmitting radio. The “TD” light should be blinking. If it isn’t, that means the transmitting radio is not receiving data via its serial port. Check the settings on the attached device to ensure it is correctly sending data via the serial link.
  2. Note down the 4 above settings using the radio screen and buttons. The settings are found in the following menus:
    1. Frequency: “Radio frequency” menu (“TX & RX freq”)
    2. Channel Spacing: “Radio frequency” menu (“Ch Spacing”)
    3. Radio Compatibility: “Radio settings” menu (“Compatibility”)
    4. Error Correction/FEC: “Additional” menu (“Error corr.”)

Remote Radios

  1. Start by checking received signal strength. In the upper right corner, the number shown with a negative sign is the RSSI. A normal RSSI should be between -40 and -100 or so, with a higher number closer to the transmitting radio, and a lower number farther away. During normal operation the RSSI will likely change between a higher number, such as -60 and a low number (typically -120 or below).
    1. If the number stays low (below -100), the radio is not receiving a signal over the air, which indicates the frequency on the base radio and remote radio is not matching, or the base radio is not transmitting. Check and program the frequency on both radios.
  2. If the signal strength is high (above -100), or changing between a high and low signal, the next step is to check the RD light, which should be blinking. If it isn’t, this indicates a settings mismatch (the radio hears a signal, but can’t decode it). Check and program the 3 other settings (Channel Spacing, Radio Compatibility, Error Correction/FEC).
  3. If the RD light is blinking, but your data still isn’t making it through, check the Baud Rate on the receiving radio (in the “Port 1” menu), and ensure it matches the settings on the device attached to the receiving radio.

Further Troubleshooting

The above steps cover the most common issues seen when setting up a Satel radio system. If the instructions don’t address your situation, or you are unsure how to match settings on a Satel-compatible device, such as a radio from another manufacturer, or via 3rd party configuration software, please contact us.