BOSTON — Gilbane Building Company and Nextera Robotics have entered into a joint-venture partnership to develop a transformational artificial intelligence platform that utilizes a fleet of autonomous mobile robots to track construction progress and provide safety monitoring at job sites.
The new robotics platform, dubbed "Didge," provides autonomous "eyes-on-site" 24/7 by obtaining detailed visual data at construction sites, creating a bridge to the field between design models, digital twins and plans, while also boosting transparency, monitoring safety, and expediting progress tracking. The platform is designed to be customizable and multi-functional to include capabilities such as 360-degree video capture and daily laser scanning in order to automate a field to BIM connection. The platform will also be able to monitor environmental conditions and enhance security surveillance on project sites.
"Our robotics platform is designed to offer a cost-efficient, automated means to make construction sites safer and more efficient," said Michael McKelvy, president and CEO of Gilbane Building Company. "We're always looking at ways to deliver greater value to our clients and our partnership with Nextera Robotics aims to do just that. Throughout our 150-year history, Gilbane has focused on developing innovations that help us to build smarter with the highest levels of safety."
"We truly believe that smart and gradual involvement of robotics and AI on all levels of construction, in every process, can improve productivity, increase safety and promote sustainable operations and a better environmental footprint for the entire industry," said Lana Graf, CEO and founder of Nextera Robotics. "Nextera Robotics is all about efficiency and sustainability, and our extremely powerful AI and deep learning powered software and products are built to make a long-awaited shift in construction. We as a robotics company are proud to be recognized by an industry leader such as Gilbane and together we will bring innovative and practical robotics products to the industry."
Didge – A New AI Platform Delivered Through Fully Autonomous Robots
The Gilbane-Nextera robotics platform, Didge, is designed to maximize reliability and safety, while minimizing the cost of operation. Didge robots are fully autonomous, and the fleet does not require human supervision. Each robot can drive for up to six hours, and then parks itself at the nearest base station for recharging. To achieve precise localization and navigation through the complex construction site environment, the robots are using an approach similar to self-driving vehicles. Nextera's autonomous navigation software uses Deep Learning to process data from advanced depth sensors, cameras, lidars, inertial sensors integrated with robots body and make real-time decisions. The Neural Networks for localization, navigation, and mapping are trained on data collected over thousands of miles driving inside active construction sites.
The Didge robot fleet currently includes wheeled and tread versions, capable of scaling stairs or using human-operated hoists. Regardless of the robot type, all are sharing the same "brains" and "eyes": high-performance edge computers and advanced navigation software, and all are connected to a fleet management cloud.
The data collected via the robotics platform offers a multitude of uses from safety, to progress tracking, and post-completion data for building owners through 360-images delivered on a 3D map. The platform provides a visual archive giving a "behind- the-walls" look into a building's infrastructure once the project is complete.