Innovators building autonomous trucks and robotics tools, plus updates on the latest drone technology

AARP National Project Lead Tamryn Barker introduced Simon Stone from the global tech leader Hexagon, who shared insights from their Mineral Resources autonomous road train project. This was followed by an overview of Vilota’s work building visual perception kits for robots from its co-founder Brenton Welford.

Tamryn then welcomed Coleby Thew and Joshua Foo to present the latest advancement in DJI enterprise drones, on behalf of Australia Agritech. The event finished with a live demonstration of the new drone technologies. 

Hexagon using technology to create new economic resources in WA

Hexagon is the global leader in digital reality solutions, combining sensor, software and autonomous technologies to put data to work. It has 25,000 employees worldwide and 150 people in their new Perth city office. 

Simon Stone is Vice President of Asia at Hexagon and shared, “75% of mobile phones, 85% of cars and 95% of aircraft in the world have our tech touching them.”

Simon detailed their work at the AARP facility, testing the technology behind the autonomous road train project for Mineral Resources. It is the largest single contract that Hexagon has ever done, delivering 120 fully autonomous road trains to continuously haul iron ore across a distance of 170 kilometres. 

The use of autonomous haulage makes the mining of lower-grade ore bodies in remote locations financially viable. Simon stated, “The economics of taking these drivers out of the cab is actually transformative. It makes dirt that was of no value, no economic value at all – really valuable. It’s creating an economic resource in Western Australia that wasn’t there before.”

In addition to using the AARP as a test facility, Hexagon and Mineral Resources have taken advantage of the Precinct to present to investors and the media. As well as exposing staff to the project to help grow excitement for the innovations taking place and build workforce culture.

Simon praised the Precinct as a catalyst for innovation, fostering collaboration between automation experts and finished by saying, “We are super excited to be part of the AARP”.

Vilota building advanced robotics tools to solve positioning problems

Vilota is another innovator currently using the AARP as a testing facility and development space. With the company name stemming from the concept of “visual locational data”, co-founder Brenton Welford explained that his company makes visual-based perception kits for robots.

Brenton described his business as a ‘pick and shovel’ startup and stated, “We make tools for other people to solve end-user problems.” Their devices are used by other companies to build autonomous robotic systems and drones.

While there are many location technologies available nowadays, accuracy is a critical factor for many solutions. Perhaps 20-meter accuracy is adequate for some tracking applications, however this is unworkable for navigating the movement of robotics.

Additionally, many tracking systems rely on line-of-sight to satellites, a requirement not always possible in mining scenarios. Brenton referred to the bottom of the Kalgoorlie Superpit as one such environment.

Vilota technology solves the problem of inaccurate positioning in obstructed environments, using multiple stereo cameras and computer vision to track features in the world and identify relative positioning. Their devices see both empty spaces and objects with the ability to classify objects, such as people, vehicles, and environmental objects.

Whether for underground fleet management or indoor drone flights, Vilota technology can act as a position redundancy system for other perception technologies.

Vilota devices are enabling progress in the automation and robotics industry by empowering other companies to solve fundamental problems and concentrate on specific customer solutions. Interest in their products was clearly evident by the volume of questions posed to Brenton by the event attendees. 

Australia Agritech promoting enterprise drone adoption in WA

In the final session of the day, Coleby Thew and Joshua Foo from D1 Store, premium resellers of DJI in Australia, were asked by Director of Australia Agritech Judy Zhu to provide updates on DJI’s latest enterprise drones.

Coleby and Joshua presented the newest features of DJI’s agricultural drones, docking drones, and drone delivery systems, followed by a live demonstration of these technologies.

The AGRAS T40 remains DJI’s flagship agriculture technology for automating crop protection, fertilisation, and seeding. With a base weight of 50 kg, this robust drone is capable of carrying 40 litres of liquid for spraying or 50 kg of dry particles for spreading. 

The soon-to-be-released DJI Dock 2 promises to be a game-changer for remote drone deployment beyond visual line of sight in places like mine sites. It offers significant improvements over its drone-in-a-box predecessor with a huge reduction in both cost and physical weight making deployment quicker and easier. It has increased flight time and distance it can travel. Ideal for monitoring blasting activities or the movement of autonomous trucks.

The DJI FlyCart 30 provides long-range, heavyweight, aerial drone delivery for industrial use such as the rapid movement of tools or critical spares across rugged terrain. It is capable of delivering a 30-kilo payload 16 kilometres and up to 40 kilos within shorter distances. The drone has an automatic winch system that drops payloads without needing to land.

Australia Agritech is dedicated to advancing the adoption of drone technology in the agriculture sector by establishing a sales and support network across Western Australia.

Concluding the day with a tour of the facility

After the event presentations and technology demonstrations, AARP National Project Lead Tamryn Barker escorted event attendees on a bus tour of the Precinct. She provided details on the site test beds and progress updates on the construction of the new building facility.

CORE Innovation Hub is the proud operator of the Australian Automation and Robotics Precinct managed by Development WA. 

The next Demo Day will be taking place on Friday 19 April, at 10:00 am. This event offers an excellent opportunity to tour the AARP and experience the robotics and automation technology being developed on-site.

Attendees of the March Demo Day were walked through the latest tech updates from three exciting innovators of the Australian Automation and Robotics Precinct.