Automated Trenching Robot Opens Conversations On Construction Technology

As automation takes over manufacturing and replaces a multitude of human jobs, companies are transforming the way they operate — and the definition of work in general. And one human-powered industry may be next to adopt automated technology:


New Atlas reports that European researchers have developed an autonomous robot to assist in trenching. The robot is called BADGER, which stands for roBot for Autonomous unDerGround trenches opERations, mapping and navigation, and is being developed by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in Spain, as well as researchers in Germany, Greece, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

Trenches are traditionally dangerous environments, so OSHA has strict safety measures in place for construction employees. For example, any trench five feet or deeper requirers a protective support system to prevent cave-ins unless it is made of solid rock. Any trench that is 20 feet or deeper needs a protective system designed by a professional. Technology like BADGER could up trench safety significantly, as its worm-inspired body can dig underground and work through a series of sensors, according to New Atlas.

While news of automating the construction industry could come as a surprise to some, experts indicate that it may become part of a larger trend. Sam Stacey, director of innovation, industrialization, and business improvement for Skanska UK said in a statement to Raconteur that the construction industry has traditionally not been part of technological research.

“We’re a low-margin industry, which has led to a lack of investment in research and development over recent decades, especially when compared to other industries,” he said.

But advancement could just require a change of thinking for construction managers, Tim Chapman, director at Arup, said in a statement to Raconteur.

“It’s the change in mindset that’s always proven to be the biggest challenge,” he said. “There are still many practitioners who want to protect the established ways of doing things, but the evidence from other industries where technology has taken hold is that soon it will be too big a draw to ignore.”

Besides automation like BADGER, Raconteur reports that construction could see a boost in cloud computing, 3D printing, augmented reality, drones, and wearable tech in the years to come.

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