September 14, 2020

Optilift parent company set to develop next-generation crane, forklift and drone autonomy

VOCA, the Optilift parent company, has received 13,1 MNOK from the Norwegian Research Council (Forskningsrådet) to develop the next-generation logistical autonomy.

The proposed new project, now given a green light for initial development, aims to interconnect both cranes, forklifts and drones to create a safer and more effective logistical operation.

Torbjørn Engedal, Managing Director of VOCA, says the concept aims to develop a technology platform consisting of software, sensors and computer devices that will function as the “eyes, senses and brains” of forklifts, drones and cranes – merging them into smart, collaborative devices.

Could save 60 % of costs

A typical logistics hub has between 50-60% of their total costs related to costs of manual labour. Engedal underlines the vast potential for such numbers to be reduced significantly.

– Our proposed solution aims to turn specific manual operations into autonomy, and we believe it is possible to reduce costs due to manual labour with up to 60 %, he states.

– In turn, an increased use of remote control and autonomy will enable significantly increased competitiveness, especially in Norway, due to our high labour cost.

As a result, Engedal says clients in the future will be able to rapidly implement adjustments and improvements to achieve a lean organisation, better adaptable to change – which again could offer improved efficiency- and energy utilization.

Not industry specific

The VOCA AI-technology has traditionally been the driving force of mainly remote and autonomous crane handling technology, specifically designed for offshore oil and gas use.

With the new logistical concept VOCA is set to build autonomy solutions that could fit a vast number of industries.

– What we want to create here is a system and a solution that could easily be adopted by several different industries, whether the operations are connected to farming, mining, aquaculture or other, Engedal states.

Paul Torkil Fjuk, Senior Advisor, Business and Technology, at the Norwegian Research Council, says the proposed project from VOCA gained significant attention among the different applications handled by the professional panel.

– The VOCA «Autonomous Cargo-Handling and Transportation Project» has been granted support from us based on how well the project adress an important aspect of norwegian commerce and business, which is the potential to streamline the interaction of several different logistical units to produce enhanced and more effective handling of goods.

– While the proposed project primarily seek to build solutions to streamline harbour logistics, the project results could ultimately be transferred to other logistic hubs in other business areas. The professional panel considers the potential of this project to impact norwegian business and commerce as «significant», and the Research Council looks forward to follow the project development as it unfolds, he says.

Pilot project first step

The initial step of the project will see a scale version of a closed loop logistical environment being built, including forklifts, drone and cranes.

– We have previously developed such scale environments together with Aker BP, where we successfully designed and tested the world’s first autonomous crane concept. We will use our experience from this project when we now embark on our next development journey.

The project sees a range of participants and constellation of partners, including Aersea and University of Zaragoza.