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Volvo Construction Equipment conducts the world’s first 5G high-lift teleoperation

Torsboda, Sweden – Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) is the first company in the world to conduct a remote-controlled high-lift wheel loader trial over a 5G network in a complex forestry application – with the goal of developing safer, more productive timber processes and examining the technology’s potential as an enabler for automation.

Remote Timber is a unique research collaboration between Volvo CE and the telecom operator, SCA, Mid University Sweden, Skogforsk, and Biometria.

This week’s tests at SCA’s timber terminal in Torsboda, Sweden, demonstrated that a Volvo L180 High-lift wheel loader can be operated remotely from hundreds of kilometers away.

By utilizing a closed 5G network, low latency has been demonstrated to be a significant advantage, allowing operators to perform the sensitive process of picking, loading, and organizing logs remotely.

Tele-operated forestry is expected to boost productivity by allowing a single operator to work in multiple – and sometimes remote – locations worldwide.

Additionally, it is expected to make it safer, by removing humans from potentially hazardous environments, and more sustainable, by facilitating logistics flows by allowing for nighttime loading and unloading of timber.

Christian Spjutare, Advanced Engineering Program Manager at Volvo CE, says: “We expect tele-operation to open up far greater opportunities for operators than is currently available. Sometimes it can be difficult to hire people in timber terminals because of their remote locations. But tele-operation allows people to work from any location, no matter the distance, making it a more desirable work setting, with the added advantage of more efficient and sustainable work logistics.”

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Magnus Leonhardt, Director, Head of Business Development & Innovation at Telia adds: “This partnership is a fine example of how remote control with the latest technology can contribute to more efficient and sustainable construction solutions in the forestry industry. A secure and robust digital infrastructure is crucial for this. The unique technical qualities that 5G offers are also entirely critical, in which extremely quick response times and high capacity enable immediate feedback between operator and machine, which is a prerequisite for being able to safely control machines remotely.”

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Remote Precision

A critical objective of this research project is to determine precisely what is required from the operator’s perspective in order to make teleoperation a pleasant and efficient experience.

Because each load of timber is unique – ranging from an unwieldy pile of heavy logs to a few short pieces of wood – it is critical that the lifting process is carried out with pinpoint accuracy and extreme precision.

As a result, a number of connected cameras and sensors are currently located throughout the machine, transmitting real-time data back to the control station via the Telia 5G network.

Thus, the test will examine how to mature the technology while also eliciting critical feedback from operators regarding the optimal placement of those cameras for handling precision.

Operator feedback is critical for the development of the teleoperation system. is from the Torsboda Timber terminal’s control station.

Volvo CE has been investigating the potential for teleoperation in a variety of segments, from mining to urban construction, for several years, with this project putting the technology to the ultimate test.

By remotely controlling processes such as timber lifting that are currently too complex to automate completely, tele-operation becomes a critical enabler of automation, allowing for a more gradual integration of automated processes for customers.

“This research project gives us an opportunity to test our teleoperation platform in a new application with high precision requirements and learn how the system needs to be designed to meet industry needs.” Christian concludes, “Insights from partially manual and tele-operated management enable us to take steps toward automation in more complex processes as well.”

Remote Timber is funded by the participating parties and VINNOVA’s strategic research and innovation (FFI) program for vehicles.

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