Dynamic environment and big machines .


Optimized navigation needs precise localization. Localization can be based on various sensor modalities. Each of them has its pros and cons. Modern ports are filled with infrastructure to support the localization process in the hunt for the perfect solution for all mobile machines operating in the area. Unfortunately, the case is not trivial, and the port operators are constantly struggling to find balance between manned and unmanned operations – not solely, but partly, due to the difficulties related to autonomous navigation. GIM Robotics has been tackling this important problem with some of our friends.







GNSS availability can be a real challenge on the port area, fixed poles/pylons/structures attached beacons/reflectors are not constantly visible to all machines and on ground placed magnetic beacon system is very rigid by nature and thus extremely costly to modify and expand when needed. RF-based systems have their perks, but they suffer from various issues like line-of-sight and environmental conditions related challenges, which in turn might require a considerable amount of hardware to secure the full coverage in all conditions.

To address the above issues, the industry has, already for some time, been implementing various types of feature-based localization solutions. Point-cloud producing sensors have been used to create 2D or 3D models of the environment and the machines have been localized in that model, or on the map, if you like. Normally used sensors include LiDARs, radars and different types of camera solutions. Each of those sensor modalities have, again, their pros and cons, and the winning solution should balance between performance, prizing, and regulations as always. The optimal solution would obviously have several different sensors for the much-needed redundancy and robustness, but that will of course come with a higher price tag.

Nowadays, autonomous operations are restricted to special constrained areas, which are in normal operation mode free of humans. In the future, that is bound to change. As a consequence, more machine types will be robotized and put to work together in areas where human presence is still very much regulated, but not totally forbidden. Once we get to that point, the above text will apply fully. We know that all the main machine types are already more or less capable of autonomous operations and we know that the most sophisticated full port level automation systems have the needed functionalities. It is just a question of when the legislation will enable the full-scale deployments.