Universal Field Robots: driving productivity through automation

​​Universal Field Robots are leading the way in robotics and automation. Before they showcase their products in the ASCENT Village at IMARC, taking place 29-31 October, we caught up with them to discuss how they are set to revolutionise the mining and resources sector.

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Oct 21, 2019
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Tell us a bit about Universal Field Robots 

At Universal Field Robots, we are using robotics and automation technology to drive productivity, safety and sustainability improvements across multiple sectors. We have designed autonomous machines with extraordinary capabilities to operate in: mining, agriculture, renewable energy projects and construction.

We build capable, robust outdoor robots at a price point that is economic and will power adoption and scale. Self driving control software is applied to mass produced machines to make products that have functionality similar to factory industrial robots. The universal platforms can work for many applications amortising our software development over a large market. The robotic machines have a tablet GUI and are linked by 4G to a remote operations centre so that humans can take control to deal with complexity if necessary.

One of the strengths of our approach is that we leverage existing products as we innovate. We chose a tried-and-tested mechanical platform as the foundation for one of our products: our UFR3C is a three-ton robot that uses a Caterpillar excavator as the robotic base – but it does much more than just dig holes. Attachments include mowers, mulchers, augers, trenchers, slashers, drilling buckets, grab assemblies and more – all with software allowing autonomous operation. We’ve leveraged advances in stereo camera vision and LiDAR technologies to allow for precision world sensing, and our internet-connected machines can be monitored and controlled from anywhere on earth. The range of applications for our products is vast. In the expensive world of mining, Universal Field Robots can provide autonomous truck loading and road maintenance. On solar farms, our robots can work on foundation installation and post-driving. And in agriculture, we’re working with avocado farmers to develop capabilities for picking, pruning, weed control and mowing. We are proud to be an Australian business developing highly innovative products with the potential to revolutionise productivity, safety and sustainability. Our team of software engineers utilises advances in robotic physics simulations to digitally prototype the ideal solution before proceeding to real-world testing, reducing our research and development (R&D) costs and optimising agility.

Automation is discussed a lot in the mining industry. What are some of the biggest benefits that automation will bring to the mine site? 

According to McKinsey & Company, rapid technological advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and automation, analytics, and Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) are beginning to transform supply and demand dynamics in the energy and resources sector, and will raise productivity, increase energy efficiency and unlock value of $900 billion to $1.6 trillion by 2035.

This has put pressure on businesses in Australia and abroad to accelerate the integration of these technologies, or risk being left behind. Universal Field Robots is a Brisbane-based small business with strong industry connections that is responding to this reality; we are ahead of the curve in developing affordable, fully autonomous machines with industrial-scale capabilities. 

We have found safety alone has been a compelling case for autonomy adoption. Risk assessments for various applications have shown that by moving people away from hazards, unacceptable risks are eliminated.

Automation also brings proven benefits in productivity and sustainability, thanks to the machines' ability to operate around the clock if needed, at a cost-effective rate and perform repetitive tasks in an extremely efficient manner, reducing the time and resources needed to complete work.

What developments or exciting news does Universal Field Robots have coming up in the future? 

Universal Field Robots has progressed from building individual robots to having signed our first purchase order to build machines at scale for deployment in Queensland and Chile. We are grateful to our industry partners, including IMDEX Ltd, for having faith in our relatively small, yet agile business.

So far this year, we have been shortlisted as finalists in the Australian Mining Prospect Awards, The Lord Mayor's Business Award for Outstanding Small Business and the 2019 Australian Technologies Competition.

We started out with one founder in 2014, have grown to a team of twelve, and we expect that number to double within the next two years. We are proud of our dedicated team of talented mechanical, mechatronics and software engineers that is achieving important breakthroughs in the field of robotics and automation.

Watch this space for exciting news about our latest developments.  

Register for a free EXPO pass to attend IMARC and connect with Universal Field Robots in the Ascent Village on the expo floor

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Mining Beacon

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