Remote control excavators are they the future?



Having recently completed the conversion of two remote controlled Cat® 316E Excavators for a steel mill application, Finning excavator specialist Richard Carless talks about the rise of remote controlled plant.


For years, remote control has been talked about by the industry as a ‘nice to have’ and an answer to safety concerns for specific applications like arctic mining and demolition. But with new technology reducing the cost of conversion and a greater focus on removing operators from higher risk environments, the long awaited age of affordable remote control is now here.

By the nature of remote control applications, the key things to remember when specifying a machine relate to the combination of power, control and flexibility it can offer. It is also important to consider the overall build quality and reliability of the machine, as invariably they are operating in more hazardous conditions.

Remote Monitoring

This is where the use of other remote technology really comes into play. By understanding the application, the machine, the information coming back from GPS and the service data, preventative maintenance can be enhanced significantly for remote controlled plant.

Equally, through the setting of key parameters relating to the machines’ performance, more immediate warnings can be flagged up and sent straight to the operator, allowing them to act quickly to extract the machine from the application.

Probably the most important part of doing a conversion is the ongoing maintenance of the machine. For example, the engineering team at our Leeds branch was responsible for both of the Cat 316E conversions. So when regular maintenance is required, the same team with experience of that specific machine would carry out the work.

In the case of the Cat 316E machines, our engineers worked closely with specialists to design a bespoke solution and remote console. With three levers, the console enables the controller to both track the machine backwards and forwards, whilst moving it in the required directions. Once at the job site, the controller is then able to operate the joysticks in a similar fashion to being inside the cab.

Often remote controlled plant has additional bespoke engineering requirements and this was no different with the 316E’s, which were fitted with a larger boom to cope with the depths of the pots and ladles and heat resistant protection for the hydraulic hoses.

It is also worth recognising that converting plant for remote control applications is not just confined to new equipment or excavators, as we have carried out similar conversions on used equipment, including a Cat 973 tracked loader. So remember, that no matter what the task, if an operator is potentially in danger, it is time to turn on your remote.