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Industrial Automation Solutions

Automated Vehicles in Smart Container Ports

Enabling automated guided vehicles to efficiently manage the demands on the port industry.

The challenge

With competition from air freight, and the need for marine container ports to deliver goods as fast as possible, puts high demands on the port industry. The additional labour required to meet these needs can be costly and has an impact on health and safety considerations.

As a solution, many ports have introduced a level of autonomous container handling to their terminal such as automated guided vehicles (AGVs), resulting in the number of semi-automated or fully automated ‘Smart ports’ or ‘Ghost ports’ increasing rapidly worldwide. However, the challenging coastal environment and high-risk industrial processes require any autonomous sensors to be extremely reliable and robust. Commonly used autonomous equipment sensors can become impaired in adverse conditions, sometimes rendering the vehicle momentarily inoperable. Cameras, for example, can lose visibility during heavy rain, fog and when sea spray builds up over the lens.


How will it work?

When combined with Navtech’s 360° radar sensor technology, radar localisation can deliver centimetre-accurate localisation, in all environmental conditions.

This results in an infrastructure-free, single-sensor solution that can be easily installed onto any mobile port machinery, including rubber-tyred gantry cranes (RTGs), rail-mounted gantry cranes, straddle carriers, ship to shore cranes, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), terminal trucks and terminal tractors.

Radar localisation enables autonomous vehicles to answer the key questions “Where am I?” (localisation) and “How am I moving?” (odometry).

Key features and performance

The benefits

Radar localisation enables port operators to run unmanned autonomous vehicles, in all weather conditions, at any time of the day or night. It improves worker safety by removing them from the frontline of dangerous operations; thereby giving port operators peace of mind.

This also results in increased availability and operational efficiency, helping to gain a competitive advantage. Consequently, it can reduce CO₂ emissions and aid in achieving sustainability goals.

Full autonomy: this reduces pressure on the terminal’s workforce and increases safety
Infrastructure-free: zero dependence on external systems makes deployment simple, cost-effective and fast
• GNSS-fee: robust odometry solution that can be used as a primary localisation solution based purely on radar data
Optimised autonomous vehicle movement: this aids achievement of sustainability goals and helps you gain the competitive advantage
Flexible and integrable: designed to easily integrate into existing autonomy stacks and sensor solutions. This includes GPS, inertial data, laser and camera SLAM solutions

Expected technical performance

  • A high-definition, radar localisation system provides precise localisation and pose data to 3-5 cm accuracy
  • True vehicle automation, independent of GNSS. Reliable performance guaranteed, unaffected by local physical environment or signal jamming
  • Environmentally robust to the harshest weather conditions present in marine ports- unaffected by rain, fog, dust and dirt and able to operate in all light conditions and ruggedised to survive in an environment of moving objects
  • Radar feeds back highly accurate real-time data with an update rate of 4 Hz
  • Easy and quick integration due to single sensor, topological mapping and standard NMEA strings passed over UDP
Trials to date

Radar-based localisation - Terminal Tractors, August 2021

We are collaborating with one of the forerunners in port automation to trial localisation for their terminal tractors. They require a reliable solution with a simple implementation process. In addition, the solution must provide accurate positioning in GNSS denied areas, with high levels of accuracy.

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