Remote controlled demolition

02 May 2008

In the UK, three companies have joined forces to produce a demoltion excavator that operates by remote control. Mark Coleman, contracts director with Midlands based land reclamation contractors Coleman & Company, came up with the idea when thinking about how to reduce risks to the company's workforce.

He contacted Marubeni-Komatsu about the possibilities of adapting an excavator to operate remotely. Marubeni-Komatsu in turn contacted Koppen & Lethem, a company that it had worked with before when developing hydraulic solutions, about creating a remote controlled version of a Komatsu PC45R-8 mini-excavator.

The result was an excavator with an operating weight of 4750 kg (10,400 lb) and a net power rating of almost 39 hp (29 kW), which can be controlled completely by a portable digital control unit with a radio link. This enables the operator to keep well away from the potential danger of the building being demolished, an obvious factor in improving workforce safety.

To ensure that the PC45R-8 can access tight locations, the cab can be removed during remote operation and then replaced for normal manual operation to accommodate the driver once the more dangerous demolition manoeuvres are complete. When the cab is removed, a protective housing is inserted to protect the electronics from falling debris. Other in-built safety features include automatic shutdown and two-way information transfer to provide continuous communication between the machine and the remote unit.

The excavator was first used by Coleman & Co to perform structural alterations at Fort Dunlop in Birmingham, which is currently undergoing a refurbishment.

The conventional method of selectively ripping out and knocking down walls, floors and reinforced concrete sections by using a manned excavator posed particular safety hazards, such as working at exposed edges.

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