As part of the new MineStar mining operations and equipment management system, Caterpillar has launched an integrated remote control system for D10T and D11T crawler dozers.
Command for dozing is the first globally-available product within the Command Capability Set of the new Cat MineStar, a system made up of five building blocks built on existing Caterpillar mining technologies. The features and products of the Fleet, Terrain, Detect and Health capability sets, added at a fleet owner’s own schedule and discretion, “come together” within the Command set, Annette Slyman, Cat Global Mining commercial manager, explained during the May 19 web press conference. “We don’t have a vision of just making necessarily a truck or a dozer autonomous,” said Slyman. “We have a broad vision of automony, and that includes drilling, dozing, underground machines and hauling.”
Command for dozing is different from add-on aftermarket systems, Caterpillar says, because it is fully integrated with the Cat-designed components, systems and electronic control modules used on the massive D10T and D11T tractors. For instance, a dozer equipped with Terrain, using the global navigational satellite system create three-dimensional electronic fences around fixed objects and hazardous work areas, will in turn communicate those boundaries to Command for dozing and alert the remote-control operator to, if necessary, stop the machine before in enters an avoidance zone.
Fitted with a shoulder harness for portability, the 8.5-pound operator console allows remote performance, up to a distance of about 2,600 feet (800 meters), of “virtually” all machine functions including:
- engine startup, acceleration, deceleration and shutdown;
- shifting, steering, directional control and braking;
- blade and ripper control;
- and auxiliary functions such as lights and horns.
Critical information normally displayed in the cab via gauges and other displays is replicated on the operator console. Machines equipped with Command for dozing can be switched between conventional and remote operation as needed. “It’s a great alternative to an in-cab operator when it’s a potentially unsafe condition,” said Slyman, who referenced one test customer who, after a number of bench slides over the past year, outfitted one dozer with remote control so that the machine could safely pull material back onto more solid ground without danger to the operator. Once the dangerous task is complete, the operator returns to the cab.
With the building block strategy of the new MineStar system, customers add components, “and then, one day, they are ready for automation,” said Michael Murphy, Cat Global Mining technology and automony manager. Asked by Equipment World if automated mining is a precursor to automation for other Caterpillar equipment applications, such as at site-prep or utility jobsites, Murphy said there are no such plans at this time. However, “what we do is traditionally take technology from the mining space, work with it, and then take it to the construction space.”