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Autonomous, building-size Russian dump trucks are turning to 5G for guidance

The system is being tested as a replacement for Wi-Fi/mesh networks.

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This building-size wheeled chonky boy is running on 5G.

BELAZ

Automation in heavy industries like mining is a great way to improve safety and efficiency, so it's often in spaces like these that we see early versions of technology that may someday make it into consumer goods. An excellent example of this would be robotics.

Robotic mining dump trucks have been a thing for a while now, mainly because the things are so damned big that it's harder for humans to control them safely than for a computer and sensors. A Russian-Finnish company called Zyfra is looking to take that tech a step further using 5G technology.

Zyfra is specifically outfitting massive Russian Belaz dump trucks with a whole ecosystem of sensors to allow it to operate autonomously within the confines of the Chernogorsky open-pit mine near Khakassia, Russia. The localized 5G network is based on equipment from Chinese supplier Huawei.

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The Zyfra system uses Huawei hardware to keep these massive haulers on track and out of trouble.

Zyfra

"Robotic dump trucks allow for a significant increase in freight transport production rates (up to 30 %), thanks to a reduction in nontechnological downtimes related to human factors (shift changes, lunchtime, etc.), an increase in the average speed of robotic dump trucks during travel, and thus an increase in the number of movements per shift (by approximately 20 %)," said Pavel Rastopshin, managing director of Zyfra, in a statement. 

Rastopshin continued, "The 5G network has demonstrated its reliability in robotic equipment application tasks at open-pit mining sites. But overall, other data transfer standards can also be used to scale and launch robotic equipment. When selecting a specific type of data transfer technology, it is important to look at the quality of the service provided and its approximate value to the applied robot technology economy at a particular mining site."

Previously, most of these industrial systems were running on Wi-Fi or mesh networks, and according to Zyfra, the 5G solution has proven to be much more reliable and efficient. What could this mean for consumer goods? Well, it serves not only as a proof of concept for the viability of 5G in a safety-critical autonomy system, which in turn should make it easier for other developers to lean on the tech for their own work.

But mostly, massive, building-size dump trucks are awesome and robotic ones are even cooler. 

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