RE2 Robotics Partners With JLG on Solar Field Construction
How can RE2’s robotic arm and JLG equipment handle heavy payloads in the field?
Mobile manipulation systems developer RE2 Robotics has partnered with mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) and telehandlers manufacturer JLG Industries.
As part of the news collaboration, the companies will join forces to integrate RE2’s Sapien robotic arm and compatible software technology into a JLG aerial work platform.
The resulting devices will support the transfer, manipulation, and placement of photovoltaic modules for solar field construction.
RE2 Sapien being used in solar field construction. Image used courtesy of RE2.
RE2 Robotics and JLG: Company Overview
Before delving into the companies’ partnership, it is helpful to have a look at the individual company offerings and product line specialties.
Founded in 2001 by Jorgen Pedersen as a Carnegie Mellon spin-off, RE2 Robotics operates with the goal of developing mobile manipulation technologies that enable robot users to remotely interact with the world.
The company has in the past created several highly-specialized machines for applications on the ground, in the air, and underwater.
In terms of specific products, RE2 is particularly known for its Sapien family of robotic arms, the RE2 Detect computer vision software, and the RE2 Intellect autonomy software, which provides the company’s mobile manipulation systems with capabilities to operate in a variety of complex indoor and outdoor environments.
The RE2 Sapien Sea Class. Image used courtesy of RE2.
JLG is a Pennsylvania-based designer, manufacturer, and marketer of access equipment such as lifts and telehandlers.
The firm was founded in 1969 but was acquired in 2006 by Oshkosh, a manufacturer of access equipment, as well as specialty vehicles and truck bodies.
JLG’s portfolio includes the company’s aerial work platforms, the JLG and SkyTrak telehandlers, along with an array of additional accessories designed to increase the versatility and efficiency of these products.
A Technical Partnership
RE2 Robotics and JLG first joined forces in March 2021, as part of a wider industry collaboration focusing on O-AMPP (Outdoor Autonomous Manipulation of Photovoltaic Panels).
Now, the two manufacturers are building on their partnership with the goal of advancing the integration of robotics with access equipment.
A JLG Telehandlers. Image used courtesy of JLG.
“While JLG has been leveraging and developing robotics in specific areas of our business for quite some time,” said Frank Nerenhausen, Oshkosh executive vice president and president, of JLG Industries. “[Now,] our focus has shifted to developing and incorporating solutions that integrate with our lifts to help offset labor shortages and provide assistive technologies to a now 5-generation workforce,” Nerenhausen added.
Specifically, the partnership will see the integration of RE2 Sapien, Detect, and Intellect technologies within a JLG aerial work platform.
A concept image showing the RE2 Sapien robotic arm installed on an aerial work platform. Image used courtesy of RE2.
JLG will reportedly supply engineering support during the technology development phase of the project. The companies will then jointly work on the mechanical and control system interface between the robotic arm and the lift.
The resulting robotic solar field construction system will use computer vision to autonomously retrieve solar panels from a delivery vehicle and place them onto a racking system. An onsite worker will then follow to ensure the panel is correctly secured.
For context, a typical solar panel weighs about 40 pounds. Powered with low-voltage DC and featuring flexible end-of-arm-tooling (EOAT) capabilities, the RE2 Sapien intelligent robotic arm is capable of lifting such payloads thanks to its high strength-to-weight ratio.
This partnership is just one example of an increasing field of robotic integration, with the workforce and automation working together to increase the safety, speed, and efficiency of infrastructure development.
According to RE2, the developmental partnership with JLG will enable the company to apply its proven robotic technology to specific applications, including those that require working at height and repetitive lifting such as solar field construction.
RE2 confirmed a concept machine based on these early prototypes will be released in the near future.