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Drones and Robots Filling in for Japan's Shortage of Construction Workers

With fewer human workers available to meet demand, Japanese construction company Komatsu is turning to automated equipment and drones.
October 14, 2015, 11am PDT | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Gabriel Garcia Marengo

Faced with too few employees to meet demand in the run up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Japanese construction firm Komatsu has turned to an automated fleet of construction vehicles to do the dirty work. Ben Popper reports in The Verge that the Japanese company is now partnering with an American drone company to further speed the construction process, eliminating the need for human surveyors to draw the maps that guide the automated construction vehicles.

"To get around this problem, Komatsu has begun creating a new service it calls Smart Construction. A team of robotic vehicles scoops rock and pushes dirt without a human behind the wheel. They are guided in their work by a fleet of drones, which map the area in three dimensions and update the data in real time to track how the massive volumes of soil and cement are moving around the site."

The American drone company, Skycatch, is able to reduce the land surveying process from two weeks to "one day, or even 30 minutes"” So can we expect to see robots and drones on American construction sites? Probably not any time soon, as Skycatch CEO Christian Sanz notes that current regulations in the United States make it difficult to go to a fully automated construction crew.

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Published on Tuesday, October 13, 2015 in The Verge
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