The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energies Technology Office (SETO) has awarded RE2 Robotics $1.9 million to develop a robotic system to aid in assembling solar fields. RE2 Robotics is a leading developer of autonomous mobile manipulation systems with robotic arms for outdoor and indoor environments. 

 

The U.S. DOE has chosen RE2 Robotics to automate part of the solar field installation process through a combination of machine vision, artificial intelligence, and robotic manipulation. Image used courtesy of RE2 Robotics

 

This award will help the company leverage its technology and knowledge to support the U.S.’s continued efforts to expand renewable energy. Also, this is not their first time receiving funding for manipulation systems: in 2020, the U.S. Navy tasked RE2 with adding autonomy to a dexterous maritime manipulation system.

 

What is O-AMPP?

O-AMPP (Outdoor Autonomous Manipulation of Photovoltaic Panels) seeks to apply outdoor, autonomous robotic technology to the solar construction industry. More specifically, the goal is to use the latest in autonomous robotic technology to support assembling solar fields through the transfer, manipulation, and placement of photovoltage modules and panels.

According to Jorgen Pedersen, CEO and president of RE2 Robotics,  they “seek to improve labor productivity, bolster worker safety, reduce construction costs, and improve the efficiency and quality of installation by automating processes that are currently done manually.” In addition, Pedersen feels that this technology could make solar energy more accessible.

RE2 Robotics will also be partnering with other industry-leading companies to fully develop O-AMPP, including Array Technologies, AES Corporation, Mortenson, Pratt Miller, and JLG Industries.

 

RE2 Robotics and the O-AMPP Program

One of the key systems within the O-AMPP program involves combining machine vision with artificial intelligence and machine learning, where RE2 Robotics will apply their RE2 Detect and Intellect modules as well as their robotic arm and manipulator products.

 

Machine Vision

The RE2 Detect module is a machine vision perception system that works with multi-modal 2D and 3D imaging sensors located on RE2 robotic manipulators. These imaging sensors are available to adapt to different environmental conditions and lighting situations, allowing them to detect and track objects in both indoor and outdoor environments.

 

Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy

The RE2 Intellect module, as the name implies, is the intelligence behind the autonomous systems. It combines machine vision with machine learning to support a decision process that is quite human-like in how it processes information and perceives environments. This allows it to work in unstructured environments where traditional autonomy methods often fail due to anomalies they do not know how to handle. 

 

Robotic Arms and Manipulators

Mobile outdoor arms will be tasked with the transportation, manipulation, and placement of photovoltaic modules. RE2 Robotics has experience developing high manipulative robotic arms for outdoor use in challenging environments, including subsea applications.

 

RE2 Robotics has developed robotic arms, manipulators, and autonomous systems for a variety of applications. Image used courtesy of RE2 Robotics

 

The O-AMPP project headed by RE2 Robotics may well lay the groundwork for automating other installation and maintenance tasks related to renewable energy, including wind energy and hydropower.


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