Rapid advancements in fundamental techniques, such as navigation, manipulation, and functional safety, have made robots more intelligent, agile, and safer.
Mobile robots are a proven ideal companion for humans performing mission- and business-critical tasks in outdoor environments. According to global intelligence firm ABI Research, shipments of outdoor mobile robots will grow from 40,000 units in 2021 to reach 350,000 by 2030, a compound annual growth rate of 27 percent.
With the successful deployment of mobile robots for successful navigation, manipulation, and functional safety in material handling, transporting, and cleaning, companies are now looking to deploy robots for outdoor applications for the same reasons.
Lian Jye Su, industrial, collaborative, and commercial robotics research director at ABI Research, says: “No doubt the market is affected by a series of headwinds, including high-interest rates, the recent withdrawal of major solution providers from the last mile delivery sector, and the lack of scalability in highly fragmented markets, such as agriculture and construction.
“But labor shortages, the focus on workplace safety, and rising costs have led companies to deploy robotics automation across various sectors.”
For instance, Blue White Robotics and Built Robotics are offering additional modules to automate existing machines in agriculture and construction.
These modules have localized navigation and computer vision systems focusing on backward compatibility and interoperability. Major oil and gas companies are deploying quadrupeds from ANYbotics and Boston Dynamics to perform safety inspections in mesh-wired stairs and tight passages that are suboptimal for wheeled mobile robots.
The continual Covid-19 lockdown in China has spurred the adoption of mobile robots from Alibaba, Neolix, and White Rhino for last-mile delivery.
Su says: “To further advance the growth of outdoor mobile robots, robotics vendors must focus on making robotics operations more seamless and secure. They should keep an eye on emerging technologies, such as 5G and edge computing.
“Ubiquitous connectivity coverage and distributed computing will enable robots to be fully connected and take advantage of computational capabilities in the cloud.”
Major chipset vendors are actively developing solutions to address the seamless and secure gaps while enabling the collaborative and accelerated development of robots and making testing and training of virtual robots more widely accessible and scalable.
Intel continues to enhance its RealSense software development kit through new libraries and tools, while AMD/Xilinx offers a ROS-compatible Kria Robotics Stack for ROS and ROS-2 developers. At the same time, Qualcomm launched the RB6 platform, a refresh of its RB5 platform that combines camera, computer vision, AI, and 5G hardware technology on a single platform.
Lastly, Nvidia expanded its Isaac robotics solution with the launch of new Jetson Orin Nano system-on-modules, Nova Orin reference architecture, and cloud-based Isaac Simulation.
Finally, robotics vendors must be clear with the use cases that they are targeting.
Su says: “It is important to combine technologies with the business requirements of the end users. All discussions with end users must be focused on business outcomes. All robotics discussions must be ROI-driven, intending to offer measurable and quantifiable improvement in employee productivity and workplace safety.”