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12/12/2022 – Robotics / Mobile / Robots / Outdoor / Labour / Safety / ABI / Research

Labour shortages and workplace safety concerns to drive shipments of outdoor mobile robots
Labour shortages and workplace safety concerns to drive shipments of outdoor mobile robots

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 CAGR of 27 per cent.


Rapid advancements in fundamental techniques 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.


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 on outdoor applications for the same reasons. 


“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,” advised Lian Jye Su, Industrial, Collaborative, and Commercial Robotics Research Director at ABI Research. “But labour shortages, the focus on workplace safety, and rising costs have led companies to deploy robotics automation across various sectors.”


Advancing in outdoor applications


An example of such advancement can be seen in the case of Blue White Robotics and Built Robotics, who are offering additional modules to automate existing machines in agriculture and construction. These modules have localised navigation and computer vision systems focusing on backward compatibility and interoperability. 


Elsewhere, major oil & 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. 


Meanwhile, the continual Covid-19 lockdown in China has spurred the adoption of mobile robots from Alibaba, Neolix, and White Rhino for last-mile delivery.


“To further advance the growth of outdoor mobile robots, robotics vendors must focus on making robotics operations more seamless and secure,” urged Mr Su. “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,” he advised.


Addressing the gaps, accelerating the development


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 the 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 an 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. “It is important to combine technologies with the business requirements of the end users,” noted Mr Su, in closing. “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.”


These findings are from ABI Research’s Outdoor Mobile Robots technology analysis report – part of the company’s Industrial, Commercial and Collaborative Robotics research service, which includes research, data, and ABI Insights. Based on extensive primary interviews, Technology Analysis reports present an in-depth analysis of key market trends and factors for a specific technology.

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