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Design of an innovative system for the drive and control of port cranes for safe remote operation

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No crane, no gain

Cranes are crucial tools in modern ports, but crane operators are put under a great deal of stress, affecting their efficiency. Getting them out of the cabin and into a remote operating room can help boost their performance and improve their working conditions.

Climate Change and Environment

Given the constant need for heavy lifting, cranes and crane operators are crucial ingredients in the success of any port. In reality, cranes are often less efficient and productive, in terms of lifts per hour, than manufacturers and port authorities believe. One key factor in efficiency loss is the stress and strain experienced by crane operators due to the vigorous vibration of the cabin and the constant attention they must pay to cargo sway. In consultation with crane operators and port authorities, the EU-backed ‘Design of an innovative system for the drive and control of port cranes for safe remote operation’ (Securcrane) project aimed not only to boost the overall performance of human operators but also their working conditions, security and safety. It did so by developing a three-dimensional (3D) remote, real-time crane control system that would enable the operator to work the crane without sitting in the cabin. Employing high-tech artificial intelligence and artificial vision technologies, this innovative system simulates the situation in the cabin as if the operator was on board. One reason why remote systems have not been introduced widely to date is due to the absence of efficient perception systems and responsive anti-sway devices. The Securcrane system included anti-sway and cargo monitoring modules which operated automatically without the need for human intervention. The cargo monitoring component is made up of sensors, mainly cameras, positioned in key points on the crane structure, which monitor each handled container from different points of view and angle-shots. The system is suitable for various types of cranes and outperformed available commercial alternatives. However, further refinement is required before the system can be fully commercialised. The remote control module also has potential applications in the transport, logistics, security and defence sectors.

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