Robotics in the forest – assessing the value of automation
FWPA recently held a workshop to discuss the possibilities for robotic systems in Australia and New Zealand’s forestry sectors, determining that while automation has great value and is inevitable, there is a need for more research and consultation.
Robotics have the potential to deliver social, safety and environmental benefits, however the sector needs to come to grips with the implications of the technology and a pathway to adoption.
These were among the conclusions reached by industry participants who attended a recent FWPA-hosted workshop.
Social benefits included the opportunity to attract a new generation of workers to the industry in the context of an ageing workforce – and to help the sector be viewed as innovative and technologically sophisticated.
Automation in harvesting could help to reduce injury rates, while environmental advances could include the potential for reduced soil compaction and the ability to spot koalas and other wildlife using remote image sensing.
In coming years, FWPA plans to collaborate locally and globally with industry, equipment vendors and researchers to: raise awareness of the opportunities this technology presents; identify mechanisms to pilot the technology in limited circumstances; and work to develop the business case for further research.
Workshop participants discussed various potential ways forward and next steps, including the prospect of:
- An industry white paper
- Industry-funded operational trials into ‘low hanging fruit’, for example autonomous forwarding, which could become a reality in the next 12-18 months
- Research to break through impediments to the longer term goal of autonomous harvesting.
Workshop resources – presentations:
- Report - Next Generation Timber Harvesting Systems: Opportunities for remote controlled and autonomous machinery: Professor Rien Visser, School of Forestry, University of Canterbury
- On the future of driverless vehicles: Dickson Leow, Principal Technology Leader, Australian and NZ Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI)
- Presentation - Next Generation Timber Harvesting Systems Opportunities for remote controlled and autonomous machinery: Professor Rien Visser, School of Forestry, University of Canterbury.
Photo credit: Rien Visser