At a year-end press briefing held at the Edwards Demonstration and Learning Center, Caterpillar and TORC Robotics announced the availability of the RemoteTask remote control system, designed for integration into 16 models of the Cat D Series skid steer, multi terrain and compact track loaders.
The system enables operators to precisely control the machines, as well as more than 200 work tools, from outside the cab and from as far away as 1,000 ft.
“We wanted to provide our customers a solution to get an operator out of a machine in hazardous or dangerous applications,” states Jeff Griffith, senior market professional for Caterpillar. “Not only that, but in applications where you need a better line of sight.”
He cites trenching as an example. “On a skid steer, you operate a trencher in reverse. So why not have the operator outside the machine… monitoring the trench?” he asks.
The RemoteTask controls have virtually no lag in machine response time. “When I use the RemoteTask controller, the machine response is instantaneous,” says Bob Shoop, product demonstrator/instructor for Caterpillar. “The feel and response mirror the operator controls of the machine itself. Remote controls I’ve tested previously often had a delayed response.”
The intuitive remote control interface is designed to closely mimic in-cab machine controls, creating an easy operator transition from manual to remote operation. “All functions inside the machine can be replicated with this device with the exception of the radio, air conditioner and lights,” Griffith comments.
In fact, RemoteTask includes proportional hydraulic flow capability, a feature not currently available on D Series machines. It enables variable hydraulic flow control — the operator can adjust the amount of oil flow to auxiliary work tools via a thumb dial on the controller.
“We have the capability to control all hydraulic functions remotely,” Griffith points out. “We can adjust not only the machine speed, but we can also adjust the oil flow to the work tool.
“Everything from a simple general-purpose bucket to a complex hydro-mechanical work tool like a wheel saw or a cold planer can be controlled with this device,” he adds.
It only takes about an hour for a Cat dealer to install the RemoteTask system. Once installed, the machine can transition from manual to remote mode at the turn of a key switch. The system is completely transferable between units.
Emergency stop buttons are included on the controller and the remote enable interface bracket mounted on the machine. In addition, the system incorporates fail-safe communications between the transmitter and receiver.
“In the event you would have a signal loss between the transmitter (belly box) and receiver, the machine stops immediately — within half a second,” says Griffith. A tilt sensor within the controller also disengages the machine in the event the controller exceeds a 45° tilt angle.
TORC Robotics and Caterpillar teamed up on the development of RemoteTask and have an exclusive marketing agreement to distribute and support the system through Cat dealers. It will be available for purchase in North America in January 2016, followed with availability outside of North America later in the year.