Remote operation of forestry machines

Skogforsk is taking another step in the development of remote-controlled forest machines. Having received a grant of SEK 1.2 million from Troëdsson’s research fund they are exploring the potential of 5G based telecommunications technology for remotely operating forest machines

“We are delighted that we have received this grant. Now we are able progress further and explore how we can increase the distance between the remote operator and actual machine. So far we have achieved remote operation at short distances. If the trials with 5G technology are successful, we will be closer to a practical application of remote control”, says Martin Englund, the specialist in operating systems at Skogforsk.

Technology lab

Skogforsk has been working for a couple of years to develop remote-controlled forest machines. Since the autumn of 2019 it has been taking place at Skogforsk’s own technology lab, Troëdsson Forestry Teleoperation outside Uppsala. Tekniklabbet is financed with funding from the Nils Foundation and the Dorthi Troëdsson Research Fund.

In order to use remote controlled forestry machines access to well-functioning telecommunications is crucial. Currently, 4G technology is available through the existing mobile network and WiFi technology but now Skogforsk is taking a giant step forward by doing tests with the very latest technology, namely the fifth generation telecommunications, 5G.

Local networks

“5G is not yet developed in the public mobile networks, but we are looking to set up temporary, local, private 5G networks directly adjacent to a logging area. The technology has properties that should make it work well for remote control in the forest, says Morgan Rossander, researcher in operational systems at Skogforsk.

In the project, 5G will be tested and compared with 4G and WiFi, both for remote control operations at the logging area and from much further away

Our system is able to remotely control a prototype forwarder, but only at relatively short distances and as long as there is a clear view between the operator station and machine. The idea is that telecommunications will be significantly improved with a local 5G network around Troëdsson Forestry Teleoperation Lab.

“There is previous experience of development projects around industrial applications of 5G. Among other things, Volvo Constructional Equipments has installed local 5G networks for remote control of construction machinery, which has many similarities to the requirements of remote control operations in forestry,” says Morgan Rossander.

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