In a parking lot at an industrial and office park just outside Baltimore, I took an excavator for a spin. I pushed around some cinder blocks with a leveling blade, nosed them around with the excavator’s shovel, and maneuvered the heavy metal beast around to make room for an incoming tractor-trailer. And I did all of this with a wireless controller that was almost identical to the one I used to play Forza the night before.
The excavator was configured with a prototype of the Remote Operated Control (ROC) System from Stanley Black & Decker’s Infrastructure Innovation unit—a bolt-on remote control system that allows heavy machinery from major manufacturers to be operated either from in the cab as usual or with a wireless game-style controller.
Stanley is currently recruiting contracting companies to act as beta testers for the technology, which is currently being targeted at Bobcat, CAT, Kubota, and John Deere excavators under 10 tons. The remote control kit can be installed in existing excavators in about 5 hours by someone with little to no mechanical experience. And the control system has a physical switch that allows an operator to quickly switch back and forth between local and remote control.