Although winter gritting is usually a manned affair carried out by a team of winter operatives, the GRITIT research and development division continues to explore options to bring winter gritting drones to the table. Drones bring the advantage of 24/7 gritting, and with built in reactive weather intelligence, can start to grit and de-ice sites as soon as there's snow falling or ice forming, faster than calling out local gritting contractors.
Although the adoption of industrial aerial drones for such sectors as catering and logistics has stalled somewhat due to the necessity to work alongside existing aircraft routes, nevertheless drones are having a major impact in other fields, with drone photography, inspection and entertainment (drone displays) having come to the forefront in recent years. Intel's 2018 drone display at the Winter Olympics rightfully made the world sit up and take notice, but in industry unmanned drones are already making a large difference with such things as underwater detection drones able to reach and see places that have hitherto been inaccessible.
At GRITIT, we spend a significant amount of our annual revenue in technology and R&D research, and we believe that it's only a matter of time before the drone wars will commence between forward-thinking winter gritting companies on a mission to create the best possible platform to ensure that your winter gritting happens on time, every time, and without delay. Ergo, RoboGrit V3, pictures above and below.
The new RoboGrit V3 prototype above follows the previous model, which was the industry’s first Robotic Gritter. Much of the ground work to automate the information needed to feed the activation of a robot has already been done. Our continued investments in our bespoke system Nimbus, integrated forecast data with an understanding of the processes from our people on the ground. Our most recent smart sensor, which transmits temperatures from the site, is a further key ingredient in realising this future image of fully automated gritting, and the addition of a sensor on the bot makes the operation all the more complete.
It’s easy to talk about change, but GRITIT is known for its resourcefulness to make change happen. We took the initiative and first step with research and development to prove the hardware, and creation of a practical physical device that is manoeuvrable and is able to properly disperse marine salt.
This prototype, nicknamed RoboGrit V2, is compact as this version carries minimal salt. It looks are almost sporty, and the first service trials of Robogrit were carried out to perfect safety aspects and spreading ability. This is fundamental as the added value of further automation will depend on its accuracy, consistency and potential materials cost savings.
Meanwhile, spare a thought for Robogrit V1, which didn't really cut the mustard. It was a little bit tinny and had a retro 1970s look about it. We don't like to mention the fact that he got very angry when we pushed his buttons, and he ended up getting arrested, charged with battery. He has been put in his grave, with the immortal gravestone "rust in peace".
At GRITIT we continue to adopt a smarter approach to winter maintenance through the development of road surface temperature sensors. This hardware solution sends real-time data readings of relative road surface temperatures and precipitation direct to our network.
Digital temperature sensors can be placed on any surface and are independently powered to provide live readings from a client’s site. By offering a live feed of precise temperature conditions it is now possible to provide greater accuracy of forecasts and delivery and timing of servicing and thus avoid over-servicing when it's not necessary. This also offers an additional layer of security to a given site.
These leaps in technology are changing the nature of what constitutes best practice and while it is possible to implement some of these practices in house it is also making the outsourcing winter maintenance a far more compelling proposition for many public sector organisations. Equally, while technology is ensuring more responsive service delivery, it is just as important to note that there is no substitute for effective human planning: Safer winters start with a carefully considered winter maintenance plan... and we can help with that, it's all part of our complete winter gritting service.
What's next for winter gritting
Next, we can quickly move on to larger salt capacities and the integrating the more proven fields of GPS control and object avoidance. The added challenge for us is to achieve all these benefits with a durable and reliable device. In our field of winter maintenance services adopting the best tools for the job has always paid-off – no business can afford a breakdown or ‘does not compute’ error at 4am and at -8O temperatures.
Our final generation of RoboGrit is likely to look bulkier, more rugged and be a lot smarter and independent. But we do believe the future robots will work easily alongside our people to provide the economies and added value for customers long before substitute futuristic developments such as under car-park heating and jet powered hover boards.
Work with the experts - GRITIT - Britain's leading winter services group
GRITIT continues to lead the way in the use of winter gritting R&D and technology to make sure that as a customer, you're covered for every eventuality, any place, any time, any where. If you'd like to have your winter services run for you by a specialst gritting company with unparalleled credentials, contact us for further information.