Robotic solar pile driver three times faster than humans


Built Robotics has launched the RPD 35, a “fully autonomous” robotic pile driver that integrates survey data, pile distribution, pile driving, and inspection. The company claims it’s the world’s first, and believes they can deploy utility-scale solar foundations up to five times faster than standard installation methods.

According to Built Robotics, the RPD 35 can install an estimated 300 piles per day with a two-person crew, a notable improvement in efficiency compared to the 100 units typically installed per day by a conventional two-person team.

The RPD 35 adds four components to a standard excavator, which work together to facilitate the autonomous pile driving process.

The sleds consist of steel arms extending from both sides of the excavator. Two baskets rest on the sleds, collectively holding close to 200 piles. These baskets are strategically loaded to ensure precise pile placement in the correct sequence. A custom-designed hammer assembly, located at the end of the excavator’s arm, drives the piles into the ground.

The hammer, weighing 7,000 pounds, impacts piles up to 500 times per minute with 4,000 pounds of force per foot. On average, the unit can place a single pile in 73 seconds.

The Exosystem (CPU) serves as the brain of the PRD 35, managing the entire operation. The company claims the unit helps drive piles with ‘sub-centimeter’ accuracy.

Contained within are a liquid cooled Intel Xeon computer processor and a vision system powered by Nvidia graphic processing units. Because the computer is installed on the outside of the excavator and exposed to potentially harsh construction site conditions, its design features shock and shock and vibration resistance, as well as robust protection from water and dust ingress.

In a previous robotization project, the company’s modified excavator performed trench work for underground wiring.

Built Robotics’ website shows that the Exosystem computer is compatible with most mid-sized late-model excavators ranging from 15 to 50 tons. 

Built Robotics reports that it has participated in over 2 GW of solar installations since 2018. The first RPD 35 units are scheduled for deployment in the fourth quarter of 2023.


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