The excavator was entered into the Robotics Award For Good competition by Switzerland-based Digger Foundation. Going forward, it is expected the retrofitted excavator will be put to work clearing mines and explosives in Iraq as part of the humanitarian efforts to help its cities recover from years of armed conflict.
The non-profit Digger Foundation specialises in the development and use of robotics technology dedicated to removing unexploded land mines and other devices such as hand grenades and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from war-torn regions around the world.
The Foundation’s entry was one of just 10 international finalists in Dubai, selected from 1,017 entries from 165 countries. Ultimately, the Digger Foundation’s Dome System entry placed sixth overall.
The project began last year, when the keys of a Cat 319 excavator were handed over to the Foundation by Yves-Alain Tschirren, a finance representative from the Americas & Europe Distribution Division. The collaboration with the Digger Foundation happened after Caterpillar vice president Nigel Lewis gave the Geneva team a social responsibility challenge: find projects that illustrate the company’s brand and values.
The 319 Excavator became the centerpiece of the Digger Foundation’s Dome system. Dome stands for Digger Management & Operating Environment. The system focuses on mine and explosive clearance in cities and urban areas. It is one of the first tools of its kind to address the challenge of operating in urban areas, where IEDs and other types of explosives are trapped in rubble.
The prototype machine will clear cities that have been reduced to rubble and contaminated with unexploded mines. Mine detection dogs are used to first locate an unexploded device, then the excavator is tele-operated from a safe distance with the help of cameras, controllers and virtual reality goggles with no human lives put at risk.
Cat dealer Al Bahar provided a facility in Dubai for technicians to work on the machine in preparation for the competition.