Robots in indoor and outdoor environments
Construction is progressively making strides towards embracing new technologies such as robotics, big data analytics, blockchain, machine learning, virtual reality, and augmented reality. The adoption of those technologies to promote automation coupled with the digitalization of the industry are the pillars of Construction 4.0 which is the construction industry’s equivalent of Industry 4.0. Experts believe that successful implementation of the same will have the ability to positively impact the whole life cycle of a construction project from project conception to the end of life phase. Particularly, researchers and practitioners suggest that robotics forms an integral part of the Construction 4.0 framework. This is mainly attributed to the numerous advantages they offer such as a) Productivity improvement: can perform tasks significantly faster without getting tired (e.g. laying bricks); b) Safety improvement: can work in harsh and unsafe environments where humans are unwilling or unable to work (e.g. gas pipe inspection); c) Cost-effectiveness: can be more economical than human counterparts (e.g. performance evaluation of existing old buildings); d) Quality improvement: can be more precise and accurate than humans (e.g. structural monitoring). Since the 1970s, several different types of robotic systems have been studied, explored, suggested, and developed for various construction-related applications. Though there exist quite a few numbers of such prototypes, robots are still not widely represented in the construction industry. This is possibly due to the highly unstructured and harsh environments of construction sites. Thus, there is still a strong need to investigate the potential of these systems. The overarching goal of this chapter is to briefly discuss the history of robotics, underlying concepts, and corresponding construction-domain specific applications. Specifically, the objectives are to a) develop a taxonomy for construction robots based on the work environment, b) discuss some of the key fundamental capabilities for construction robotic systems, and c) discuss in detail a built environment case study application for autonomous multi-sensor fused mobile robots.