Built Robotics develops autonomous solar piling robot

Built Robotics, a San Francisco-based developer of construction robots, announced the RPD 35, a fully autonomous solar piling robot.

Built’s system combines all steps of the piling process, from surveying to pile distribution, driving and inspection, into one package that hits the most stringent tolerances on the market. Solar piles are generally steel H beams that are 12-16 feet in length and up to 200 lb. Piling is a complex activity, and most solar farms require tens of thousands of piles to be installed.

Each pile much be driven into the ground upwards of eight feet deep and positioned at an accuracy of less than an inch. These piles form the structural foundations of solar arrays and are used in every utility-scale solar project.

With the RPD 35, Built said a two-person crew can install over 300 piles per day, all while meeting slope tolerances expected from the market. This is achieved through Built’s software working in tandem with a custom pile cartridge system and advanced sensors like RTK GPS.

“Solar piling is a tough, repetitive job, one well suited to automation,” said Noah Ready-Campbell, founder and CEO of Built Robotics. “Our piling robots will dramatically improve the efficiency of workers on jobsites, which is critical in the chronically tight construction labor market. And just as importantly, they will take people out of harm’s way, reducing noise exposure, strain, struck-by and pinch hazards.”

Since Built’s first deployment in 2018, the company’s robots have helpt to install over 2 GW of solar capacity across the country, enough energy to power over 400,000 homes.

Sarcos Technology and Robotics Corporation last week completed the final validation of its Outdoor Autonomous Manipulation of Photovoltaic Panels (O-AMPP) project. The project aims to streamline the process of solar field construction into one robotic system that can deliver, detect, lift and place photovoltaic modules in the field.

Earlier this year, Built acquired Roin Technologies, a three-year-old engineering company that designed and built robotic concrete finishing systems. These included a shotcrete robot and a concrete trowling robot.

According to Ready-Campbell, the acquisition was mostly an acqui-hire that enabled Built to accelerate its current roadmap of automated construction equipment. Roin co-founder and CEO Jim Delaney joined the Built engineering team along with the other engineers from Roin.

The RPD 35 is the company’s second commercial system. Built’s first system, the Exosystem, is a robotic retrofit kit for excavators. Once installed, Exosystem turns almost any manually-operated excavator into an autonomous robot.

Built Robotics raised a $64 million Series C round in April 2022. In 2020, Built won an RBR50 Robotics Innovation Award for the company’s IUOE partnership.

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