The Yomiuri ShimbunTaisei Corp. and SoftBank Group Corp. are planning to use 5G networks to run autonomous and remotely operated construction machinery in land-reclamation projects in the Kanto region as early as autumn, the companies announced on Wednesday.
5G is a next-generation communications standard that allows large amounts of data to be sent and received at high speeds.
The companies hope the new technology will help solve labor shortages, shorten construction projects and have other benefits. They plan to have the technology in construction sites nationwide in the early 2020s.
The firms conducted a verification experiment this January to March in Mie Prefecture, in which a driverless excavator autonomously scooped up earth and put it in a dump truck.
Wireless LAN and other networks can currently be used to remotely operate heavy machinery and perform other tasks, though transmission speeds and capacities are lower than what is necessary.
In the verification experiment, the 5G network enabled large amounts of video and control data to be processed smoothly. Based on the results, the companies decided to put the technology into use in the field.
As 5G networks have yet to be built, SoftBank’s portable base stations will be used to create proprietary communications networks at construction sites nationwide.
According to the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, in 2018 about 25 percent of skilled construction workers were 60 years old or older, compared to only about 10 percent who were 29 years old or younger.