Excavators have always relied on surveying equipment. Grade control systems have removed the guesswork and survey equipment monitoring. These machine-controlled systems still require skilled operators, but they now have real-time readings of the amount of soil they move. In Arizona, every grading and excavating contractor has worked in this manner.
Dozer and Grader Systems
Automation systems are in use in a lot of heavy equipment nowadays. These include tractors, harvesters, bulldozers, and excavators. For graders and bulldozers, the systems allow the drivers to program their route and work with the feedback on the screen. The heavy equipment practically drives itself around the preset course and dozes or grades according to the depth settings.
Excavators rely on a different set of data for digging holes. Control systems either use 2-D or 3-D equipment. 2-D systems use above ground sensors to provide operators with a view of the excavator’s location and orientation. This allows the operators to see what they are doing. This is not the case in most excavators due to the way the cab is oriented. The critical part is the depth data, which helps keep the operator digging correctly.
3-D systems can do the same tasks with additional spatial awareness due to a GPS connection. The added information from GPS data allows more accurate placement of the bucket and excavator. This is especially helpful for big projects and multiple excavators working on the same project or task. The system still requires a practiced hand on the joystick. With a good operator, the data provided allows a finished project within two to three centimeters of the requirement.
Excavators, dozers, and graders have benefited from control systems, but the added information from GPS data and 3-D systems have allowed excavators to improve their digging accuracy.