Metro Tunnel lets the robo-dog off the leash

Metro Tunnel lets the robo-dog off the leash

It’s not Bring Your Dog to Work Day, but Metro Tunnel Project crews have been joined by a four-legged friend all the same.

In a first for Victoria, a robot dog named Spot has joined the Metro Tunnel team as part of a cutting-edge technology trial to scan the project’s new tunnels and collect data for quality control.

Designed to be a fully autonomous coworker on major construction projects, Spot can move and navigate almost like a normal dog, meaning it can cruise over gravel, loose obstacles and even climb flights of stairs. 

The 30kg Spot is about the size of a Labrador and navigates via 360-degree vision and a light detection and ranging sensor.

This makes traversing the complex underground tunnels and platforms of the Metro Tunnel Project a breeze, steering clear of workers while capturing data in real-time to document progress during the project’s critical tunnel fit-out stage. 

And unlike our furrier four-legged friends, it always follows every command, comes when it’s called and doesn’t need to be kept on a lead. 

Spot is also smart enough to recognise when its batteries need to be recharged. It then makes its way to its docking station, where it can upload data in real time while charging. It can typically cover between six and eight kilometres – or about 90 minutes – before it needs recharging. 

Designed to survive dusty and wet conditions, Spot is no slouch either. It’s an all-weather performer able to work in temperatures that would make even the hardiest tradie call in sick – anything from -20 to 45 degrees Celsius.  

And Metro Tunnel isn’t the only place benefitting from a new best friend – the technology by US robotics company Boston Dynamics is already being rolled out overseas, with another pup from Spot’s litter recently inspecting the ancient Roman city of Pompeii for safety and structural issues. 

Spot’s help will be invaluable as the Metro Tunnel team gets on with working towards a huge program of train testing in the tunnels next year to ensure services are ready for passengers when the Metro Tunnel opens in 2025.

The project’s twin nine-kilometre tunnels were completed last year, and the five new underground stations are taking shape, including Arden Station, where the signature arched brick entrance is close to completion and work is continuing below ground on platform construction and mechanical, electrical and plumbing service installation. •

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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