In the future, a robot vehicle will help the Port of Lübeck to load truck trailers onto ships even faster. A team from TITUS Research GmbH is currently working on this as part of the “Baltic Future Port” research project funded by the Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport (BMDV). The three-year project will advance the digitalisation of the Port of Lübeck on the basis of the new 5G mobile communications standard.
Wildau, 06 October 2022
When a trailer is to be loaded onto the next ferry in the Port of Lübeck, a port employee currently goes in search of the trailer. If things go well, it will be in the right row. But if it is not, the employee has to go in search of it.
That can be done better, as a detailed analysis by the TITUS researchers at the beginning of the project showed. In a simulation, the research team found out that a digital management of the parking spaces would save time and costs. The solution is a robot vehicle that recognises and locates the trailers and at the same time checks the condition of the parking spaces. This information is forwarded to a control centre and evaluated with the help of artificial intelligence. Finally, a map with the exact parking spaces of the trailers is created.
Joint project celebrates half-time
In the “Baltic Future Port” project, the partners involved want to research how the new 5G mobile communications standard can be used for faster loading and unloading of ships in the Port of Lübeck. In addition to the Hanseatic City of Lübeck as lead partner, the Lübeck Port Authority, the Lübecker Hafen-Gesellschaft as operator of the port and the shipping company TT-Line, among others, are also involved in the project. At the halfway point of the project in August, the participating companies presented their respective project status at the 10th logRegio Logistics Forum in Lübeck. TITUS Research was also on site with the robot vehicle, which had only just been delivered, to carry out the first test runs and collect data.
Challenges for the second half of the project
The researchers still have to overcome a few hurdles before the robotic vehicle can be used properly, as TITUS project manager Michael Reich explains: “So far, both the navigation and the pattern or object recognition of the trailers have only run in a virtual environment. Now it’s a matter of dealing with the dynamic environment at the port terminal and collecting data automatically.”
The interaction with the 5G network will also be exciting: “We still have to find out whether bandwidth and latency are sufficient for our project goals. Especially for a teleoperation, short reaction times are crucial,” says Reich. Test operation of the 5G campus network on the Skandinavienkai site is scheduled to start next year.
In addition, everyday real-life operations in the port pose very practical challenges: there is a fear that the robot, which is quite small in comparison, will be overlooked by the large trucks, which would then unfortunately result in a quick end for it. So ideas are needed on how the vehicle can be seen and recognised as quickly as possible.