Birth HN: Fee Robotics (YC S21) – Robots that kind solar farms

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Howdy HN! We are Banks Hunter and Max Justicz, founders of Fee Robotics. We affect robots to automate basically the most labor-intensive components of solar building.

We factual obtained reduction from our first demo on a 150MW solar building dwelling in Iowa, where we confirmed off our preliminary prototype: an self sustaining forklift that unloads pallets of solar modules from a truck and phases them around the positioning. It’s a gigantic milestone for us, and we felt love now might possibly possibly perchance be an ethical time to portion what we’re engaged on more publicly. You would compile out a few couple movies of our robotic in action here:

Staging modules on the positioning in Iowa: https://youtu.be/Fwf4v8upuoI

Performing a two-pallet sliding and unloading operation in our warehouse: https://youtu.be/EOJiyMXpVeQ

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As solar modules became commoditized and costs discover plummeted, solar has became the least costly assemble of vitality generation in numerous regions. Seek records from has skyrocketed, and now the indispensable barrier to getting it set in is labor logistics and bandwidth. Each and each solar building company we’ve talked to is drowning in quiz and turning down initiatives as a result of they don’t discover the ability to kind them. 1/fifth of the general solar that exists within the US used to be set in closing one year!

We’re engineers who had been company since living collectively at MIT where we studied robotics and CS. We frequently wished to open a company collectively. We zeroed in on solar after seeing compelling statistics about its label effectiveness and projected boost – and because of the we shared a motivation to preserve out something about climate change. We of direction started off writing tool to predict optimal areas for solar net sites (browsing land for sale and scoring by label, quantity of daylight hours, proximity to present substations) after we decided to learn more about what comes next.

Utility-scale solar farms (2MW+) are mechanically rather easy. They feature a steel racking plot held to the flooring by vertical posts (“piles”), and overwhelmingly (90%+) feature a single motorized axis to music the sun over the direction of the day. Modules are then mounted to this axis with brackets.

We’re utilizing a two-phase robotic plot to kind this racking building. First, a transportable robotic manufacturing facility positioned on-dwelling assembles sections of racking hardware and solar modules. This manufacturing facility suits inside a starting Up container. Robotic hands compile solar modules from a stack and connect them to a lengthy steel tube (the “torque tube”). Second, self sustaining supply automobiles distribute these assembled sections into the subject and connect them in web notify onto goal vacation scheme piles.

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This is a laborious technical subject, but no longer compare-stage laborious. We mediate of it because the “homework version” of self-utilizing automobiles, as we’re working in a semi-structured atmosphere (flattened grime subject) with tremendously fewer edge situations. Manual building at the present time breaks about 0.1%-0.5% of modules at some point soon of installation, which is a more purposeful bar for us to goal than the stringent efficiency requirements of the AV world.

We’re working in a possibility-averse industry, though, which makes deploying unusual technology more no longer easy. One industry-traditional term we’ve became very conversant in is “bankability”. It’s no longer easy for initiatives to safe funding from lenders within the occasion that they aren’t utilizing components which discover already spent years out within the subject.

We’ve considered surprisingly tiny penetration of technology into this house most regularly. Projects are largely tracked with sticky notes in a “express room”, subject cloth supply schedules are highly unstable and rarely no longer known unless days in advance, and there’s no dwell monitoring of building growth, making most Up-to-the-minute web notify opaque. We of direction had a dwelling we visited outright lose a forklift – we had been stunned that every particular person automobiles aren’t GPS tagged and monitored, especially given they’re working on multi-thousand acre net sites.

Our plot is the first to tackle the elephantine mechanical installation of present solar parts (take into accout bankability). We’ve tweaked the expose of building operations somewhat to be more robotic-suited, because the more staunch operations inquisitive about fastening modules to steel tubes happen in a more managed manufacturing facility atmosphere.

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For our cell robots, we’re building on prime of present automobiles (known as telehandlers, or attain lifts) which might possibly possibly perchance be already ubiquitous on these net sites on account of their broad tires and gigantic capabilities. They’re succesful of dump starting Up containers on account of their extending boost, to boot to transfer materials around the positioning. On our prototype automobile, we did some indispensable Up-entrance reverse engineering including mapping out CAN messages sans documentation. The steering and brake had been in an instant hydraulically actuated (no power-by-wire), so we added motors to both in expose to manipulate them with our tool stack. Essentially the most queer sensor we contributed used to be an optical mouse sensor mounted onto the boost joint, telling us the extension distance.

The backbone of our robotic sensing is a sturdy vision plot. We’re utilizing stereo cameras for SLAM and object detection. Happily, solar building net sites discover already obtained detailed engineering drawings including GPS coordinates of every vertical post within the flooring, so now we discover got an intensive design of the positioning to localize ourselves on.

Staring at the present job for enormous-scale solar installation in real time evokes the sense of watching paint dry or grass develop, only it contains a complete bunch of workers. After witnessing the bodily grueling and inefficient ability of workers manually inserting in thousands of solar modules, we realized there needed to be a greater plot of building solar, and that elevated automation used to be the formulation forward.

Our purpose is to transition the area to renewable vitality as rapidly as that you might possibly perchance perchance presumably imagine. We’re angry to portion what we’re engaged on with HN – please enable us to understand what you mediate within the comments and we’ll be around to answer!

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P.S. We’re hiring! In case you settle to must work on chilly robots with a suited climate affect, please attain out: https://chargerobotics.com/careers.html

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