SUZHOU: When it comes to building and maintaining roads, it's traditionally a labour intensive undertaking.
But even such arduous work can be automated now with the advent of satellite technology and other digital processes.
China is showing the way, with a company deploying its unmanned road construction fleet to complete the spreading and maintenance of the Suzhou Road segment of the Nanjing-Shanghai Expressway, the busiest highway in China.
It's said to be the largest scale unmanned road construction fleet in the world; its successful application as an integrated suite of solution is a landmark event in the development of intelligent highway maintenance and construction globally.
The Nanjing-Shanghai Expressway is a main artery in China's advanced road network and a key passage in the Yangtze River Delta.
XCMG's unmanned fleet comprised 10 tandem road rollers and two large-width pavers, all under the control of the BeiDou satellite positioning reference station.
Supported by technologies including the highly precise BeiDou positioning, inertial navigation and obstacle recognition, the fleet was able to complete the scheduled tasks including driving, steering and rolling compaction.
XCMG is a multinational state-owned heavy machinery manufacturer that supplies its equipment and associated technologies to customers such as road builders.
"This unmanned road maintenance and construction project allowed us to reach the 'intelligent maintenance' stage," said Li Xin, assistant GM of Jiangsu Xiandai Road & Bridge Co Ltd.
"The inspection pass rate is much higher than that of traditional manual construction, and XCMG's unmanned technologies have excelled in construction efficiency and control accuracy."
XCMG has applied its unique and exclusive continuous asphalt thickness measurement radar technology to this unmanned road maintenance project, which is superior to the traditional core measurement that continuously and accurately measures the thickness of the paved asphalt without damage, reaching a maximum depth of 120mm and guaranteeing a measurement error of ±1mm.
The technology provides an accurate basis for real-time control of the paving thickness and improves paving accuracy and construction quality.
The XCMG unmanned road maintenance solution has also been used on the Panzhihua-Dali Expressway, Liuzhou-Nanning Expressway, Beijing-Xiong'an Expressway and Beijing-Dezhou Expressway.
"In the future, XCMG will continue to commit to the R&D of intelligent and unmanned products, truly achieving standardisation of unmanned engineering construction and reshaping highly complex and difficult construction," said XCMG R&D engineer Lige Xue.
"With intelligent sensing and control, digital construction and unmanned technology as the core, XCMG is dedicated to providing customised, high-quality intelligent solutions for customers."