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T he risks posed to heavy equipment operators in certain situations can often limit the type of work they can perform. Hazardous materials, unstable subsurfaces and other site conditions can limit where machines can be deployed. Caterpillar has sought to address these issues with Cat Command, a remote-operation system for a range of its heavy equipment. Cat has been adding some of its more popular machines to the lineup, most recently the Cat 374 and 375 hydraulic excavators and the Cat D5, D6 and D7 medium dozers.

“We can always replace a machine, but we can’t replace a person,” says Mike Lenzie, Cat product marketing consultant. Heavy equipment operating on unstable surfaces such as embankments or rockfalls can place the operator in danger, and would be safer to run from afar. Lenzie adds that the excavators in the new update are often used in demolition, where falling debris can pose a hazard to the operator. Cat Command has been used by operators working in coal ash slurry ponds and other hazardous materials (ENR 1/13/20 p. 22), where operators could be exposed to harmful pollutants or the machines could become entrapped in soft underfoot conditions.

The Cat Command system can be operated via a wearable remote control box, but Lenzie says this is a short-term solution for operators to use only as needed. “Say they got some work on a slope, some danger involved. They can jump out of the machine, switch to remote-control mode, run it with line-of-sight, and then switch back to manual and get back to operating in the cab.”

But the full value of Cat Command is in the remote operator station, which  recreates the cab from the comfort of an office or trailer. With the same seat and controls as the real machine, the station has multiple screens to mimic the view from the cab, with options for additional screen views from other vantage points on site. Working over a low-latency internet connection, the remote station can run a piece of equipment from anywhere in the world. Lenzie notes this can help attract and retain talent, as skilled operators can now avoid the rigors of the jobsite.

remote working
trucks and rocks

The Cat Command system allows for certain types of heavy equipment to be run from a line-of-sight remote control unit or from an internet-connect virtual cab that can be anywhere in the world.
Photos courtesy of Caterpillar
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