With the shortage of equipment operators seen in construction today, automation of heavy equipment is gaining ground among large contractors. Built Robotics, which offers an aftermarket “exosystem” to turn regular excavators, skid-steer loaders and other earthmoving machines into fully autonomous units, recently raised $64 million in Series C funding in a round led by investment firm Tiger Global.
“We hadn’t intended to raise again—we had several years of runway,” says Noah Ready-Campbell, Built Robotics founder and CEO. “But Tiger Global reached out after they had heard good things from our customers.” The Series C investment brings Built Robotics’ total funding to $112 million.
Built Robotics has focused its autonomous earthmoving on projects where the machines are less likely to have to work in crowded sites, such as solar and wind-power installations, and larger heavy civil projects. A machine is overseen by a “robotic equipment operator” (REO), currently trained by Built Robotics. “People think the robot does everything,” says Ready-Campbell. “It does, but in a 10-hour workday, an REO spends one hour setting up, and the other nine [the autonomous equipment] does it.”
The company has been looking to expand training for REOs and is now working with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) to train up new instructors. Ready-Campbell says IUOE members are expected to be training new REOs by the end of this year.