The Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML is developing a new generation of automated, high-speed guided vehicles that could represent the future of the logistics sector.
Named “LoadRunners,” it is a flat, wheeled, omnidirectional, autonomous robotic vehicle that can sort objects and transport them from A to B at speeds up to ten meters per second. The transport robots use artificial intelligence and communicate through 5G networks to organize themselves as swarm and execute jobs independently.
As a stand-alone vehicle, the LoadRunner can transport and sort parcels up to a certain size and up to a weight of 30 kg on its own. This makes it the perfect luggage carrier for airports. Powered by four electric motors, the LoadRunner sharply brakes at just the right moment right in front of its destination, and the payload slides from the robot onto the delivery platform.
They communicate with one another via 5G, operating as a collaborative swarm in which collisions are avoided. These AI-driven go-carts can also work in concert as larger collectives to carry large, heavy, and bulky objects. Each LoadRunner can also connect and transport up to four passive trailers.
With the adoption of LoadRunners, logistics canters are expected to gain a lot in manageability and speed of delivery, something very useful in times when e-commerce grows, and customers want to receive their deliveries in a shorter time.
Initial tests for parcel sorting are delivering promising results: around 60 vehicles can process 13,000 shipments per hour. The advantage of Loadrunner: It requires significantly less fixed infrastructure and can be put into operation far more quickly.
Researchers are now working on an outdoor version of the LoadRunner. “Thanks to its 5G capability, the vehicle can also be deployed outdoors. An outdoor LoadRunner based on the indoor Load-Runner’s technology could use this wireless link, for example, to shuttle between warehouses on company premises,” says Fraunhofer IML researcher Moritz Roidl.