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More efficiency and safety in the field

Published 26.7.2021

Behind the work being carried out at the Farellón Costero, the Coastal Cliffs in northern Chile, is a GNSS satellite positioning system that is being used to guide excavators as they work, replacing conventional land surveying tasks in complex terrain.


Technology applied to the Engineering and Construction industry knows no limits. We are seeing how more and more state-of-the-art systems and equipment are carving out a niche for themselves at the worksite, essential resources for each project undertaken by Techint Engineering & Construction to make operations more efficient.

Today we take a look at the case of the GNSS Excavator Guidance System, a Global Navigation Satellite System being used at the Quebrada Blanca 2 project in Chile. 

The project is being undertaken in a complex and challenging location, as part of its layout lies on the famous Farellón Costero, the towering white Coastal Cliffs of northern Chile that stretch over 1,000 km along the edge of the Atacama Desert and the Pacific Ocean. Some sectors of the cliff have slopes with gradients of up to 37 degrees, an inclination that made it extremely difficult for the surveying team to make markings. The situation prompted them to analyze different alternatives, eventually coming up with the GNSS guidance system.

“Our principal objective is always to keep our workers safe, and in this sector of the coastal cliffs, the safety conditions were quite simply not up to standard. This is why the GNSS system was such a great solution: it creates a 3D model of the digger in its surroundings so that the operator inside the cabin can see it on a screen. This allows them to understand precisely the relationship between the location of the excavator and the earthworks to be carried out,” explains Alex Goudie, the Construction Coordinator at Quebrada Blanca 2.

Formerly, using the method traditionally applied to this type of project, the digger operator had to wait before proceeding with the excavation, as the team had to stake out on the ground where the digging was to be performed. This required the presence of surveyors and field survey assistants who did the work using auxiliary elements.

Now, with the new GNSS system, all the data is loaded into the model from the Technical Office and the operator can apply themselves directly to the field tasks. Furthermore, "once the excavation has finished, you can see the result immediately on the computer, which significantly improves reporting," says Sebastian Davila, the Head of the Technical Office for the project.

The benefits of this system are multiple: a reduced presence of surveyors and survey personnel in complex areas; higher productivity from the machinery on-site; improved reporting because, once the operator has finished digging, the system can immediately see the result of the work. And last but not least, it gives the operator more autonomy. In short, it allows the team to work much more efficiently.

However, this is not all as far as using the GNSS is concerned: the idea is to implement the system on a much broader scale for earthmoving tasks and incorporate the technology in more equipment. This is why it will be, increasingly, a true virtual assistant in the field.

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