Date Posted 5/9/24, 9:16 AM

Autonomous robots like AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots) and Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are increasingly being adopted to boost productivity and quality in industrial processes. However, the technology that powers them has been developed for nearly a century. Alongside other advanced mechanisms, Sensors are integral to advanced robotic automation tasks.

Sensor technology connects these robots to the environment around them and gives them visual capabilities. In robotic automation, sensors play a critical role by acting as an interface between machines and their tasks. They ensure that a robot functions safely while working alongside humans or perform tasks that require caution.

People often get confused between AMRs and AGVs due to their roles in automation. AGVs require specific infrastructural adaptations and fixed paths defined by magnetic tapes or wires. They also require sensors to help them remain stable during acceleration, braking, or lifting operations.

AMRs, on the other hand, operate independently. They are highly flexible and employ advanced sensors to function in complex environments without preset tracks.

While both technologies are distinct, they share their popularity as warehouses, manufacturing, and logistic industries increasingly adopt automation. The market for these robotic systems is expected to reach a valuation of USD 9.1 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 12% from 2024 to 2030.

Exploring the Advanced Sensors Driving AGV and AMR Technologies

A number of sophisticated sensors define the efficiency of modern automation systems. When it comes to AGVs and AMRs, it is crucial to understand their functions to navigate the complexities of automation. The type of sensors in an AMR or AGV depends on the operational context. Let’s explore the types of sensors that are commonly used in these robotic systems.

LiDAR Sensors

LiDAR is a highly capable laser-based sensing system crucial for the navigation and operation of AMRs and AGVs. It helps robots get a detailed 3D picture of their surroundings.

These sensors cast laser beams to measure distances surrounding objects, compiling this data into a 'point cloud' - a term for data points collected for a given geographical area. This allows the onboard systems or AI to form a dynamic 3D model of the area, which is crucial for object detection, recognition, and navigation.

If an AI system is constantly trained with accurate point cloud data, these autonomous vehicles can interpret complex traffic scenarios more accurately and navigate more safely.

Ultrasonic Sensors

Ultrasonic sensors improve the safety of AMRs and AGVs by emitting sound waves to detect nearby objects. These sensors release ultrasonic waves that bounce back after bouncing off an obstacle, allowing the vehicle to calculate distances or adjust paths accordingly.

Ultrasonic sensors are highly effective in collision avoidance and are often integrated into a vehicle's overall sensor array. They are particularly useful in tight or crowded environments where precise movement becomes a necessity.

GPS (Global Positioning System)

GPS sensors help these autonomous vehicles navigate long distances with high accuracy. These sensors are integral to outdoor AMR and AGV operations, where they keep track of small delivery, surveillance, and mapping robots.

In indoor applications, highly accurate GPS sensors are especially useful in large-scale environments such as warehouses and industrial complexes. By integrating GPS data with other sensor inputs, AMRs and AGVs can optimize routes and improve operational efficiency.

IMU (Inertial Measurement Units)

Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) are essential for the stable and accurate navigation of AMRs and AGVs. These systems combine accelerometers, gyroscopes, and sometimes magnetometers to track the movements and orientation of an automated vehicle.

This data helps correct any deviation from other navigation systems like GPS, ensuring precise positioning and orientation necessary for consistent performance.

Infrared Sensors

Infrared sensors are versatile tools in the sensor suite of AMRs and AGVs. They are utilized for object detection, distance measurement, and environmental interaction based on heat signatures.

These sensors are used in various capacities, such as proximity sensing, motion detection through PIR technology, and even communication between machines.

Their ability to detect heat and light from objects makes them indispensable for navigating complex environments and performing tasks in variable lighting conditions.

Vision Cameras

Vision cameras allow robots or automated vehicles to see the world as humans do. These cameras capture high-resolution images and videos of the surrounding environment while an onboard system detects and recognizes objects.

AI-based computer vision and processing methods allow robots to read signs and understand various visual cues to perform tasks that require intelligence. Vision cameras are particularly effective in environments where visual details are critical for efficiency.

Depth Cameras

Depth cameras offer a whole new set of perception capabilities to AGVs and AMRs. They determine distance and get more comprehensive visual data by projecting a light pattern and analyzing how it deforms on surfaces.

These distortions help the automated robot or vehicle calculate depth. 3D spatial data is essential in avoiding obstacles, determining precise pick-up or drop-off locations, and navigating complex environments where objects vary in distance and size.

Load Sensors

Load sensors are extremely useful in AGVs and AMRs for material handling and logistics. Their simple job is to measure the weight and balance of the transported load.

These sensors help ensure safety and efficiency by verifying that loads are secure and their weight falls within a specified range of operational limits before and during transport. This capability is essential in preventing overloading and ensuring the vehicle's stability during movement.

Paving the Way for Smart AGV and AMR Automation

As AGVs and AMRs continue to take their place in various industrial processes and automation continues to grow, the role of sensors is becoming increasingly important.

With a rich history dating back to 1946 in Osaka, Japan, Hokuyo consistently develops sensor technology that can keep up with the pace of automation.

We have been integral in developing automation technologies, such as high-accuracy CCD sensors and optical data transmission devices, that improve the capabilities of AGVs and AMRs.

Explore our range of sensing solutions for autonomous robotic applications, or contact us to learn more about how our sensors can fit your specific automation needs.