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Automated shipping moves containers with Locata

At ION GNSS+ in September, I met with Nunzio Gambale and Paul Benshoeff of Locata. They were excited to share their news about the timing tests conducted at White Sands Missile Range by the U.S. Air Force’s 746th Test Squadron.

In the January issue, we share the results of the tests. The two also showed me and Matteo Luccio, our contributing editor, a YouTube video highlighting another Locata project: guiding 100-ton robots around the Ports of Auckland, New Zealand.

The robots are straddle carriers, giant mechanisms that are usually driven by a human. The carriers move and sort the shipping containers as they arrive from ships and leave via truck or train.

In the new setup, Locata has made possible the elimination of the human element with nanosecond-precision tracking.

Tom Scott, a former Sky One television host and now host of a series of YouTube shows, highlighted the robotic system in April 2019 on his “Amazing Places” channel.

Screenshot: Tom Scott video

Screenshot: Tom Scott video

Compared to manned straddle carriers, the automated straddle carriers (A-STRADs) are able to stack the containers closer, higher and work more steadily, increasing the capacity of the limited land space at the port. The A-STRADs can stack containers with the accuracy of a few centimeters.

The automated system also allows stack shuffling, so that wear and tear on the asphalt is spread more evenly and requires fewer repairs.

The Locata local positioning system uses synchronized transmitters installed around the port, with two antennas on each straddle carrier using the lightspeed delay from each transmitter to find exact position. “They don’t just look at the timing signal itself, they track the phase of each transmitter’s carrier signal,” Scott explained.

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