Manufacturing News

Drone making boosts robotics manufacturing

Manufacturing News

By Peter Roberts

Drone manufacture is part of a surprisingly large cohort of robot manufacturers uncovered in a survey of robotics providers in Australia.

The survey identified 466 robot and automation suppliers, and while most were essentially service businesses, the study identified 19 percent were manufacturers of robots, including drones.

Of the rest 57 were integrators, 15 percent component suppliers, seven percent distributors, and three percent advisors.

Australia largely missed out on developing indigenous robot manufacturing.

Initially we were laggard users of robots with only vehicle manufacturers fielding robots in any large numbers – however their demands were tied to individual model developments and there was no stable local market for local robotic makers.

More recently however drones for use in fields ranging from long distance infrastructure inspection, to agriculture and defence – where they are used extensively in maritime, land and aerial roles – has seen the formation of small manufacturers.

Robots are, of course employed across the spectrum of industry, but Australia does have unique use areas in mining and mineral processing as well as underwater inspection and maintenance.

Australia is a leading user of field robotics in mining with major companies such as Rio Tinto are leaders in remote operational control of autonomous equipment such as explosives loaders, trucks, trains and ship ore loaders.

However while there is Australian know how in these systems, the vast bulk of the capital equipment used in production comes from major overseas manufacturers such as Caterpillar.

The ‘2023 Market Overview of Robot and Automation Companies in Australia’ was based on research conducted by industry representative group Robotics Australia Group and robotics marketplace with other highlights including:

  • The top industries served by most robotics suppliers (besides the robotics industry itself) include metal & machinery (47 percent of suppliers), logistics (42 percent of suppliers), and food & beverage (30 percent of suppliers)
  • And other non-manufacturing industries with a particularly strong focus in Australia include mining (29 percent of robotics suppliers), energy (24 percent of suppliers), construction (20 percent of suppliers), agriculture & forestry (19 percent of suppliers), and recycling (17 percent of suppliers).

The report said they found ‘an emerging, fast-growing industry of 466 robot and automation suppliers with a unique potential for tapping into the growing global demand for robotics and automation’.

Chair of Robotics Australia Group Dr. Sue Keay said: “As a country with vast geography and few people, we have developed a special expertise in field robotics, which can operate in challenging, unstructured environments.”

Examples include swarms of robots used in agriculture, underwater robots for offshore inspection, mobile robots for inspecting outdoor areas that are difficult to access, and many others.

Most commonly, robotics companies in Australia focus on automating tasks that are found across a range of industries, such as handling and picking items (covered by 51 percent of robotics suppliers), inspection & quality control (37 percent of suppliers), logistics and storage functions (33 percent of suppliers), and packing and palletising (28 percent of suppliers).

Picture: Robotics Australia Group

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