Volvo GaiaX: Is This the Excavator of the Future?

At RME, we keep an enthusiastic eye on the latest breaking developments in the field of excavation and related mini excavator technologies. And in this modern era of smart technology and sustainability, there are more than a few promising breakthroughs on the horizon. One that we’re particularly excited about is the Volvo GaiaX.

The concept for the GaiaX premiered at ConExpo 2014 in Las Vegas. At this point, the excavator in question is still under development, and Volvo predicts that it will be ready for release by 2030. In the meantime, we thought we would share what we know so far about this innovative piece of machinery. If this is any indication of what the excavator of the future looks like, then it’s safe to say we have a great deal to look forward to.


Developing Sustainable Excavators for a Brighter Future

Volvo has a strong reputation for developing and manufacturing reliable excavators. These machines deliver excellent performance in a wide range of applications – from trenching and site preparation to truck loading, demolition and more. The company’s role as an industry leader in the research and development of these machines is undisputed.

And of course, Volvo is also well-known for its automobile production. The same research that goes into developing more powerful and efficient engines for their road vehicles is also beneficial to the development of heavier-duty machinery. And this is an area from which Volvo’s excavator of the future stands to benefit. 

The latest concept machine from Volvo is a fully electric compact excavator. The company’s first electric car is scheduled for release in 2019, and it’s likely that the same R&D that has gone into designing the power systems of these cars also has applications for larger machinery.

The GaiaX is fitted with rechargeable batteries that also serve as a counterweight (more on that later), but we should note that it can also be plugged in to an external power source. This is particularly exciting in a place like Western Australia, where sustainability is already a top priority, and efforts are underway to produce more renewable energy. By the time the Volvo GaiaX has been released, there’s a strong chance that charging its batteries won’t require the burning of any fossil fuels at all. 

The GaiaX Is Equipped with a Smart Interface for Remote Excavation

One of the most exciting features of the GaiaX is its interactive tablet, which interfaces directly with the machine and allows a person to operate it from a completely safe distance. The tablet itself is a transparent, iPad-like device that employs augmented reality technology. The operator can see the environment in which they’re working through the tablet, and information about their various tasks are overlaid onscreen.

There are several benefits of this tablet, the greatest of which is the fact it allows the operator of the machine to keep an eye on the surrounding environment whilst working. They can dig and otherwise operate the machine from a safe distance, significantly reducing any risk of accident or injury.

This tablet draws on advanced digital resources to enhance its operational ability. To begin, it will be mapped with the city’s utility resources, which means operators will be able to ascertain the location of water pipes and electrical cables with ease. These will be displayed on the augmented reality screen.

In addition, the GaiaX will also be equipped with an auxiliary ground scanner that surveys the local environment and provides precise information pertaining to localised obstacles. This will mark safe zones for the operator and passers-by whilst guaranteeing the effectiveness of auto-dig modes. 


This Excavator Offers Incredibly Advanced Safety Features

While much of the work conducted on the GaiaX can be handled remotely, some tasks may still require sitting in the streamlined cab. The operator sits behind a lightweight steel guardrail, which keeps the weight of the machine down and reduces strain on the power supply.

Cutting down on the weight of the cab allows the developers to devote more weight to the batteries – boosting their output. As mentioned above, the weight of these batteries is also incorporated into the design of the excavator as a counterweight.

The machine will also be fitted with an airbag reminiscent of the side airbags seen in Volvo cars. In the event of a collision or roll, the airbag will deploy from the seat to protect the operator. Another cutting-edge safety feature of the GaiaX is the set of external sensors that detect passers-by, obstacles and other potential hazards so that it can alert the operator.


RME Look Forward to New Developments from Volvo

The information that is currently available about the GaiaX has given our team plenty to look forward to. In recent decades, advances in excavation technology have had more to do with streamlining the equipment and boosting its power output, but the GaiaX promises to fundamentally revolutionise the way the operator interacts with an excavator.

This excavator is still in relatively early stages of planning and development, but the team at Volvo have a clear vision for where they expect it to go. To that end, they’ve released an app that allows users to get a taste of the augmented reality interface and explore the machine’s features (download from: Google Play or iTunes).

In a statement announcing this new R&D project, Volvo CE’s design director, Sidney Levey, expressed his enthusiasm for the project:

“The GaiaX project has been an incredible opportunity for us to experiment with the way construction equipment is used – we feel as if we are paving the way to the future of Volvo and perhaps the industry.”

The team at RME are just as enthusiastic about breakthroughs like this in the field of excavation. We’re eager to update our fleet with the latest, most advanced excavators available. And with products like the Volvo GaiaX on the horizon, it’s clear that we and our clients have much to look forward to.