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Prospects for the Development of Robotics in Russia. Despite the Economic Downturn, Robotics of All Spheres of Life Will Accelerate

24 April 2020

By Nikita Chistov

The pandemic accelerates the introduction of digital technologies into all areas of life. 41% of the CEOs from 45 countries are preparing to work in a new post-crisis reality, investing in accelerating business automation.

Before the pandemic, the sustainable development of companies was also linked to digital technologies. Automation gives business many advantages, but it is also important that the introduction of machine labor reduces such risks as the shortage of workers. 

In the summer of 2019, the Russian and the U.S. governments sounded the alarm around the same time—both countries were experiencing unprecedented staff shortages. There will soon be no one to work in factories, build, and maintain existing infrastructure, so the automation of routine dirty hard work is justified as never before.

“Three years ago, robotics was a freak topic, but now it is clearer to customers, they are interested in the solutions existing in their industry and the benefits they can get from the introduction of robots,” says Alisa Konyukhovskaya, Executive Director of the National Association of Robotics Market Participants (NARMP).

Over the past five years, thanks to the development of such technologies as machine vision and artificial intelligence, the automation, which was previously widely used in the automotive industry, has captured new sectors of the economy. People are replaced by robots in the electronics industry, agriculture, retail, and services.

In 2019, for example, the Office for National Statistics reported that 1.5 mln workers in the country were at risk of dismissal because of automation. Between 2011 and 2017, 25.3% of the supermarket sellers lost their jobs.

The machines also replaced laundry workers, agricultural workers, and tire makers, whose numbers fell by 15 per cent or more. The public reaction is ambiguous because the loss of work is a threat to any adult.

However, it is still not as significant as the loss of health. In the new pandemic reality, it became apparent that if the Amazon’s contactless grocery stores were widespread and the delivery of products by drones was ubiquitous, many people would not fell victims to COVID-19. If most plants were fully automated, the economy would suffer much less.

However, the “if” does not solve the problems of the human factor in business and economy.

The introduction of digital technologies is necessary, and the degree of readiness of countries for automation varies. According to foreign analysts, three factors will play a crucial role in the successful economy digitalization:

  • the ability of the education system to supply the market with the necessary qualified professionals
  • the willingness of social institutions to adapt to the changes older people who will lose their jobs and will be forced to master a new profession
  • funding for scientific and technological developments in the country.

The latter can be estimated, and according to this indicator among the 25 countries, Russia ranks 15th, investing 1.13% of its GDP in the technology development. By comparison, South Korea, the leader in this area, invests 4.23% of its GDP in the scientific and technological work, while the U.S. which ranks 4th, invests 2.79% of its GDP.

The fact of interest in the development of robotics, demonstrated by the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation, which had prepared a study together with the National Association of Robotics Market Participants (NARMP) on the promising applications of robotics in business, was positive against this background.

“The state’s assistance in disseminating information is one of the important types of support for robotics manufacturers,” said Alisa Konyukhovskaya. “This measure helps to generate demand and prepare potential customers for the introduction of robotic solutions.”

According to Alisa Konyukhovskaya, this study was carried out to show the full range of applications of robotics and the variety of developments to inform potential customers about the existing solutions.

The audit of domestic developments in the field of robotics allowed revealing that the country had its solutions in 12 areas and despite a small number of domestic developers, many of them created breakthrough technologies.

Detailed descriptions are presented in the Promising Applications of Robotics in Business report, and here we will describe only some of the cases.

Processing Industry

Aripix Robotics, BID Technologies, Bitrobotics, Hamster Robotics, AvantgardPLAST, Androidnaya Technika, NIIIP-NZIK, JSC, ARCODIM-Pro, Norma IS, Robotech Sistemy, Russkiye Roboty, and Eidos Robotechnika are the leading Russian manufacturers of robotics for the industry. 

Aripix Robotics is a manufacturer of industrial 6-axing robotic manipulators. The Aripix A1 robots equipped with a computer vision system are being introduced at the factories of PIK-Industriya JSC and the Moscabelmet Group of Companies. An innovative feature is the change of the kinematic scheme of the robot (cylindrical instead of spherical one).

Due to this, reliability has been increased, the requirements for gearboxes and, accordingly, the cost have been reduced, and the ease of setting up and reconfiguring the robot has been ensured.

According to the Founder of Aripix Robotics Andrey Spiridonov, industrial robots are a promising area. “Thanks to the rapid development of technology, industrial robots have become available, paying off in 1-2 years, and flexible—they are easily introduced and reconfigured to new production tasks. A change in risk assessment will serve as an additional incentive for the production robotization since the pandemic showed the unpredictable and negative impact of the human factor on production.”

Also, today domestic manufacturers of robotics have unexpected advantages. “While previously, the bulk of industrial and logistics robotics was supplied from China, the supplies of Chinese robots have now been suspended, and their maintenance and repair periods have been extended,” says Ronavi Robotics Director Ivan Borodin.

ARCARMIM-Pro is a manufacturer of industrial console-type robots. In 2019, the company developed a robot to move long objects for AGVA Pro (production of cardboard spools) and received a patent for the invention of a universal adaptive working element of the capture device, which does not need to be reconfigured.

At the moment, Innopolis together with the University are developing a robotic system for the construction of buildings using concrete 3D-printing.

According to ARKODIM-Pro CEO Artyom Barakhtin, this project will revolutionize construction in a few years.

Construction and Dismantling

Intechros and FlyBrick are the leading Russian manufacturers of construction robots.

JSC Intechros Engineering Holding develops engineering solutions for various industries and in particular the ROIN robot, designed to accelerate concrete work in the construction industry. 

Thanks to the electric propulsion system and small dimensions (75 cm wide), the RTS R070 is used for dismantling concrete floors and supports, eliminating the need for the personnel in the danger zone of collapse, as well as reducing the time of dismantling works twenty times.

Agriculture

Agro Robotic Systems, Avrora Robotics, Agropolis, Cognitive Technologies, R. CERT, UrFU, YURGI, GEOSKAN, and the Center of Competence in Research and Development of Robotics, Technical Cybernetics, and Mechatronics are the leading Russian manufacturers of robots for agriculture.

Aurora Robotics is a developer of unmanned transport control systems. The Agrobot drone is designed to process land, mow grass, watering, and transport cargo and harvest.

The control system underlying Agrobot can be installed on almost any special equipment or tractor, thereby allowing to significantly reduce the cost of implementation in the existing fleet of equipment.

Cognitive Technologies is the developer of artificial intelligence (AI) for ground transport. The Cognitive Agro Pilot autonomous agricultural transport management system can be installed on various agricultural equipment.

It tracks the direction of the edge of the culture mown or land cultivated, the boundaries of the field, obstacles, equipment, and people, and the system builds the trajectory of movement by analyzing the locations and dynamics of objects.

The cost of the system is reduced due to the non-use of satellite navigation and expensive sensors. The cognitive Agro Pilot is used in Brazil, China, the USA, as well as in agricultural farms in the Tomsk, Kurgan, Belgorod, and Rostov Regions, as well as in Tatarstan.

Mining

VIST Mining Technologies (VIST Group) and GEOSCAN are the leading Russian developers of robotic systems for the mining industry.

GEOSCAN is a developer of multifunctional unmanned aerial vehicles that are used in different industries and, in particular, in the search for minerals and monitoring of the production progress.

To perform aeromagnetic work in hard-to-reach areas, the developers designed a compact and high-precision quantum magnetometer moved by the Geoscan 401 quadcopter.

Logistics

Yandex, Cyberwarehouse, Ronawi Robotics, RoboCV, Sberbank, NPP Meter, and others are the leading domestic manufacturers of logistics robots.

RoboCV is a developer of intelligent autopilot systems for warehouse and manufacturing equipment. The company has created an autonomous robotic tractor (robot tractor) to deliver components to the assembly line and move the finished product to the warehouse, as well as an unmanned pallet carrier with collaborative behavior technologies (robot-stacker), able to safely and independently operate in warehouses among the cargo, people, and dense traffic of other equipment. 

Ronavi Robotics is a developer and manufacturer of logistics robots. The Ronavi H1500 warehouse robot with a capacity of more than 1,000 kg is compact and has open API, allowing it to be quickly integrated into the warehouse.

Robots are delivered by subscription (robot as a service, RaaS). In 2020, the company plans to introduce a robot for sorting small parcels and letters, and a robot for fulfillment centers.

According to Ivan Borodin, Director of Ronavi Robotics, even those who were convinced that they could cope with the growing demand thought about robotics of the equipment warehouses.

“Increased demand in online stores has revealed bottlenecks in the organization of delivery from retailers. Moreover, while the last mile problem was solved quickly, by hiring couriers and renting a fleet of cars, it was not easy to increase the productivity of the warehouse. Robots, especially those supplied under the RaaS model, allow adjusting warehouse performance flexibly and quickly: a robot manufacturer can add new units in one day,” explains Ivan Borodin. “We believe that the continued development of online retail requires import substitution of the full cycle of support for robotic warehouses.”

Service in Public Places

Alfa Robotics, Promobot, R.Bot, WayBot, the Androidnaya Technika NGO, and Neirobotix are the leading domestic manufacturers of robots for the provision of services in public places.

Promobot, a manufacturer of service robots, has developed a range of Promobot robots to be used as consultants and assistants in hotels, airports, shopping malls, and banks.

The robot communicates in 10 languages, helps to get direction in the room, identifies the person, conducts electronic registration, and offers additional services.

Cleaning

Autonomous Technology is the startup that has developed the VEDROID autonomous robot to wash and disinfect large flooring areas.

The speed of its work is 1,500 m2/h, it can wash up to 120,000 m2 of the floor, change the battery, and refill the water.

Inspection and Maintenance

Gyrolab Inertial Systems, Laboratotiya Buduschego (Laboratory of the Future), Diacont, IPC Crowler, Taris, Wicron, Introscan Technologies, SPBSU Dynamics, Gasproject-DKR, In-Pipe Robot, Promobot, and Aviarobots are the leading domestic robot manufacturers in control and maintenance.

Diacont Group of Companies develops remotely-controlled robots for intratubular diagnostics, capable of detecting various defects (metal loss, corrosion, crack-like defects, etc.) in real time, and rank defects according to the degree of their danger.

Laboratotiya Buduschego is a developer of a drone to diagnose and repair the Kanatokhod power lines. Using the simulator, the operator programs the trajectory, and the drone implements the diagnostics mission. Reaching the line, the drone sits on wires and diagnoses wires, insulators, supports, units on the track, performs maintenance and local repairs, while recharging from high-voltage lines.

Emergency and Security Systems

Systemservice and Constanta Group of Companies, GEOSCAN, EMERCOM, Center for Innovative Mountain Technologies, Android Technology, NGO, SMP Robotics, Servosila, Rokad, Set-1, and Promobot are the leading Russian manufacturers of robots for rescue and protection.

SMP Robotics is the developer of the Tral Patrul protected autonomous robot, designed for round-the-clock and all-weather patrols of sparsely populated areas on programmed routes.

Additional gas, smoke, and flame sensors can be placed on the robot. The robot’s CCTV system supports the ONVIF protocol for transmitting video and other information to display it in a stationary CMS of the protected facility.

Exoskeletons

ExoAtlet, Androidnaya Technika, NGO, the Southwestern State University, the Mechatronics and Robotics Research Laboratory (IuZGI), Polezniye Roboty, Exorize, Kalashnikov Concern, and Exomed are the leading Russian manufacturers of exoskeletons.

Polezniye Roboty and Sberbank Robotics Laboratory have developed the ExoChair passive industrial exoskeleton to support the lower body. It reduces fatigue and harmful effects of production on the health of workers. The exoskeleton is equipped with a data collection system with the AI technologies to analyze the workflow and the state of workers.

Androidnaya Technika, NGO, the developer of the Fedor robot, has created the copy-type exoskeleton to control the anthropomorphic robot.

The exoskeleton is put on the operator, and the robot repeats its human movements. The development can be used in dangerous places and extreme conditions where human work is required.

Medicine

ExoAtlet, Eidos Medicine, Motorica, Gyrolab, Carfidov Lab, Neirobotix, and the United Instrumentation Corporation are the leading Russian manufacturers of medical robotics.

Eidos Medicina is a developer of medical robotic simulators, which allow practising emergencies in military medicine, traumatology, and resuscitation. The company supplies robots to the United States, Europe, Brazil, China, and Japan.

ExoAtlet is the developer of ExoAtlet rehabilitation robots designed to repair impaired and compensate for the lost musculoskeletal functions.

Moviemaking

Movicom is a developer of Robycam®—the Russia’s first cable system of free movement in space, designed for shooting sports, entertainment events, TV shows, and complex staged frames for movies.

The system allows moving a gyrostabilized head in three-dimensional space, allowing to use cameras with long-focus optics and smoothly track objects without “shaking”, and is remotely controlled by the operator. Robycam® was used for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 11th Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi and other events.

“Robotics provides a strategic advantage in business development, and to stimulate the economy without dependence on other countries, it is necessary to support the production of robots in Russia,” Ivan Borodin is sure.

In addition to information support from the state, financial support for implementations is also needed, says Alisa Konyukhovskaya. According to her, due to the growing economic crisis, private business’s money resources became limited, strict quarantine measures slowed down business activity, and the state became the main customer of the robotic system development.

It supports robot manufacturers through various programs. For example, the Digital Economy Program covers part of the costs of implementation. Last year there was such support from the Russian Fund for Information Technology Development and the Skolkovo Foundation, concessional loans are given for implementation projects by the Industry Development Fund under the Industry Digitalization Program, and the Innovation Promotion Fund holds competitions for development. 

Developers need to be proactive, invest time and pay attention to this issue in order to be able to take advantage of these support measures.

According to Andrey Spiridonov, tax holidays and subsidies, as well as the state support for enterprises actively robotizing their production facilities (subsidies for the installation of Russian-made robots, tax incentives for modernized Russian production equipment) would contribute to the more dynamic development of robot manufacturers.

Source: VC.RU, 24.04.2020