Researchers have introduced an autonomous excavator system (AES) that can perform material loading tasks for long duration without human intervention while offering performance almost equivalent to that of an experienced human operator, Tech Xplore reports. AES is among the world’s first uncrewed excavation systems to have been deployed in real-world scenarios and continuously operating for over 24 hours, bringing about industry-leading benefits in terms of enhanced safety and productivity. The researchers described their methodology in a research paper published today in Science Robotics. Excavators are vital for infrastructure construction, mining, and rescue applications. The global market size for excavators was $44.12 billion in 2018 and is projected to grow to $63.14 billion by 2026. Given this expected market increase, construction companies worldwide are facing hiring shortages for skilled heavy machinery operators, particularly excavators. A contributing factor is the hazardous and toxic work environments that can affect the health and safety of on-site human operators, including cave-ins, ground collapses, or other excavation accidents that cause approximately 200 casualties per year in the U.S. AES uses accurate and real-time algorithms for perception, planning, and control alongside a new architecture to incorporate these capabilities for autonomous operation.