This month marks the 120-year anniversary of the unveiling of the first radio-controlled device.
In September of 1898 at Madison Square Garden, engineer Nikola Tesla demonstrated his state-of-the-art invention which he called “teleautomaton,” a miniature boat which he could control using radio signals. Many who witnessed the event suspected the boat was actually being powered by a monkey hidden inside it; others attributed the phenomenon to the work of telepathy or magic. Such a concept was so foreign that Tesla was initially denied a patent for his invention because the patent office didn’t think it was possible.
Today, radio-controlled devices are ubiquitous in all sorts of industries. In fact, many cranes are now being equipped with radio-controlled technology, which is revolutionizing the way crews move materials around a warehouse or job site. Here are ten benefits of wireless crane controls:
- Rigging and guiding can be done by the same person. Instead of two workers each handling one job, two hands can perform both jobs simultaneously.
- The operator enjoys better visibility. Before or during operation, wireless controls allow the worker to move around the floor or site to get an unobstructed view of the crane and load with no spotter required.
- Fewer workers are needed for crane operation. Because neither a rigger nor a spotter is. necessary for most jobs, wireless crane controls allow supervisors to allocate manpower to more pressing tasks.
- The operator doesn’t have to follow the path of the load. With wired pendant controls, the crewperson must move along the floor in the direction of (and as fast as) the crane, which could increase the chances of trip and fall accidents.
- The operator needn’t worry about tangled cables. Another problem with pendant controls is the possibility that the crane cables and the control cables will get tangled up, which can cause problems for both the load and the operator.
- The operator can move nearer to the crane if more precision is needed. Instead of being confined to a crane cab, the crewperson can get close to the crane when movement accuracy is vital (as when maneuvering a load through tight spaces or setting it onto bolts or pylons).
- The operator can move further away from the crane for safety reasons. Similarly, if the load is extremely hot or contains hazardous materials, the worker can increase the distance between him or her and the crane.
- Many wireless controls have multi-frequency capabilities. This permits the wireless operation of multiple cranes at once without worrying about radio interference.
- The operator can carry the control unit wherever it needs to go. A “bellybox” weighs just a few pounds, can be hooked onto a harness or belt, and provides for easy control of the crane.
- Jobsite productivity increases. Thanks to a better allocation of personnel as well as improved visibility during operation, crane operations can proceed more efficiently and safely with fewer mistakes or delays.
It’s true that there are some disadvantages that come with wireless crane controls. They generally cost more than wired control systems and they are subject to interference from any electromagnetic fields or power sources that may be on the job site. Plus, there’s always the possibility that the batteries which power the wireless controls can run out at an inopportune moment.
But by and large, wireless crane controls make most hoisting tasks less cumbersome and more precise while boosting production capacity without sacrificing safety. Perhaps wireless crane controls may one day be the rule rather than the exception on construction sites – something which was completely inconceivable 120 years ago.
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