Autonomous delivery vehicles

Over the next few years autonomous delivery vehicles will take their place in everyday life. From pizzas to clothes, it will soon be commonplace to open your door to a small unmanned vehicle carrying your parcel. 
In April 2019, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared Google to begin operating its autonomous drone delivery service with an ‘Air Carrier Certification’ in the United States. It’s a major step forward for the use of drones, but also for the legitimisation of autonomous delivery as a whole.
How soon can we expect our takeaway pizza to be delivered by drone though? Well, it’s not going to happen overnight, but the technology does exist and is being tested as we speak.
Using drones in delivery has been something Amazon has been working on for some time.
Amazon’s vision for the drones is a fleet of vehicles equipped with self-operating technology, where the drones can run independently of a human pilot. They will have automated collision avoidance technology, which will allow the drones to avoid crashing into objects or animals while in flight, such as buildings, electric lines, birds, and humans, to safely deliver your package faster than ever.
The idea is that drones will be able to deliver packages weighing 5 lbs or less, within 30 minutes or less. With some cities suffering increasing congestion on the roads, drones could offer a solution to traffic jams.
Alternative vehicles to drones
Driverless cars and vans – Everything so far suggests that autonomous cars and trucks will have a place in our future, especially with all the progress being made by companies like Tesla. But, they’re currently further away from everyday use. With past problems and prosecutions relating to driverless cars, there is growing scrutiny on the industry.
There is a more complicated level of technology needed for them, government regulation, infrastructure changes, and public perception, which all need to be taken into account.
Last-mile bots – With offices in the US, UK and across Europe, Starship robots are now being tested in the UK and Germany. The robots are able to cross the road and work their way around people or animals, thanks to ultrasonic sensors, nine cameras, radar, and GPS.
The company already has partnership agreements with Hermes, Domino’s Pizza and Just Eat. So, the future is looking bright for these little bots. And don’t worry, people won’t just be able to reach into the robot and steal your dinner. Recipients will open the bot on its arrival with a code, which is sent via an app on their phone. Very clever.
The other plus point of last-mile bots is that they avoid the use of fossil fuels, so are more environmentally friendly too.
Autonomous delivery vehicles could help a struggling retail industry
The retail industry is a competitive and cut throat one. Our highstreets are struggling to stay viable and shops are shutting at an alarming rate. Big retailers aren’t immune either, with a number of high-profile administrations and last-minute rescue deals during the last 12 months.
According to the Centre for Advancing Retail & Technology, automated delivery could be transformational for the retail industry, reducing delivery costs by up to 90% compared to a human delivery driver.
What will it mean for business?
If parcels are going to be delivered by a robot, then manufacturers and retailers will need to adjust packaging, pack sizes and weights. If food is being delivered, delivery service providers need to make sure that the robot is secure, timely and can keep food preserved until it reaches the delivery address.
Robotic delivery services will allow smaller businesses, who perhaps can’t afford the cost of a delivery driver or who only make ad-hoc deliveries, to offer customers an online shopping and delivery service.
There is a lot to support the future of autonomous delivery vehicles. The fact that two-thirds of the world's population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050, according to the UN's Department of Economic & Social Affairs, makes small last-mile robots an attractive investment.
As a species, we’re becoming increasingly cash-rich and time-poor. Consumers expect everything to be deliverable, so making deliveries easier and quicker will be a big win. However, true success can only happen if autonomous delivery vehicles make the world around us an easier and safer one.

The technology behind these vehicles

Like all robots and driverless vehicles, there are certain key functions that these delivery vehicles will need to have in order to be successful. All of these functions can be achieved by using products offered by Sentek Solutions. 

Navigation - how will the delivery see its environment and find its way to the delivery address? View products for Navigation

Collision Avoidance - how will the delivery vehicle avoid things the way? View products for Collision Avoidance

Localisation - what happens when the delivery vehicle gets knocked off course? View products for Localisation
Supporting the technology
However you are using Robotics and Automation, find out how our products could help you make the most of it. Just give us a call. We’re always happy to give information on any of our products, just drop us an email if you’d like to know more.

Stay up to date with all of our news and developments by following us on Twitter.
Accerion Triton - White paper

Accerion Navigation Systems White Paper:
Accerion systems effectively “map” the ground using sophisticated optical technology to provide absolute positioning.


Provides sub-mm positioning
Requires no infrastructure/landmark features


No dynamic awareness 

Niche applications:

Automated / Semi-Automated vehicles which require high accuracy  positioning:

These include:
Precision docking (for goods transfer or vehicle charging) where other technologies such as Lidar cannot provide the required level of positional accuracy.
Narrow aisle warehousing where positional accuracy of the forklift is critical.

Automation in feature devoid environments

Block stacking type applications:
Many “tidal” distribution centres (such as dairy or postal) utilise block-stacking techniques where an empty featureless warehouse is progressively populated and depopulated with pallets or stillages. 
This type of environment is a nightmare for traditional navigation technologies because there are no visible permanent features to determine position against and triangulation techniques are impossible due to stack height.
Here the floor or ceiling is the only fixed features to navigate against.

Swarm robot (Keva type) environments

Often these are large featureless or repetitive non-unique feature environments.
Most importantly they are devoid of extraneous vehicles/objects.
Each AGV / mobile robot equipped with the Triton system will be controlled by a central computer which will precisely map position, thus without the need for dynamic awareness sensors AGVs / mobile robots can move autonomously, without the threat of collision.

Exclusions / considerations

Accerion technology enables precise positioning.
Therefore in a strictly regulated and controlled environment (such as the Swarm robot case above), no other sensors are necessary. This approach would, therefore, provide a cost-effective solution.
Unfortunately, most factory environments are populated by people and or by other non-system controlled moving or stationary objects (think of the pallet truck that somebody has left at the side of the aisle) In this environment any moving AGV requires some form of dynamic awareness (with or without safety certification). 
The upside is that fusion of the output information from the dynamic awareness sensor (LiDAR, Camera, Radar, Ultrasonic) combined with that from the Accerion system is richer (effectively combining two perspectives). 
A combination solution is often more effective and less expensive than a  LiDAR (only) solution where multiple LiDARs are needed to facilitate efficient SLAM localisation.

Visit the Accerion Triton webpage here.
To find out more about our solutions and even try out the technology contact 
Can humans and robots work together?

How AI will transform the workplace
AI refers to computer systems that can sense their environment, think, learn and then take action as a result. This ability to respond to the environment stands artificial intelligence apart from the automation of routine tasks. Machine learning algorithms and chatbots are examples of AI that are already used by businesses today.
Humans working alongside robots isn’t a new idea. It’s been part of manufacturing, for example, for many years. However, as the AI becomes more advanced, the number of tasks which robots will be able to complete will increase. This will change the relationship between humans and robots.
Robots today and tomorrow
Often when we see robots on car production lines, it’s in a fixed place and carrying out a single task. The emerging vision, however, features smaller, lighter, nimbler robots. They’ll be able to move around, learn and generate real-time data that will enable them to make basic decisions about their tasks and motions in milliseconds.
Also, these robots are designed to safely share the workspace with humans, aiding in and collaborating on a variety of tasks, from inserting shock absorbers, to packaging medical supplies.
Studies have shown that productivity is at its highest when robots and humans are working together, rather than either working on their own. But what challenges does coworking bring? What are the benefits and which industries will benefit the most?
One of the main challenges of a hybrid working environment is the potential job losses. In a study by the consultancy firm Oxford Economics, the rapidly growing use of robots is expected to have a profound impact on jobs across the world, resulting in up to 20 million manufacturing job losses by 2030.
The global analysis of 29 advanced economies found that each new industrial robot eliminated as many as 1.6 manufacturing jobs on average.
Another challenge is that much of the technology is untested. Take the driverless car, for example. A woman in Arizona lost her life when she was struck by a driverless car in 2017. Although there was someone inside the car, they weren’t able to react to the situation and prevent it.
If humans can’t trust the robots and technology they’re working alongside, there will be trouble ahead. The possibilities may seem endless, but if robots don’t make the world around us safer, it’s going to be a difficult sell.
They’re not like us
Can humans work well in collaboration with something which they don’t associate with? Some researchers believe that we’ll need to humanise robots more, perhaps even let them make mistakes, as humans do. However, if this were to happen, it would erase one of the main advantages that robots have over humans, in that they don’t make as many (if any) mistakes.
Built with embedded cameras, lasers and sensors, as well as limited cognition and self-programming capabilities, many robots can take in ambient data — temperature, humidity, speed of the line, etc — and make decisions about their next course of action in a millisecond or less.
Robots can be put to work in dangerous environments, such as natural disasters, the front line and on construction sites.
In extremely busy periods, a robot can work 24 hours a day, without becoming fatigued or stressed. This would stop the staff being overworked and would protect peoples’ wellbeing at work.
Far from taking jobs away, robots can actually create jobs. The more that robots are used in the workplace the greater need we’ll have for people skilled in engineering and technology.
To get to the optimum performance, it will take time and there will need to be an investment from companies to reap the full benefits of robotics.
Which industries will benefit the most from robotics?
The healthcare sector is already using AI to find links to disease, diagnosis and treatment. And it seems it’s an industry which can benefit even further.  The BBC reported that machine learning is able to spot the signs of heart disease in the scans of patients more accurately than doctors alone.
Completely driverless cars may still be a way off, but robotics will have a huge impact on the automotive industry. Robots co-working with people will make production more efficient and the end product will include more technology which will make our driving experience safer and easier.
Ecommerce is making good use of robotics, especially within customer care. Many websites now have chatbots, available to us if we have any questions about our purchase. AI also enables retailers to manage and interpret customer data. They can then push products based on a customer’s previous sales, which is a great way to increase your revenue.
And the huge warehouses which pick our purchases for us have also benefited from robotics. Having robots which can learn a number of routes to fetch certain products is making online shopping even quicker.
Making it work
For humans and robots to really work in harmony, businesses must consult with their workforce. According to the commission on workers and technology, run by the Fabian Society and the Community trade union, almost six in 10 employees across Britain in a poll said their employers didn’t give them a say on the use of new technologies.

Whichever way you’re using robotics, find out how our products could help you make the most of it. Just give us a call or email. We’re always happy to give information on any of our products.
Stay up to date with all of our news and developments by following us on Twitter.
Guten Tag Germany - Sentek Solutions GmbH

A new office and new opportunities
We’re really excited to announce that our new office has opened in Germany. It will give us much greater access to an important market and it future proofs our connection to our customers in Europe.
The town of Lahr, in West Germany, has great transport links and is the perfect location for the home of our new German company, Sentek Solutions GmbH
Why are we moving to Germany?
Opening a new company and office in Germany will help us reach more of the German market. Having a physical location in Germany, with an experienced employee based there, will open up more opportunities for us.
Then there’s Brexit. Sorry, we hate to mention it. But, with the high level of uncertainty around trade deals, and the future of imports and exports, Sentek Solutions GmbH gives us and our customers in Europe some much-needed assurances.
Steve Ansell, Managing Director of Sentek Solutions, said: “Germany represents a big opportunity for our products as there are a number of Original Equipment Manufacturers located there. We want to protect our European connection and be able to maintain our sales and relationships, regardless of any Brexit implications.”
Jonas Ledergerber
Our new employee, Jonas, is joining us from a world-leading producer of sensors and sensor solutions for industrial automation applications. He has a diploma in business engineering and a wealth of experience in the industry, including more than a decade in the LiDAR business.
“I’m delighted that Jonas agreed to join us to manage Sentek Solutions GmbH. He has a huge amount of experience in the LiDAR field, and both I and the team at Sentek are excited to work with him and grow our customer base in the future,” said Steve.
Jonas will represent our German office and is responsible for the business development of the company. Away from work, Jonas enjoys playing in orchestras and cooking.
 Jonas Ledergerber from Sentek Solutions GmbH

If you’d like any more info on Sentek Solutions GmbH, Jonas, or anything to do with Germany just drop us an email.
How can we help you?
The creation of Sentek Solutions GmbH and addition of Jonas means Sentek is now more equipped than ever to deal with a wider variety of customers and projects whether it’s in the UK, Germany or somewhere in the rest of Europe.
Our office in the UK hasn’t changed and we’re still on hand to offer information about any of our products if you’d like to know more. Just give us a call or send us an email.
You can also stay up to date with all of our news and events by following us on Twitter.
New products, more news and more exhibitions for 2019

Last year was very busy for us here at Sentek. We launched the new Accerion Jupiter and Hokuyo YVT 35LX, we went to LogiMAT, SPS and the Liverpool Robotics Showcase. And we also helped a German University to win the RoboRace 2018!
You can read about all of the last years activities in our blogs

Here are some of our personal highlights....
LogiMAT 2018
Held in Stuttgart, in March, LogiMAT is the biggest exhibition in Europe for warehouse logistics.
We showcased the Hokuyo UAM-05LP Safety Laser Scanner, which is made for the European AGV market, and is the smallest scanner of its kind available.
LogiMAT was also a chance for us to launch the new Accerion Jupiter module which got a lot of interest. The Jupiter delivers accurate positioning, inside or out, without infrastructure, and it can be integrated into new and existing vehicles.
The Sentek and Accerion team.
We also went to Nuremberg in November for the SPS IPC Drives show. We've just been back to LogiMAT for the 2 019 show and we will be back at SPS in November. 
3D LiDAR scanner – YVT 35LX
Another exciting new product for 2018 was the YVT-35LX. Instead of using multiple Hokuyo LiDARs, computing power & external devices like ‘pan tilts’, the Hokuyo YVT-35LX can provide point cloud data all by itself.
With a wide field of view, the YVT-35LX gives you a 210° horizontal and a 40° vertical scanning angle. And the detectable range is 35m to the front and 14m to the sides.

The Hokuyo YVT-35LX 
Here are just some of the applications for the Hokuyo YVT-35LX 3D LiDAR scanner:
  • Detecting surroundings for robots.
  • Container profiling and positioning at busy ports.
  • Obstacle detection and pallet shape on forklift trucks.
  • Smart farming and agriculture.
  • Depth measurement in the construction industry.
  • GEO mapping.
  • Counting people at building entrances/exits.
With this scanner’s capabilities, we believe it can provide a range of industries with new ways of working.
Over the line first at RoboRace
We were approached by Johannes Betz, a post-doc researcher from the Technical University of Munich and the Chair of Automotive Technologies. With his team, he was preparing to undertake an exciting research project in the area of autonomous and self-driving vehicles with the aim of taking part in the RoboRace.
The RoboRace team from the Technical University of Munich
They needed a Hokuyo LiDAR device and we were happy to help.
The LiDAR device attached to the car.
The team said that compared to other LiDAR devices, the Hokuyo performed the best by far. It’s data performance regarding LiDAR points, velocities and distance data are far more accurate and consistent. On top of its performance, the Hokuyo LiDAR is also much more robust than similar devices. The Hokuyo LiDAR was crucial in helping complete the project successfully.
And this year?
We’re not resting on our laurels for 2019, we've already been to LogiMAT 2019. You can read more about that below.

 You’ll be able to find us at some new shows, as well as SPS. We’ll be launching some more new products too.
Our blogs will keep you up-to-date with everything we’re doing, so make sure you check-in each month. You’ll find out more about cleaning robots, how humans are working alongside robots, how robots are helping the agricultural industry, and you’ll hear from some of our customers too.
It’s shaping up to be another exciting year at Sentek.

LogiMAT 2019

We are back in the office after a very busy last week at LogiMAT 2019. 

As always the stand was filled with people interested in the vast capabilities of our LiDAR scanners and Radar units. 


The Sentek stand at LogiMAT 2019

Alongside the normal demonstrations of our Hokuyo UAM-05LP Safety Laser Scanner and PPT Radar Ranger collision avoidance units we had a brand new scanner on display. 

The Hokuyo URM-40LC-EW is a hybrid scanner with area setting and data output functions. With its 40m range and IP67 rating, it's a great solution for many applications in the outdoor environment.

The Hokuyo URM-40LC-EW on display. 

We'll have more info on it soon so just let us know if you are interested.

How can we help?
To find out how our products can help your business, just give us a call or an email. We’re always happy to give information on any of our products if you’d like to know more.
Stay up to date with all of our news and developments by following us on Twitter.

See you at SPS IPC Drives in November!

The future of Robotics and Automation

We may not yet be travelling in driverless cars and have robot butlers at home, but in the past few decades, Robotics and Automation have evolved and grown dramatically (hopefully in some part due to Sentek Solutions!).
Reducing costs and improving productivity are increasingly important in today’s ever more competitive environment. Needless to say, Robotics and Automation can eliminate the tedium and improve the efficiency of many processes with the knock-on benefit of reducing running costs and improving profitability.
What do Robotics and Automation actually mean? We’ll walk you through the differences and outline ways they can help to improve operational processes. This is probably best addressed by turning things around.
What do we mean by Automation?
The definition of Automation is - the use of machines and technology to make processes run on their own without human input. For example, a car production line.
What do we mean by Robotics?
Essentially robotics covers the many different machines designed and built to enable Automation.
Really, Automation and Robotics go hand in hand. Returning to the car assembly line example; robots fulfil jobs that may have previously been carried out by people.
As well as completing tasks which would be considered dangerous, Robotic and Automated applications are cheaper, more efficient, make fewer mistakes and can run for 24 hours every day.
Also, we should not forget that robots can also carry out “superhuman” tasks impossible for mere flesh and blood. After all, how many people can pick up a car and move it with submillimetre precision or work in toxic inhospitable environments?
How can these technological developments help to grow my business?
If a task is routine, repetitive and uses the same components it can be easily automated. Clearly as with all such projects the business case needs to be justified (capital expenditure against operating costs savings) and payback period determined.
Other tasks which have elements of variability in the process, location or components need to use cleverer (autonomous /semi-autonomous) robots and of course, this increases the capital cost.
Critically this type of robot needs to be aware of its environment and/or communicate with other production line equipment so that it can alter its behaviour according to circumstances. This is where Sentek Solutions products come in.

Seeing what’s around
Our comprehensive range of LiDARs from Safety Laser Scanners to 3D devices like the Hokuyo YVT-35LX allow the host robot to understand the surrounding environment and even determine what component it will be working with.
This can be used to:
  • Determine location SLAM
  • If mobile; safely and efficiently avoid obstacles
  • Allow correct recognition and handling of a component, machine or person
  • Ascertain and execute the appropriate operation process

The Hokuyo UTM-30LX-EW is just one of many compact and powerful Hokuyo LiDAR scanners
30m range
Indoor/ Outdoor use
Ethernet connectivity
270º scanning window
0.25º resolution 
IP67 protection category
25ms scan speed
Knowing exactly where you are
Accerion’s Jupiter localisation system enable sub-millimetre positional accuracy, so an AGV/mobile robot can determine exactly where it is.
In an ideal world where everything is where it is supposed to be this allows the robot to identify and move to key locations where it can perform its required task. For instance, this can be used for returning the robot consistently to a loading point or a charging station.
Unfortunately, neither robots nor humans live in an ideal world. In these cases, this information can be used in conjunction with a LiDAR / Safety Laser Scanner which provides real-time information as to the AGV/ robot’s surroundings.

Accerion Jupiter Localisation module with Hokuyo UAM-05LP Safety Laser Scanner attached
Communicating with the outside world
Hokuyo data transmission devices have been developed specifically for use in fully automated environments.
The shorter-range parallel devices are used extensively in semiconductor manufacture where they facilitate communication between material handling robots and/or static “hand over” stations.
Longer range serial devices can communicate over distances of up to 200m with up to 100MB bandwidth. This type of device tends to be used in automated warehouses and logistic centres.

 Hokuyo BWF Series Data Transmission device
Up to 400m range
IP64 protection category
Full duplex operation 
Multiple interface versions available

What’s holding Robotics and Automation back?
Initial set up costs for automating projects can be high which may put off some businesses from making the initial investment. Luckily, our products are competitively priced and payback periods can be shorter than one would think.
People often believe that Robotics and Automation can only be used in the manufacturing and logistics sectors. This is not the case many different categories of robots have been developed from health care to public service and disaster management. At Sentek Solutions we have many customers who have applications in a wide variety of industries. For Robotics and Automation to proliferate companies need to be innovative and “think out of the box”.

How can you use this technology? Drop us an email and let us know!
You can browse all our products for Robotic applications here.
All our products that can be used in Industrial Automation are here.
To find out how our products could help you improve your business by using Automation, just give us a call. We’re always happy to give information on any of our products or talk about your ideas.
Stay up to date with all of our news and developments by following us on Twitter.

We will be exhibiting at the SPS IPC Drives in Nuremberg on November 27. -29.11.2018. You will find us at stand 7A-101. If you would like to see our product demonstrations then it would be great if you were to visit us!

Contact Info

Find us
Devonshire Business Centre
Works Road, Letchworth
Herts, SG6 1GJ (UK)
Opening Hours:  Mon- Fri 9am-5pm
Get in touch
Phone: 01223 923 930
Fax: 01223 923 940
Connect with us
Facebook: @SentekEurope
Twitter: @senteksolutions
LinkedIn:  sentek-solutions-ltd