August 06, 2014      

Editor’s Note: The 2014 Game Changer Awards are open for entry. This article, which originally ran on Feb. 13, 2014, is part of a series looking back at the 2013 Game Changer Award Winners. To enter this year’s contest, click here.

Saying the initial response from the marketplace to its Grizzly robotic utility vehicle is “exceeding expectations,” Clearpath Robotics CEO and co-founder Matt Rendall is now focusing on refining the product to better meet the needs of customers.

“When we released the Grizzly, we weren’t sure how it would be received,” he said. “Although we have a long way to go in terms of adoption in the market, we are ahead of schedule.”

Clearpath RUVs

Clearpath’s Grizzly self-driving vehicles

Grizzly is the company’s largest all-terrain vehicle, offering the performance of a tractor with the precision of an industrial robot. The 80-horsepower machine, which is Robot Operating System-compatible, is an all-electric, 1-ton vehicle with a maximum payload of 1,320 lb. and a maximum speed of 12 mph.

Kitchener, Ontario-based Clearpath’s Grizzly RUV was the winner of the Game Changer Award for Industrial Productivity at last October’s RoboBusiness 2013.

‘Bulk of interest agriculture-centric’

The company has been targeting the research departments of agriculture, mining and defense companies for its new RUV, which is designed for the dull, dirty and sometimes deadly tasks currently done by humans.

“The first customers are core and very instrumental in helping us understand the market,” Rendall said. “So far, the bulk of interest has been agriculture-centric. As a result, we are working to develop Grizzly more for that industry.”

While it currently has an entry price of $100,000, Rendall sees that cost dropping over time.

“With continuing innovations in hardware and software, we would like to see the price of Grizzly drop to $30,000 to make it a more cost-competitive alternative to a tractor,” he said. “Right now, we are at a price disadvantage.”

RUV’s four ‘buckets’

Clearpath is presently focusing much of its Grizzly efforts on the agriculture sector, where Rendall identified four “buckets” for the RUV.

“The first is pesticide spraying,” he said. “That is one of the most hazardous tasks for farmers. By fully automating the process, we will not be exposing people to harsh chemicals.”

“In addition, we can spray at night when winds are lighter,” Rendall noted. “We want to change the way people think about pesticide spraying.”

The other three areas where Grizzly can aid farmers is in mowing between the crops where grass grows to reduce insect problems; harvest support by hitching a wagon behind Grizzly and towing the pickers, allowing them to focus exclusively on the delicate manipulation of hand picking crops; and cultivation, such as aerating the fields before planting.

“It is as simple as changing the implements attached to the Grizzly,” Rendall said. “That is the purpose of a utility vehicle.”

In the mining sector, Clearpath is focusing on remote geophysical surveying of both open pit and underground mining to ensure the ongoing integrity of mine walls, utilizing ground penetrating radar and sensors.

For defense industry purposes, Rendall said the Grizzly’s concentration is on squad mission support, where it would follow soldiers while carrying their equipment packs.

“We are primarily focusing on the industrial segment, as that is where we believe the future of robotics is brightest,” said Rendall.

Founded in 2009, Clearpath currently has 40 employees, but Rendall expected that number to double over the next 12 to 18 months.

“We feel very strong and positive about the future,” Rendall said. “The robotics industry right now is where the personal computer industry was in the 1980s.”

Winners: Game Changer Awards 2013

See related article: Canadian Robotics Turns a New Leaf