AGV navigation: what are the possibilities?

July 31, 2019 //By Matthias Goehner
AGV navigation
Various technologies are available on the market for bringing an automated guided vehicle (AGV) to its destination. Let us first of all say: many roads lead to Rome. There is no right way and no wrong way. Decisive is always the application itself - that means the question of where and how the given AGV is used.

There are different processes and technologies for navigating an AGV from point A to point B. The various possibilities range from contour navigation (natural navigation) to laser radar, optical or inductive guidance to grid navigation. Which technology is used depends above all on the specific application. The price of the AGV itself can also be used as a rough guideline.

Navigation and safety monitoring of the transportation path
with the RSL 400 safety laser scanner.

The costs for the AGV navigation technology should not exceed 5% of the AGV price. For example: for a EUR 10,000 AGV, contour navigation and laser radar do not come into question as their cost lies above the threshold of 500 euro. Another decisive criterion for one or the other variant is whether the given AGV is a drive-under vehicle or a platform vehicle. Drive-under vehicles are those that move under the load to be transported and lift it up. Their design makes them unsuitable for, e.g., laser radar, fundamentally excluding this process for such AGVs. Platform vehicles are those onto which the load is pushed and that transport their cargo on the vehicle. Against this background, the individual navigation possibilities are considered in detail below with regard to their possible fields of application.

Contour navigation (natural navigation)
Contour navigation is also referred to as »natural navigation.» These are the most technically complex as well as the most expensive types of navigation systems. They are unmatched in terms of flexibility and accuracy. Should it be necessary to change the transportation path on short notice, this can be performed for contour navigation very easily and quickly at the click of a mouse in the higher-level software, the so-called fleet management. Because the sensor on the AGV is usually mounted close to the floor, this navigation variant is suitable for automatic high-lift trucks and tractors as well as for the drive-under or platform vehicles described above. For this type of navigation, neither further tools - such as reflectors or optical or magnetic traces - nor markings or codes are required.

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