RAA trials new robotic arms to help sparkies install solar panels

22 October, 2023

RAA solar and battery electricians are wearing cutting edge Exoskeleton suits, as part of a trial to test the technology’s ability to reduce muscle fatigue and improve efficiency.

It is estimated, on average, an RAA electrician would lift a solar panel approximately 6,000 times per year, with each one weighing 24 kilograms.

The Exoskeletons are wearable devices designed to take weight off the upper body – particularly the arms, shoulders and back – when lifting heavy items overhead, reducing fatigue and preventing injury.

General Manager Home & Energy Ben Owen said RAA’s in-house innovation team had purchased two of the devices to trial as the organisation’s Energy business was experiencing exponential growth.

“In the last financial year RAA installed more than 14,000 solar panels as our Solar and Battery business grew by 75 per cent,” Mr Owen said.

“Each one of these panels tip the scales at 24 kg – and over the course of a year our installers may lift the equivalent of 144 tonnes – which equates to the weight of almost 50 elephants.

“At RAA the health and safety of our people is paramount, and we are always looking for new ways to protect them and introduce efficiency in our business.

“These Exoskeletons are innovative, wear-able devices that have been used in other industries overseas to help protect workers, and have been shown to reduce stress on shoulder muscles and joints by 55 per cent.

“We’re excited to trial the exoskeletons with a view to one day implementing them more permanently if they are shown to be of benefit locally.”

The devices have been purchased from Australian health and wellbeing provider Biosymm, and will be trialled for a three-week period at RAA’s Solar and Battery warehouse and during installations.

The trial participants will have their baseline health data – including sleep quality and heart rate variability – monitored by a clinical-grade, wearable device and will be surveyed daily as part of the trial.

The participants will also be regularly assessed by a Performance Laws performance coach.