Hiab HiVision: The Timber Crane with a Digital Eye

The world’s first timber crane to be controlled by the HiVision VR system features a whole host of digital technology. DEKRA was on the scene for its market approval.

In forestry, cutting edge generally refers to the blade of a saw. In this neck of the woods, however, it’s virtual reality – the latest in digital forestry technology. “HiVision,” the new control system from Scandinavian manufacturer Hiab, gives its LOGLIFT timber cranes the power of digital sight. The system uses four cameras, granting a 270-degree field of vision. No longer must the crane operator climb up to a control seat mounted on the crane itself; they can control everything from the comfy cockpit of their truck via virtual reality headset.

Patrick Martin is a crane inspector at DEKRA’s Göttingen branch. The 30-year old engineer already has plenty of experience when it comes to out-of-the-ordinary customer demands. But when Mario Müller, CEO of Südharzer Fahrzeugbau GmbH (SFB), asked for assistance, even he was taken aback: “A timber transporter with a VR-controlled crane? That was a new one – even for me!”

Hiab HiVision – wood loading with virtual reality glasses from DEKRA on Vimeo.

Attending the handover at SFB’s site in Berga was a delegation from the crane manufacturer’s Finnish headquarters. “A lot hung on that day, for all parties. Acceptance into the German market is paramount to European certification of a product,” explains the test engineer. The first customer for this HiVision-equipped LOGLIFT 118 S – Ungefroren Transporte – was also awaiting this date with excitement. The future-oriented firm intends to acquire more of these high-tech machines.

Perfect view of the yard with HiVision

The four cameras are mounted on the top of the timber crane, and offer the operator a realistic and impressive 270-degree field of vision. As the driver turns their head, the VR headset switches from the forward-facing to the side-mounted cameras. This allows the crane operator to maintain an overview of the yard, while directing the crane from the passenger seat, using a joystick control system. “It’s fascinating – it brings a computer game to mind. But the system is so much more. It saves considerable weight, while increasing the comfort and work safety of the driver,” reasons Patrick Martin.

Handover of the HiVision by Hiab at SFB in Berga. Photo: Norbert Böwing

HiVision technology improves safety

An extra crane cabin is no longer required. This alone saves up to 400 kilograms, thus increasing the truck’s maximum payload. Martin also foresees an array of other advantages with the new system: “Loading timber is not the most hazard-free of tasks, but HiVision provides big safety wins.” Every time the driver enters and exits the truck, there’s the risk of an injured ankle, as workers’ compensation boards are no doubt aware. The new system dramatically reduces this risk. The awkward clamber up to the crane cabin is also a thing of the past. Martin also considers the shortage of young talent in the industry: “Technology like this increases the attractiveness of the industry, proving that innovation really pays dividends when it comes to recruiting both junior and specialist staff.”

The handover and acceptance is dominated by the system’s assembly onto the truck. Test engineers will look closely at whether correct axle loads are maintained, and whether the braces are sufficient to support the maximum outreach of the crane. Once assembled, the brand new MAN TGS 26.500 – a three-axle tractor cab equipped with hydraulic all-wheel drive and a two-axle trailer – weighs 17.4 metric tons, enabling the transport of high payloads across a range of terrains. The HiVision crane control provides considerable gains both in terms of safety and efficiency. Südharzer Fahrzeugbau GmbH forecasts rapid market acceptance for this technology package. CEO Mario Müller: “The future is knocking. Once DEKRA accepts the system, it can be used everywhere. We’re bargaining on high demand.”