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Design of an Innovative System for the Drive and Control of Port Cranes for Safe Remote Operation

This project focuses on port cranes to increase their performance and safety and human operator working conditions, thus eliminating the gap between theoretical and real productivity (lifts/hour) of cranes. The core problem of crane productivity is the loss of efficiency from the human operator due to the stressful working conditions inside the crane cabin. SECURCRANE will develop a remote crane control, and an innovative anti-sway device, providing the operator with all information physically ‘sensed and seen’ in his position onboard so that a 3D television image supplies the driver at a remote site with the same information/functions as he had from the crane cabin seat.

Tags: Multimodal


In the manufacturing field of port cranes, manufacturers usually neglect research and innovation due to highly detailed bids from buyers and severe price competition. Current anti-sway devices are mainly based on several physical/electrical principles (combining sensors/actuators to rebalance sway and damp oscillations). Their performance rates and cost/benefit ratios are not satisfactory, and many crane operators admit to working with the anti-sway switched off. The absence of efficient and cost effective anti-sway systems have prevented the introduction of remote crane control.

The project covers the social aspects of innovation, involving crane drivers from the start and focusing on their re-qualification of their job position after the remote crane cabin has been adopted.


SECURCRANE addresses two specific problems, distinct but highly interconnected, which affect the crane operator’s behaviour:

  1. the stressful working conditions of crane operators caused by both physical stress (shocks, vibrations, accelerations due to cabin position suspended to trolley and cabin-constrained movement along crane boom), and psychological stress (sway of spreader/container and time needed to engage corner casting holes with spreader twistlocks or into the ‘cones’, which considerably frustrate drivers and increase average handling time per movement)
  2. the potential damages caused to intermodal units (and/or goods inside them), relevant causes of expensive legal actions and, often, financial disbursements (insurance costs or direct refunding to clients).

SECURCRANE modules and interactions
SECURCRANE modules and interactions

Description of work

The project’s two objectives are reached by realising, installing and testing the remote control (RCM), anti-sway (ASM) and cargo monitoring (CMM) module prototypes on a port crane in Le Havre. Furthermore, SECURCRANE will build a consensus within the crane drivers’ community by inviting them to trials where they will get hands-on experience of the innovation in practice. The RCM originates from past expertise developed in defence field applications, which is now transferred into this civil application subject to different constraints, environment and needs. The imagery system is innovative too, based on a patented system promising to overcome negative aspects of past 3D imagery systems. The ASM originates from successful past experience in other science domains (mostly cognitive sciences and artificial intelligence devices design), hardware simplicity, fast response to external inputs, positive past applications of the same expertise, and reduced hardware costs promise efficiency coupled with very interesting cost/benefit ratios. The CMM raises commercial attractiveness of SECURCRANE system by reducing insurance costs and providing added-value services to terminal operators. The CMM acquires many container images performing functions like container identification (to avoid misoperations), extraction of geometric features (early detection of damages to avoid refunding clients for damages made outside terminal premises), and other functions. CMM adopts technologies able to limit optic/geometric distortion and environmental/light adverse condition, while keeping hardware costs low.

Excluding management, the project is organised in five work packages (WP).

WP 1: User’s needs: these will be ascertained through interviews, questionnaires and advice of key field experts/end users), then ‘translated’ into proper functional requirements to draw up the SECURCRANE system architecture.

WP 2: Design, development and tests: the design and development of the modules runs separately because their applications are logically ‘installed’ in different allocations on crane controls.

WP 3: Integration, testing and validation: modules are integrated and tested to verify the functionalities and performances of each module as well as the global system. Final results will be validated.

WP 4: Evaluation and assessment: identification of impacts on the introduction of SECURCRANE’s technologies and associated organisational concepts, and the ‘road map’ for implementation.

WP 5: Dissemination and workshops: major instruments are SECURCRANE Interest Operators’ Club (SIOC), distribution of brochures, update of project website and validation workshops.


The major expected result is that the first prototype of the SECURCRANE system installed on a port crane in Le Havre will practically eliminate the effects of the sway when the driver puts the control joystick to idle. The remote control of the crane will be achieved via CCTV 3D images and the retrieval of additional information on handled containers will complete the functions. SECURCRANE will allow terminal operators to capitalise on their crane drivers’ skill with limited investments. If this research challenge is won, the first positive applications will not only involve the port cranes field where safer working conditions and more efficient drivers’ performances may be reached, but the civil construction industry may also benefit from these achievements.