BlueBotics Brings Mobile Robots Outside With ANT Everywhere

The new product extension allows AGVs and AMRs to operate outdoors just as robustly and precisely as indoors, claimed the Swiss company.


The ANT trial at Barcelona's airport involved a SIMAI tow tractor from MOVVO.
BlueBotics said its ANT everywhere extension to its Autonomous Navigation Technology enables mobile robots to move outdoors with the same accuracy as indoors.

Rather than ruining picnics, some ants are opening new vistas for robotics. BlueBotics SA yesterday launched “ANT everywhere,” a new extension to its Autonomous Navigation Technology designed to allow mobile robots to effectively operate outdoors.

“Prior to today, use cases such as transporting components or finished goods from one building to another have not been an easy proposition for AGV and AMR makers. ANT everywhere changes that,” stated Dr. Nicola Tomatis, CEO of BlueBotics. “This tightly integrated product extension enables manufacturers to offer new and robust 'ANT-driven' vehicles that are accurate, quick to install, and perform as expected, whatever the environment.”

St-Sulpice, Switzerland-based BlueBotics said its natural feature navigation can help companies meet the challenge of vehicle automation. With more than 20 years of industry experience, the ZAPI Group company provides its Autonomous Navigation Technology and expert support to enable customers to successfully bring their automated guided vehicles (AGV), autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), or automated forklifts to market.

Today, over 4,000 ANT-driven vehicles are in operation worldwide. BlueBotics is also the creator of, an educational resource to help professionals explore how mobile robots can help their businesses thrive.

Outdoor navigation a challenge for robots

Outdoor use has traditionally been a challenge for producers of automated vehicles, noted BlueBotics. This is because there are typically few permanent visible “features” for robots to calculate their exact positions, the company explained.

Until recently, robotics suppliers have addressed this challenge either by using ad hoc navigation add-ons, such as patching a GPS system on top of an existing product or by adding additional outdoor infrastructure, such as custom poles featuring reflectors, according to BlueBotics.

As a result, outdoor installations of AGVs and AMRs have often been highly customized (and therefore expensive), and more complex and time-consuming to install than equivalent indoor projects, it said.

BlueBotics integrates indoor-outdoor systems

BlueBotics ANT everywhere works with GNSS

ANT everywhere works with GNSS. Source: BlueBotics

ANT everywhere overcomes this challenge by adding GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) navigation with real-time kinematic (RTK) positioning, said BlueBotics. It claimed that the combination makes outdoor AGV and AMR operations just as robust and precise as those indoors.

When an ANT-driven vehicle is enabled with ANT everywhere, its navigation algorithm uses whichever data source is the most relevant at the time:

  • Inside a building: ANT navigation uses its usual odometry, inertial measurement unit (gyroscope), and laser scanner data to calculate a vehicle’s exact position, matching permanent features in the environment with those stored in its onboard site map.
  • When transitioning outside: With fewer features visible, GNSS data starts providing ANT with additional positioning information.
  • Fully outside: With fewer or zero permanent features visible, GNSS data is given still higher priority.

“Thanks to BlueBotics’ advanced sensor fusion, the transition between indoor and outdoor is seamless,” said the company.

BlueBotics ANT operates in airport trial

BlueBotics said its technology allows developers to build autonomous systems for reliable outdoor operations. Source: BlueBotics

Barcelona Airport proves ANT concept

An ANT everywhere-enabled vehicle recently completed a successful proof of concept trial at Barcelona Airport, said BlueBotics.

The project was part of a joint initiative between Worldwide Flight Services and Spanish airport operator AENA. It was intended to validate the use of autonomous technology in Spanish airports.

The trial ran for three months and involved Qatar Airways cargo being transported between the airline’s cargo warehouse and BCN Terminal 1, with a total transport time of 20 minutes. The AGV used was a 25-ton SIMAI tow tractor from Spanish producer MOVVO.

“We’ve successfully installed an ANT everywhere AGV at Barcelona Airport, and customers from many other industries are also interested in this technology,” commented Jaume Graells Gallego, general manager of MOVVO. “Just think how many organizations’ processes involve going into and out of warehouses!”

Tomatis added: “We believe ANT everywhere has the potential to revolutionize AGV and AMR operations by making it easier for vehicle producers to develop and install AGVs and AMRs that can move reliably and precisely between indoor and outdoor environments. This, in turn, will allow vehicle manufacturers to expand their reach by meeting the needs of companies in industries ranging from steel, aluminum, and tire production, to airports, aerospace, agriculture, wood, paper, and many more.”

Meet ANT everywhere, a new product extension for BlueBotics' industry-proven ANT navigation products. ANT everywhere widens the scope of AGV and AMR operations by enabling effective outdoor operations.

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The ANT trial at Barcelona's airport involved a SIMAI tow tractor from MOVVO.

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