An English teenager has developed a prototype of a signalling system that helps guide crane operators doing blind lifts in noisy environments.

At his father’s boatbuilding yard in Stone, Staffordshire, UK, 17-year old Joe Fuller noticed that crane drivers often had problems hearing a slinger’s commands over a walkie-talkie.

The firm uses a crawler crane to lift boats in the water. It also needed to do blind lifts, and found that hand signals could be blocked by stock or other obstacles.

Fuller’s system consists of a radio remote control that triggers a message to flash up on a screen mounted in a crane cabin. A slinger presses a button that tells the operator essentially which lever to pull. Once the

slinger releases the button, the screen reverts to a stop message.

The remote control has a total of 16 relays: six different motions, with two directions for each motion, three different operating speeds and emergency stop. He made the electronic circuits to decipher the signals and interface them together. “Getting it from that stage to working took a lot of time and a lot of headaches.”

Once the system was eventually finished, he mounted the system in the yard’s crane, blacked out the windscreen, and ran some tests. With a colleague, he got the 200kg test load to within 50mm of the intended target.

The student designed the system for a school project. He says he enjoys solving electronics problems, and hopes to study at Loughborough University to study product design.

He has some ideas about the next step for his invention. “The next stage is a vast amount of research into machine parts and what would make the system most useful to operators,” he said.

The University has a programme that helps inventors get their designs off the ground, which he said he might investigate.