Background and Need
Mining fatalities have been on a decreasing trend1 since the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act (Mine Act2,3) came into effect in 1977. However, during the last decade a total of 649 miners lost their lives in work related fatal accidents (MSHA Mining Fatalities4, 2002-2013) with 7 mining fatalities recorded in Alaska. The majority of the accidents and fatalities involved personnel and miners with less than 5 years of experience on the particular job5. Emerging technology gains in the area of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) offers unprecedented capability in responding to emergency situations, the protection of valuable resources, and in maximizing production time in mining operations.
The integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) into mining operations provides several key benefits. UAS/UGVs provide valuable support in emergency response situations, providing a critical first-‐look capability which can inform incident commanders on the best and safest employment of human assets.
This effort requires the demonstration of multiple capabilities in a challenging environment. Key to this capability is the reliable coordinated action between a UGV and UAS, including communication, tracking, command and control, data sharing, and recharging of the UAS. It also requires coordinated navigation between the UGV an UAS, in order to traverse and map indoor areas and confined spaces, such as mine tunnels. It will also provide tight integration between these vehicles and the ground control station (GCS), focusing on mission pre-‐flight activities, training tools, and debriefing tools.
The system will be capable of providing streaming video and high quality still pictures of the inside of the mine to aid in the analysis of emergency areas (cave-‐ins, debris/obstructions) for determination of best means for ingress, operations, and egress. The system will also provide IR video for location and identification of personnel, equipment, and other heat sources.
The system will be capable of providing air samples for determining gas and particulate concentrations found in designated areas of the mine.
The system will be capable of creating a 3D mapping of the tunnel structure and any obstacles encountered during travel.
Command & Control
The system will be capable of being controlled by a portable Ground Control Station (GCS), consisting of a communication suite, ground processor, and display consoles. The GCS will be capable of providing man-‐on-‐the-‐loop control of the system via first person video (FPV), or autonomous control between designated locations or until the route is obstructed.
The system will be capable of self-‐supported communications between the GCS, UAS, and UGV components. For expanded functionality, the system should also take advantage of any organic communications equipment resident in the mine structure and control center.
The system will be capable of navigating the mine structure either via FPV manual control, or autonomous operation.
The system will be capable of detecting obstacles in its path (ground or air operation) and maneuvering around these as space permits. The system will be able to negotiate the tunnel system.
The UAS provides the capability for untethered, high-‐vantage point operations in viewing extremely difficult terrain generally associated with disaster areas. As the UAS is limited in flight time, for extended operations, it must be paired with a UGV in order to extend its reach.
The UGV provides a ruggedized, long endurance platform to traverse expansive and difficult terrain. The UGV can operate much more efficiently for long durations, as it may idle or stop operations as needed. Finally, the UGV provides a convenient mobile platform for recovery of the UAS, with capability to recharge the UAS batteries and recover data for retransmission.
UAS/UGV Coordinated Operations
This project requires reliable coordinated action between a UGV and UAS, including communication, tracking, command and control, data sharing, and recharging of the UAS. It also requires coordinated navigation between the UGV and UAS, in order to traverse and map indoor areas and confined spaces, such as mine tunnels. It will also provide tight integration between these vehicles and the ground control station (GCS), focusing on mission pre-‐flight activities, training tools, and debriefing tools.