Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) for Emergency Response and Disaster Preparedness in Mining Applications

Project Info

Lead Researcher(s)

PI:

Dr. Rajive Ganguli (UAF)

Project Dates

2015-2016

Funding

Sumitomo POGO Gold Mine

Award Amount:

$ 7,006.00

Project Summary

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. 

Project Objectives

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. 

Imagery
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.

Air Samples
The system will be capable of providing air samples for determining gas and particulate concentrations found in designated areas of the mine.

Route Mapping
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.

Communications
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.

Interior Navigation
The system will be capable of navigating the mine structure either via FPV manual control, or autonomous operation.

Obstacle Avoidance
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.

UAS
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.

UGV 
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. 

  • Mineral Industry Research Laboratory (MIRL)
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  • PO Box 75 5800
  • Fairbanks, AK 99775-5800, USA