Technology Appraisal Workshop

From the 31st of January to the 2nd of February, the UNEXMIN partners got together for an important three-day meeting entitled “Technology Appraisal Workshop”. The main objectives of this meeting were to review the work done in all areas of the project including technology developments, instrumentation, dissemination, and more, to appraise the numerous technological developments, and to conduct discussions in technical workshops and two internal meetings (Steering Committee and Advisory Board) with the goal of deciding the way forward for the coming year during which we will shortly begin the construction of the first ‘UX-1’ robotic prototype. The Advisory Board, which includes professionals from robotics and raw materials, was present and gave their valuable input and expertise to the workshop. This convention also marked an important occasion for the project for two reasons: it took place as UNEXMIN completed one full year since its formal beginning in February 2016, and also Milestone 2, ‘UX-1 technical specifications delivered’, was successfully achieved.

General discussion about the project’s three future collaborative robots

Technical discussion about the general layout and mechanical design

The first day was committed to a general revision of all the currently on-going work packages and involved all work that has been done until now. During this day, suggestions to improve the workflow arose. The consortium members could see blueprints of the mechanical-prototype (see below), the instrumentation that is going to be used, and even statistics about project material from the website and social media. The second day consisted of a major technology appraisal discussion which lead to a debate on topics relevant to the functionality of the multi-robotic system – collaboration between robots and support services -, as well as workshops on technological developments on control systems and data conversion, and communication and dissemination strategy, together with the kick-off of Work Packages 3 ‘Autonomy for mine exploration and mapping’ and Work Package 4 ‘Multi-robot platform development’ – both of which are starting very soon: these work packages will produce relevant work for the functionality of the entire robotic system. The third day was devoted to further technical discussions and decision-making on the mechanical design, sensory array and systems testing.

General design of the future UX-1 robot

UNEXMIN will now continue with the development and testing of further technical instruments – specially with scientific equipment and sensors. In the following months we expect to complete the laboratory and real environmental tests on the instrumentation units and define the robot’s software architecture and mechanics, among others. In twelve-month’s time we hope to deliver a major milestone when the first UX-1 robot prototype will be ready. The much anticipated construction phase will soon begin!

UNEXMIN comsortium members during the Technology Appraisal Workshop

Madrid follow-up Workshop II

On the 25th and 26th of October, UNEXMIN partners met in Madrid at UPM’s facilities for a follow-up workshop related to developments of the UX-1 robot. Of importance to this meeting were UNIM, TUT, UPM, INESC and RCI – the partners responsible for the robot’s hardware, software and post-processing and data analysis. A constant exchange of information between these partners is vital for the project’s development. This was particularly noted after the latest crucial decision made for UX-1, the integrated pressure hull approach.

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Overall discussion occurring during the Madrid Follow-up Workshop

The first day of this 5th UNEXMIN meeting was dedicated to an overall review of the latest steps (including the Tampere mid-term meeting) and the status of the work packages defined in the project (especially related to the software and hardware of UX-1 and post-data processing and analysis). During the day, technical discussions were held which helped the consortium agree on details of future advancements of the multi-robotic platform.

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Technical discussion recurring to a board, a pen and criativity

On the second day, the group present at the meeting was divided into three main work groups – a way to facilitate and cover more discussion points and thus evolving into new ideas and consolidating current ones. The three work groups defined were the following:

  • UX-1 Mechanics
  • UX-1 Navigation Instrumentation
  • Stakeholders & related discussions

This topics covered the main points of discussion for the UX-1 most important developments at the moment.

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Discussion on the UX-1 navigation instrumentation workshop session

This follow-up workshop in Madrid allowed the UNEXMIN consortium to gain a greater perspective of what is being developed and the future steps that must be taken to ensure the best development for this unique and ambitious European project. The meeting was well organised – which always helps to create an environment conducive to the efficient exchange of ideas. Thank you to UPM (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid) for hosting this perfect meeting!

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UNEXMIN team present in the Madrid Workshop

UNEXMIN team at Porto Follow-up meeting. Photo in front of INESCTEC lab building.

Porto follow-up Workshop

UNEXMIN partners met in the beautiful city of Porto during the 28th and 29th of July.

The reason for this reunion was a UNEXMIN follow-up meeting on the project where every currently running Work Package (a block of the work breakdown structure) coordinator presented a review of the work done until now, and a planning of respective future developments.

There were also many relevant discussions on topics related to UNEXMIN’s overall advancement, such as project organisation and the development of UX-1, the multi-robotic platform.

UNEXMIN team discussing UX-1 developments

The UNEXMIN team discussing UX-1 developments

One of the main points from this meeting was the debate concerning the first prototype’s construction and development. The questions raised about the project’s progress will have a final and determinant answer when UNEXMIN partners meet in Tampere in September, where they will take part in a one-week-work agenda totally devoted to clarify the next steps to take regarding UX-1.

UNEXMIN meeting: autonomous robotic system that goes into the sea floor.

TURTLE – a robotic autonomous deep sea lander – made from other INESCTEC european project

UNEXMIN partners also visited the labs of INESCTEC (Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores, Tecnologia e Ciência), one of the partners from the UNEXMIN project consortium, who are specialists in sea robotics, and who have past experience in this field related to UNEXMIN. In the labs the consortium could see and learn how the past and current experience in deep sea robotics from INESCTEC will positively impact the UNEXMIN project and the development of a new technology trend – to have a multi-robotic platform capable of mapping flooded mines that are currently inaccessible.

UNEXMIN team at Porto Follow-up meeting. Photo in front of INESCTEC lab building.

UNEXMIN team at Porto Follow-up meeting

UNEXMIN members visiting Sandvik Mining and Construction test mine

UNEXMIN at Tampere Workshop

From the 24th to the 26th of May, UNEXMIN partners held a meeting in Tampere, Finland. The meeting, entitled “End-user requirement specification workshop”, aimed to define and specify the technical features of the autonomous multi-robotic explorer in order to best serve end-users who will enlist UX-1’s services in the future.

Discussions included everything from the robot’s size, weight, shape, its autonomy, navigation, survivability under harsh conditions such as underground mines, to the instruments it will carry for geological data collection and post-processing on its future missions.

During this meeting, six workshops were attended by the consortium members in order to discuss and decide the best solutions for the robot’s developments and construction. These workshops were:

Interactive discussion on one of the workshops

Interactive discussion on one of the workshops

  • Design requirement and environmental consideration
  • Navigation and tracking (including vision sensor configuration)
  • Structural layout and safety/survivability considerations
  • Structural and subsystems design
  • Essential means for successful geological data collection
  • Data processing and post-processing

Every topic of great importance for the project’s development was discussed in these workshops, so everything was covered to ensure things are going in the right direction.

On the last day, the consortium members visited a Sandvik Mining and Construction test mine in which drilling tests and monitoring are performed autonomously, similar to one of the technologies UNEXMIN is adapting and developing during the project lifetime. There was also a tour of the TUT laboratories, where the robot’s hull will be constructed.

One of the many laboratories in TUT – Tampere University of Technology.

One of the many laboratories in TUT – Tampere University of Technology.

This meeting allowed the UNEXMIN group to define a specific strategy for the robot’s developments, taking into account different factors such as end-user requirements, materials and instruments availability and navigation, autonomy and survivability constraints. In the end, it was a productive and enjoyable meeting which will get us closer to the final objective of creating an autonomous multi-robot platform!

UNEXMIN members visiting Sandvik Mining and Construction test mine

UNEXMIN members visiting the Sandvik Mining and Construction test mine

UNEXMIN meeting - UNEXMIN group studying actual conditions for UX-1 at Deep Ecton

UNEXMIN partners visit Ecton Mine

On May 3rd, UNEXMIN consortium members visited the Deep Ecton mine, one of the copper mines located in Ecton Hill, Staffordshire (near Manchester), UK. Deep Ecton will be the last and most technologically challenging test site (from a total of four) for the UX-1 multi-platform robots surveying work.

The Ecton Mine produced predominantly copper with lead and zinc as secondary products, which is uncommon in the related mineral district. Mining at Deep Ecton lasted from the Bronze Age until the 19th century, at which time it was Britain’s deepest mine. Mining below river level ceased during the 1850s, and all production ceased in the 1890s.

With UX-1, the innovative multi-robotic system UNEXMIN partners are developing, we intend to map all tunnels and shafts of Deep Ecton. These flooded and currently inaccessible areas were last seen and mapped during the 19th century, meaning the data has not been updated for more than 150 years!

UNEXMIN group studying actual conditions for UX-1 at Deep Ecton

The UNEXMIN group studying actual conditions for UX-1 at Deep Ecton

Now, with UNEXMIN developing autonomous underwater submersibles capable of surveying flooded and deep-mine environments, it will be possible to get actual, precise, new data, which would otherwise be impossible to obtain. We will do this without disturbing the environment at Deep Ecton – it is a heritage Site of Special Scientific Interest – or putting human lives in danger.

In order to solve the technical and technological challenges which might arise from this particularly difficult test site, we have a group of robotic experts and technology developers working hard to find the best approach for the UX-1 robots so they can do their work in the best way possible.

During their deployment, the UX-1 machines will gather information of potential importance which might prove useful for the specific test-sites and Europe’s scientists and decision-makers.

UNEXMIN technical group discussing developments for UX-1

The UNEXMIN technical group discussing developments for UX-1

The Ecton Mines are great places to visit for a nice day out while learning and observing its geology, archaeology and beautiful landscapes – it is really worthwhile!

Landscape at Ecton Hill

The landscape at Ecton Hill

EMET (Ecton Mine Education Trust), one of UNEXMIN’s partners, and the institution in charge of the Ecton Mines, is doing a great job preserving and showing the mines to the team. We hope to go back to Staffordshire soon for UX-1’s pilot-test!