Progress Workshop in Porto

From the 4th of July to the 6th of July, UNEXMIN partners got together for a three-day meeting entitled “Progress Workshop”. As the name indicates, this workshop was a way to control the work being done by every partner in each of the eight work packages, to guarantee that the project is developing in the right way. The meeting was hosted in Porto by INESC TEC at their facilities, which include a robotics development lab.

On the first day of the meeting, there was an overview of the project and a review of the work in each work package. Items included hardware and software developments, preparation for testing the robotic system and communication and dissemination activities. In a multi-disciplinary project like UNEXMIN (robotics, geology, technology development), it is crucial that the different teams share their work with the others. The Advisory Board members – experts in mining and geology – were present during the review of the project and gave their most valuable help to the project partners. Their guidance is very welcome – after all, they have the expertise.

Discussions held during the Progress Workshop

The second day was dedicated to a review meeting of the Work Packages with an evaluator of the European Commission. The evaluator considered the project as running well with everything having been done on time and with good development prospects. After the review, the partners visited INESC TEC robotics labs, where they have a local pool which is used for testing. UPM, who built a UX-1 prototype, tested the robot in the pool, as you can see in the following video.

 

On Thursday, the core discussions for the development of the multi-robotic system were held. These included discussion on Work Package 3 – Autonomy for mine exploration and mapping, Work Package 4 – Multi-robot platform development, and Work Package 6 – Post-processing and data analysis functions. These work packages started recently, so discussions on their structure and content are of high importance.

Post-processing discussion on laser scanner data

There is no time to make mistakes and the consortium is doing their best for the development of the multi-robotic system!

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 meeting in Tampere

In September, some of UNEXMIN’s project partners gathered in Tampere, Finland, to discuss the decisive approach and specifications for the UX-1 multi-platform robotic system. From this mid-term meeting, many conclusions were drawn which will now be put into practice. In late January/early February, the UNEXMIN team will have the robot’s hull first prototype available. From this point onward, it is going to be a snowball effect: putting together equipment combined with further trialling, testing, and development.

The UNEXMIN team gathered in Tampere to have fruitful discussion on the project development.

UNEXMIN team members discussing UX-1 strategic developments

In order to be fully operational, the robot must have a lot more specific subsystems. Most of these parameters work together and/or are intimately related. For the UX-1 robots, seven important subsystems have been defined:

  • Subsystem Main Component dimensions and weights
  • Perception system
  • Propulsion system
  • Ballast system
  • Pendulum
  • Power supply system
  • Computer

The above subsystems will ensure that the robotic system works at its best, working towards the project’s objectives.

The beautiful view from where the UNEXMIN team was working.

The beautiful view from where the UNEXMIN team was working.

Finally, this UNEXMIN meeting also led to the final decision on how the robot’s pressure hull (outer structure) will look – the subsystems defined in the previous point will fit onto this structure. There have been some internal discussions on two options: integrated pressure hull vs open-frame layout. After some discussion between the partners involved in the robotics part of the project, the decision went to the first approach. This option allows greater manoeuvrability for given weight and space.

The UX-1 robot’s pressure hull will be designed taking into consideration all the necessary equipment it will have to carry in order to do a perfect work during its surveying missions.

University of Miskolc (UNIM) doing some field tests for the UX-1 instruments

Field tests at Rudabánya open-pit mine

The development and designing of scientific instrumentation needed for UX-1 has begun!

The first tests performed by the developer team from the University of Miskolc were carried out at Rudabánya, an open pit mine in northeast Hungary. Hitherto they have undertaken field missions at the old iron-ore mine, with more tests planned in the future. The main goals of these field tests are to investigate the ability, reliability, and application of different geophysical methods and equipment in underwater conditions similar to those UX-1 must overcome.

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Test measurement in the lake of the Rudabánya open pit done by University of Miskolc.

Lots of new and essential information and experience has been collected during instrumentation preparation, the measuring process, and the result interpretation and evaluation phase. The selection of measuring methods and the respective development work is continued on the basis of those gained experiences. Laboratory measurements and improvements occur at the same time, in parallel to the field measurements, in an evolving and interlinked process.

The field tests carried out by University of Miskolc are an essential part of the development process of the robot’s scientific instrumentation that ultimately will lead to the instruments the robotic platform will carry during its missions. This is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle that is constructing an autonomous underwater robotic system, capable of mapping underground mines and extracting valuable information from them!