Challenges make us stronger

The Explorer will employ a wide range of robotics technologies and cutting-edge know-how from deep sea underwater robotic systems, 3D map reconstruction, control and navigation, autonomy and other areas of interest. The technologies are being currently adapted and tested in laboratory conditions, similar to those found in flooded mines, integrating imaging and other non-invasive surveying technologies. Recent adavances in autonomy research allow the design and development of a new class of mine explorer service robots, capable of operating in real mine conditions without remote control – such robots do not exist nowadays.

The deployment of a multi-robotic system in a confined environment, such as a flooded mine, poses a lot of challenges that must be overcome so that the robots can work autonomously in such spaces, without damaging the equipment and the mine itself.

To address major challenges UNEXMIN brings together research teams covering deep sea robotics, autonomy research, mineral exploration and development of miniaturized scientific instruments to create this very specific technology, in a strong collaborative way. By doing this,

UNEXMIN opens long-term cooperation possibilities between Europe’s Raw Materials and Robotic Technology provider sectors: this can lead to a reduction in high costs for exploration and to the development of science and technology, one of the EU’s main goals.

The construction of the first prototype – ready in May 2018 – is preceded with component validation and simulations, to understand the behavior of all the technology components and instruments in the environment it will be used. Post-processing and data analysis tools are also in development. Pre-operational trials will be launched in real conditions – the first will happen in the Kaatiala mine, Finland, in June 2018.

The final stage of UNEXMIN’s project will lead to the deployment of extensive pilots, during which UX-1 will be improved after each trial session. The robot’s development process is meant to be spiralling with continuous upgrades that are implemented in parallel with more and more complex field pilots. This will demonstrate the Platform’s scalability from small missions to larger ones by increasing the number of deployed autonomous drones, and supporting multi-robot cooperation in confined 3D spaces with real-time sensor and data fusion for reliable navigation and communication.