UNEXMIN next stop: Urgeiriça mine, Portugal

The UNEXMIN technical teams are on their way to Portugal in preparation of the third set of field trials linked to the project. This is set to happen between the months of March and April in the Urgeiriça uranium mine, Portugal. The novelty of this trial will be the presence of two UX-1 robots to explore and map the flooded part of the mine.

After the first two UNEXMIN field trials, at the Kaatiala mine and at the Idrija mine, it is once again time for the robotic and instrumentation developers to go to the field for one more trial. The third elected place to explore is a closed flooded mine in the centre of Portugal, the Urgeiriça uranium mine, once a very important source of radium and uranium. Here, the team will aim at exploring and mapping the three main shafts and tunnels, representing a more difficult environment to navigate and map when compared to its test site predecessors. Difficulty in operations will be characterised by the presence of two UX-1 robots operating within the waters of the mine: UX-1a and UX-1b.

The next robot UX-1b – from a final platform of 3 working prototypes – is currently being assembled and pre-tested in Porto at INESC TEC’s testing pool. Having two robots within the exploration and mapping platform gives security of operations, while at the same time, distributing the scientific payload through the surveyors, which translates into reduced size, weight and power demands of the individual UX-1 robots: one of the major benefits (and demands!) of the UNEXMIN robotic platform.

Follow @UNEXMIN on our social media channels to keep up with the most recent news on the Urgeiriça field trials: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Summary of the second week in Idrija mine

Last week meant the last half of the second UNEXMIN field trials, following on the work done in the first week. During the last days of trials at the Idrija Mercury Mine, an UNESCO’s Heritage Site, the UNEXMIN technical teams, had a full-time job with the launching, maintenance and monitoring of the UX-1 robot for and during its dives at the Idrija’s flooded shafts and tunnels.

The work began with UX-1A diving down the entire available part of the flooded shaft in Idrija, around 26-27m water depth reaching the entrance of the level IX tunnel. This navigation was only possible due to a collapsed wooden roof in the shaft, at around 22-23m depth – a UX-1A’s own discovery! At the bottom of the shaft, which is blocked by a metal net, the collapsed wooden debris were recorded by the robot’s bottom camera. These data provided useful input to the team and especially to CUDHg, who represents the mine ownership, and can now better interpret the Idrija mine.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the team tested different functions of the robot, such as pitching the UX-1A completely vertical nose down and up and navigating among the obstacles (wooden debris, metal plates) in the very confined space of the shaft; the multispectral tests also continued. On Thursday three important dives were performed (two down the entire available shaft), where the multibeam sonar’s different modes (profiling and imaging) and the capabilities of the SLS system were positively tested, and the first fully autonomous mission (down to 2m depth) performed successfully. After these welcoming dives, the robot and the remaining equipment were removed from the mine.

During Friday morning the UX-1A robot and its supplements were safely packed for transport, as the robot is now on its way to Porto (home to INESC-TEC), in Portugal, where further development of the technology will take part.

The entire two weeks of testing went fine without a single accident, with no human harm or damage to the equipment or the mine due to careful planning and execution. Special thanks to the miners of Idrija who pre-prepared the site for the UNEXMIN team and always gave a hand and warming hospitality during the full time of the Idrija mission.

Summary of the first week in Idrija mine

The second field trials of the UNEXMIN project are on the way, with the second week of testing starting today.

The UNEXMIN technical teams from Portugal, Finland, Spain and Hungary arrived to the Idrija mercury mine before the trials started. The mine site was prepared beforehand by the Slovenian partners in order to guarantee an easy access to the local of the mine where the trials are occurring. Preparations included transportation of the UX-1A robot down the “Borba Shaft” to the water level, the IX level of the Idrija mine, where the robot is launched into the water – 120m below the surface. The UNEXMIN team also set-up Wi-Fi communications from the surface to the water level. Night-vision and colour imaging plus audio and video communications were established for proper work between the level IX and the surface.

Final adjustments, such as balancing and testing of the UX-1A robot were done in a 2m3 water tank, also in the surface area, before the field dives took place. Transportation of the robot from the surface to the water level was first tested with a dummy weight, and only after that with the UX-1 robot, when the team certified itself that everything was going smooth. The first few dives were performed in a very difficult underwater environment, where a lot of obstacles, confined space and lack of visibility – only of a few tens of centimeters – proved a challenge to the technical teams and to the robot itself.

On Saturday, the robot dived until the mark of 7.5m depth in the water level, but with an umbilical cable for security reasons. On this same day the first multispectral tests were also done in the mine water. The next step on the Idrija trials will be to test the technology without the need of a cable, which will prove the autonomous behavior of the UNEXMIN technological solution – one of the main aims of this research and innovation project. This will represent a big leap in the project’s development, and the team is confident that autonomy will be possible to achieve during this week.

To keep updated with the trials at the Idrija mine, follow UNEXMIN on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn!

The UNEXMIN second field trials have started

The second UNEXMIN field trials have just started in the Idrija Mercury Mine in Slovenia. The trials will last for two weeks and will serve to further test and improve the movement, mapping and data acquisition techniques of the UX-1 robot.

The UX-1 robot has safely arrived to Idrija during the weekend. It is now inside the Idrija Mercury Mine, in the shaft Borba. This old flooded mining shaft is located 120m below the surface.

Preparations started with setting-up the communication equipment and control station. First, the robot will be dry-tested in the mine in order to make sure that all the equipment is ready. After, UX-1 will be transported to the water level, at approximately 200m below the surface. At this point, it will be launched into the water to explore the flooded underground parts of the 500 years old mine in Idrija!

Make sure to follow the UNEXMIN social media channels Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to learn about the most recent developments at the Idrija test site!

The Idrija trials are starting next week

The many UNEXMIN technical teams responsible for the development of the UX-1 robot are now on their way to Slovenia, where the second trials with this innovative technology will take place. The UNESCO Heritage Idrija Mercury Mine is the final destination.

After the success that were the first field trials for the UNEXMIN project, at the Kaatiala mine, in Finland, the UNEXMIN team is now prepared for the second of four trials in European flooded underground mines. In the Idrija Mercury Mine, the UX-1 robot will find narrow tunnels to navigate and map, reason why this mine was chosen as the second test site. This will allow the UNEXMIN team to make improvements on the robot’s navigation and control capabilities, among others, that are essential for the success of the technology and the project itself.

Between the Kaatiala and the Idrija trials, the UNEXMIN technical teams have been actively working to improve the robot’s capabilities with the data gathered from the first test site. More on this can be consulted on D7.2 – Kaatiala report.

The Idrija trials will run for two weeks, from the 10th to the 21st of September, so make sure to follow our social media channels Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to keep with all the necessary information and footage about the UX-1 dives!