The Ecton field trials have finally started!

The beginning of the Ecton trials marks the fourth time that the UNEXMIN team will be on the field with the UX-1 robots to explore Europe’s flooded mines. At Ecton, the UNEXMIN team aims at exploring and mapping the entire flooded part of the underground mine workings with its innovative system. The UX-1 robots will be able to show light on the status and layout of a mine that no one has seen for more than 160 years! The Ecton field trials run from the 13th to the 31st of May.

Before the actual field trials, preparatory workings were held last week in order to guarantee that the Ecton trials go as smooth as possible. With all the practicalities set up, the UNEXMIN technical teams – TUT, UPM, INESC TEC, RCI and UNIM – are now ready to have the UX-1 system to recover geological, mineralogical and spatial information from deep Ecton during the next three weeks. Together with the technical teams a group of geological experts from the project will give specific input to geological and mineralogical identification.

The Ecton Mine Education Trust, partners in UNEXMIN and representing an important spectra of stakeholders – the cultural heritage side -, are collaborating with the other partners to assure that the trials are a success. With the data collected by the UX-1 technology, EMET expects to gain knowledge and uncover a precious part of the mine’s past in the form of its long-lost mining heritage (such as mining instruments used in the past). EMET, with the help of UNEXMIN, can then use these data for education and cultural purposes, benefiting the society at large. Achieving this will also prove the operability of the UX-1 technology in very challenging conditions and, at the same time, its usefulness.

Ecton will be the home of UNEXMIN for the rest of May. The team will work hard to have its robotic system explore and map all the flooded tunnels and galleries of this mine, attempting an increadibly challenging task. Fingers crossed!

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Preparations for the Ecton trial are on the way

The UNEXMIN team, ahead of the official start of the 4th field trial, at the Ecton mine, in the UK, have just started with the preliminary preparations to host the most challenging surveying case within the project. These workings are needed in order to guarantee easy accessibility and operation of the robotic system and the UNEXMIN personnel during the trials, both inside and outside the mine. These include power cable installlation, telephone links from the surface to the mine’s interior, a comfort cabin and storage containers. The control cabin, from where the UNEXMIN team monitor operations, will also be set on site. Together with practical preparations, the team is also ensuring that all the must health and safety procedures are followed.

The preparatory workings will run until the 10th of May, with the actual field trials starting out on the 13th. The UNEXMIN project will count with most of its robotic system’s technology developers during the Ecton trials, with some of them (TUT, INESC TEC and UNIM) already on their way to the UK.

The main aim of the trials at the Ecton underground mine is to explore and map the entire flooded section with the UX-1 robotic system that nobody has seen for more than 160 years, after the mine closed and got flooded. The UNEXMIN technology will be able to collect and bring valuable geoscientific and spatial data that can be used by the local stakeholders – the Ecton Mine Educational Trust – for cultural and educational purposes. Surveying the entire flooded sections of the mine will, ultimately, prove the operability of the UX-1 system, in very challenging conditions – big extensions, great depths and difficult to navigate layouts.

Follow @UNEXMIN on our social media channels to keep up with the most recent news on the Ecton field trials: FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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!