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First week of field work at the Urgeiriça mine, Portugal

The UNEXMIN team is currently testing its innovative exploration solution in Portugal, at the closed and flooded underground Urgeiriça mine. The Urgeiriça field trials are divided in two sets of testing, with a period of laboratory work in between at INESC TEC. The first part has just ended and the first results are coming in:

  • 6th of March (Wednesday): The UNEXMIN team tested and packed the UX-1a robot and the needed equipment for the Urgeirica trials and travelled to the test site from Porto.
  • 7th of March (Thursday): The setup of the control room, launch site and the necessary communications went quickly as the Urgeiriça mine site had the appropriate infrastructures already in place. The first dive of the UX-1a robot was done on the afternoon of this same day, right after the team had received the necessary safety instructions from the Health and Safety body. The water table was ca. 7 m below the surface level in the shaft where the robot dived.
  • 9th of March (Saturday): The robot went down to 54m water depth (2nd level, 60m below surface level).
  • 11th (Monday) to 14th of March (Thursday): The UX-1a robot explored the shaft down to 104m water depth (4th level, 110 m bsl.). The entrances of the first four levels were mapped (1st level is at 30 m, 2nd at60 m, 3rd at 85 m and the 4th at 110m, below sea level).
    • The entrance chamber of the 1st level was partially collapsed, with lots of rocks, wood logs and metal pipes, so only a few metres were investigated not to risk the robot. The 2nd level is collapsed after few metres so it could not be searched. The 3rd level was in good condition, so this level was used in multiple test dives to test and develop the instruments. The visibility of the water in the mine was very good, and even with the sediment disturbed by the robot it sank quickly as it was in the sand-coarse size fraction.  The whole surface of the shaft was covered with wood, except the horizontal levels. The granite wall with black veins at the entrance of the 3rd level was recorded by the multispectral camera also. The γ-ray counter of the UX-1b was separately tested down to the 2nd level, lowered down in a cable parallel to another developed underwater γ-ray counter for cross validation.
  • 15th of March (Friday): The last dive was performed in the afternoon. After that, the control room and the site were partially disassembled until the second part of the field trials, from 1st of April onwards. The UNEXMIN team travelled back to Porto to INESC TEC’s laboratory and packed out the field equipment to continue testing and instrument calibration within the testing pool.

The first part of the Urgeiriça field trials went as expected: the UX-1a robot was further tested; instruments were working correctly; the robot as a whole performed its functions and managed to explore, map and gather information on some of the flooded areas of the Urgeiriça mine. These data will help the team to develop 3D maps and other visualisation tools of interest.

Now it is time for the team to proceed with the development of the UX-1b robot. This second robot, that will carry some other scientific equiment than its counterpart UX-1a, will be tested on the field during the second phase of the Urgeiriça field trials. It will collect some different data that will complement data gathered by UX-1a.

Back to the lab and then to the field again!

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The field trials at the Urgeiriça flooded mine, in Portugal, have finally started!

The third set of UNEXMIN’s field trials is now ongoing. After the two previous trials a lot of revisions and improvements were made to both the UX-1 robot both on hardware and soft aspects. The technical teams that operate the robotic system also gained important knowledge with the previous “experiments”. The second UX-1 robot is currently being assembled in INESC TEC’s laboratory, and both robots will take part in exploring and mapping the Urgeiriça mine flooded shafts from now until April.

Brief description of the mine

The Urgeiriça Mine, located in the Viseu district, center of Portugal, was once considered one of the most important deposits in Europe due to the exploitation of its strategic commodities: radium (from 1913 until 1944) and uranium (from 1944 until 1991). In 1967 the mine reached the maximum depth of approximately 500 metres below ground The mine seized its operation in 1991.

Urgeiriça’s mission objectives are the following:

  • Continue testing capabilities, autonomy and scientific instrument array of the prototype robot UX-1a in a uranium mine in Portugal under different challenging conditions
  • Test the functionality of the second prototype UX-1b in a realistic mining environment.
  • Trial simultaneous dives of both robot in a realistic mining environment
  • Provide information on the status of the flooded mine infrastructure, i.e. main galleries and shafts

First images of the UNEXMIN team on the field:

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

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.

UNEXMIN meeting in La Palma: UX-1 and field trials in the agenda

The UNEXMIN partners got together in the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain, to discuss and better prepare the last year of the UNEXMIN project, that will officially end on the 31st October. The two-day meeting (10 and 11 of January) aimed at providing a place to discuss the present and future development of the project. The field trials and the production of the remaining two UX-1 robots were at the core of the agenda.

The above-mentioned points were largely introduced and discussed during the first day. The UNEXMIN project already underwent through two field trials (Kaatiala and Idrija) and results from the surveying of these mines is currently in development. The experience gained on both trials will allow the team to properly prepare for the surveys on the Urgeiriça (Portugal) and Ecton (UK) mines, where two and three robots will be used, respectivelly.

The production and assembly schedule of the next two UX-1 robots was also outlined in order to avoid any delays, that might hinder the project development. This was agreed by all partners that are involved in the construction of the robotic platform and work will follow inline with planned.

During the second day, and with the main issues to be discussed out of the way, the UNEXMIN partners had a more relaxing meeting. The future of UNEXMIN was discussed (next steps, what about the future, etc) and a mindmapping exercise, that will help to shape the future of UNEXMIN, was organised.

Now it is time to continue working in order to reach the UNEXMIN project’s objectives!

Interview with Tatjana Dizdarevic from CUDHg

“The material will be used for presentation of a kind of cultural heritage that could not ever be seen by human again, if the UNEXMIN technology did not exist.”

The second field trials with the robotic technology developed by the UNEXMIN project are over. During two weeks the UNEXMIN teams have been in Idrija, Slovenia, at the Idrija mercury mine to test the capabilities of the UX-1 robot and to obtain data from the flooded mine that would be impossible to get otherwise. Tatjana Dizdarevic, from CUDHg, the public institution owning the mine rights, talks about the experience of having the UX-1 robot surveying the flooded part of Idrija mine and what benefits does it bring to the future of the Idrija mercury mine, an UNESCO World Heritage site.

Luís Lopes, LPRC: Do you feel the trial at Idrija was a success? Why?
Tatjana Dizdarevic: The Idrija trials were a success. The robot was tested in very difficult conditions; the transport from the surface to the water level in the shaft was a challenge for the Idrija miner’s crew, but the robot also did an autonomous dive for the first time during these trials. The multispectral camera for recognizing minerals was successfully tested in the shaft’s water.

As for navigation within the flooded mine, the UX-1a robot dived to the maximum depth of 26,2m of the main shaft. Descent into depth lasted for 1,5 hours and rise from the depth lasted 0,30 hour. The most challenging at that exercise was the possibility of stacking the robot to the submerged objects (wires, columns, etc.).

LL: What data did you get and how will it be used?
TD: A three-dimensional model of the flooded main Borba shaft in a depth of 190m and another one from the open gallery on the 9th level in a depth of 220m with the obstacles found in it. The material will be used for presentation of a kind of cultural heritage that could not ever be seen by human again, if the UNEXMIN technology did not exist.

The most challenging at that exercise was the possibility of stacking the robot to the submerged objects (wires, columns, etc.).

…the robot also did an autonomous dive for the first time during these trials

LL: Are you happy with the results?
TD: At CUDHg Idrija we are very happy with the results! Everythin went as planned. It is now time for the UNEXMIN team to process the data from the dives and wait until we get the final material that we can share with the public that visits the mine.

LL: Were you positively/negatively surprised with something in particular?
TD: Only positively: The work within the project group and the Idrija miners was very positive and friendly. The whole group worked as one. There were no negative effects and happenings during the transport of the robot from the surface to the IX level and vice versa.

LL: What do you think was the most positive point/achievement?
TD: The autonomous dive for the first time of the project!

 

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