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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:

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The UNEXMIN project was present at the EU Industry Days 2019!

The UNEXMIN project was one of the 28 projects that were invited to be present at the EU Industry Days 2019, in Brussels. This unique event aimed at bringing together personalities from the most diverse sectors of industry within the EU and to showcase projects that are having impact on the EU’s industry panorama.

During the 5 and 6 of February the UNEXMIN consortium was invited to showcase its results in the event “EU Industry Days 2019” in Brussels. The project had the opportunity to have a unique stand from where three persons and one robot provided information to the participants about UNEXMIN and its development. The UX-1 robot, shipped from Porto on the sole purpose of this occasion was the star, not only of the UNEXMIN stand, but also of the exhibition. A blinking robot – its lasers and many cameras – makes wonders.

Overall, the UNEXMIN stand received a lot of interest from the passersby. In total, around 60 persons over the course of the two days dropped by the stand to discuss the robot and the technology attached to it. People were interested in learning more about the different techniques employed and the many uses that the innovative UNEXMIN solution can have in different sectors. From energy, to mining, to fishing, to underwater caving exploration, the UNEXMIN solution has aroused the interest of the crowd. Some people even approached the project team with a commercial interest – it is always great to see that the technology interests the stakeholders.

The UNEXMIN consortium would like to thank EASME for inviting the project to be present at such an important event. The consortium also thanks all the interested people that went to the stand to learn more about the UX-1 robot and the project itself – after all this technology is made for you.

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!

Summary of the second week of the Kaatiala trials

The first field trials with the UX-1 robot are finished. The two-weeks trial ended on the 22nd of June with the robot’s capabilities being extensively tested on a real-life environment: a flooded mine. After the summary of the first working week at the Kaatiala mine site, the remarks of the second week are finally here. Read all about it below, alongside with some nice footage from the work done over the last working week!

On the 16th, the UNEXMIN team had to move its camp and respective working station to the northern part of the Kaatiala lake where the waters go deeper. It is at this site that the entrances to the underground flooded workings – perfect to test the UX-1 robot – could be found.

Then, with everything set-up accordingly, the researchers passed the next three days doing multiple dives with the robot, where UX-1 entered and navigated the underground tunnels. Divers previously placed calibration objects in the tunnels to help with testing UX-1 capabilities: navigation, movement, control, mapping, amonst others.

The tests allowed the UNEXMIN team to test different navigation sensors such as UV and SLS imaging units, multispectral camera, acoustic cameras and laser scanners. These instruments are essential to gather spatial and geoscientific data. The robot’s movement and control was tested by making it pass through the underground tunnels that included a always hazardous junction (hazardous for an automated system such as UX-1!). The robot was successfully tested a couple of times in this environment, before the week was over and the team had to pack everything and leave.

The success of the Kaatiala trials is evident. The UNEXMIN team is confident in further developing the technology and to optimize it. And that is the next step in the robotic platform development: to use the data acquired from this trial and improve the robot’s capabilities for the next trial at the Idrija mercury mine in Slovenia, in September!

Summary of the first week of the Kaatiala trials

The first UNEXMIN field trials finally started last week (11th to the 15th June). And on these five days a lot happened, with much more to come this week.

On the first day, the UNEXMIN team transported the UX-1 robot – weighting around 100Kg! – and all the necessary equipment to the Kaatiala test site. A base was set up at the shallow part of the lake where the tests are being held to allocate the UNEXMIN team and create its working station.

The next two days served as the last dry tests for the robot, as a preparation for the first official UX-1 swim that finally happened on the 14th. All the necessary sub-systems for navigation and motion (e.g. ballast system, SLS, thrusters, IMU, multibeam-sonar, computer control) were tested on the 14–15th of June in 2 to 5m deep water, and autonomous motion and navigation tests started on the 15th.

During the weekend, the UNEXMIN team moved their base to the deep part of the lake, where the underground tunnels are located. It is in this area that the UX-1 robot will perform its autonomous operations during this week.

Besides the testing, the UNEXMIN team have also been busy with a growing interest from the media, translated in some interviews. One Finnish national TV and four newspapers, and one international TV (Euronews) were present at the site to learn more and share the UNEXMIN project to their readers and viewers!

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