Autonomous mobile robots have been successfully applied in a variety of domains such as households (vacuum cleaning & lawn mowing robots), streets (autonomous cars), the deep sea (autonomous underwater vehicles), air space (unmanned drones), and even outer space (e.g. Mars rover). In the Mining-RoX project, we are exploring a further frontier for autonomous robots: underground mines.
Reasons for robots going underground are plenty. Heat and humidity make underground mines a strenuous work environment for humans, especially as future mines will become increasingly deeper and, thus, hotter. In such environments, robots can also help to reduce mining costs, as expensive air conditioning is unnecessary when no humans are present. Another concern is safety. In disaster cases, rescue robots could help finding missing personnel. Unmanned mines operated by robots alone would not endanger human lives at all.
Starting in fall 2014, a first focus of the Mining-RoX project are information gathering robots. The goal is the creation of mobile robot technology to facilitate the autonomous exploration of underground mines, while providing detailed 3D scans and monitoring environmental conditions, such as air and water quality.
The TU Bergakademie Freiberg is the world's oldest university of mining. As Europe's only university operating a research and teaching mine, it is a unique location for pioneering research on autonomous robots in underground mining.
The Mining-RoX project is part of the RoX (Robots in saXony) initiative, a cooperation of several universities and universities of applied science in the state of Saxony. It is supported by the SMWK, Saxony's Ministry for Sciences and Arts.
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