Hexagon’s Mining division, on the day HxGN LIVE Global 2023 kicks off in Las Vegas, has introduced a new autonomous portfolio to its planning, operations and safety technology portfolios, signalling its intent to continue to solve the mining industry’s biggest challenges.
HxGN Autonomous Mining is a portfolio that protects people and equipment while addressing the challenges of operational productivity and decarbonisation, Hexagon’s Mining division says.
“By helping to autonomously manage vehicle traffic, improve fleet situation awareness and introduce drill automation, the new portfolio empowers mines to future-proof operations with the foundational building blocks of full operational autonomy,” it explained.
These building blocks include tools providing autonomous world perception, path planning in both manned driver-assist and autonomous operation, and machine intervention up through control on mining vehicles and drills primarily in open-pit environments and haulage operations.
HxGN Autonomous Mining unites Hexagon’s Power of One hardware with its core computing platform, connecting a unique ecosystem of sensors and software, according to the company. “The portfolio can help mines to succeed today while preparing for tomorrow,” Andrew Crose, Vice President, Autonomous Mining, Hexagon’s Mining division, said.
The Power of One platform is a holistic, life-of-mine smart solution connecting sensors, software, in-field apps and cloudware. The aim is to connect the mine to the boardroom via a single on-board ecosystem comprising a smart computer, antenna and display.
Nick Hare, President of Hexagon’s Mining division, told IM on the side lines of the Las Vegas event, hosted at Caesar’s Forum, that the company has rapidly moved from concept to reality with the Power of One platform.
He explained: “At MINExpo 2021, we announced the Power of One concept. Last year at HxGN LIVE Global, we told everyone it was now available and ready to implement. This year, we’re able to talk about real deployments that will start from the next quarter.
“We’ve moved from concept to deployment in just under two years, defying the supply chain issues that have affected everyone in this industry.”
The building blocks that are part of HxGN Autonomous Mining include the World Perception suite of detection solutions; mining’s first Level-9 collision avoidance technology, Hexagon’s collision intervention system, HxGN MineProtect Vehicle Intervention System; HxGN MineOperate Reverse Assist for optimised shovel and truck spotting; HxGN Autonomous Mining VIS Analytics to analyse and compare information such as locations, equipment and more; the intuitive drill automation platform, HxGN Autonomous Mining Drill Assist; HxGN Autonomous Mining Platooning Solutions to maximise the safety of ore haulage, boost cost-efficiency and reduce carbon emissions; and HxGN Autonomous Mining Mission Manager Solution to empower pit controllers and dispatchers to optimise the movement of autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles, and mine production activities through one interface.
The company’s “unparalleled” technology stack – as Crose refers to it – can currently automate around 80% of the processes involved in open-pit haulage, according to Hare.
In an on-the-road scenario, the company can already automate the majority of functions, as it is proving out with Mineral Resources Ltd on its autonomous road train project. In pit haulage, it is also working on an autonomous haulage system (AHS) solution to compete with the likes of Caterpillar and Komatsu’s own AHS platforms. Parts of this are likely to be seen operating later this year. In terms of autonomous drilling, the company is getting even closer to the fully-autonomous benchmark through work it is carrying out with Phoenix Drill Control.
While not all Power of One users will leverage the entire technology stack from the off, Hare said he is expecting many companies to quickly add building blocks to their deployments as they familiarise themselves with the platform.
“We have significantly improved upon the industry standard when it comes to the Power of One and this new automation platform,” he said. “For example, when integrating fleet management – under our HxGN MineOperate solution – and collision avoidance (the HxGN MineProtect Collision Avoidance System within the World Perception Suite), we can reduce the number of interfaces operators have to interact with. Depending on the scenario, we can highlight an optimised route to the crusher for a truck or make them aware of an impending collision on just one screen. This significantly improves the user experience, reduces the likelihood of incidents and improves productivity.”
Another significant enhancement the company has achieved with its Power of One platform is consolidating the numerous antenna fitted to open-pit trucks into a single antenna able to receive and, depending on the network and software settings, process the same amount of information.
“From a perception perspective, we have also moved up the tiers with our sensor solutions, going from a 2D radar-based system as was used for our initial collision avoidance systems to a 4D radar-based platform able to distinguish between people, berms, trucks, light vehicles, etc,” Hare said.
Add to this upgraded software to process all the valuable data coming off the sensor and the company believes it now has as close to an off-the-shelf commercial solution as can currently be obtained.
The platform is expected to bring immediate productivity benefits for customers – Crose mentions better blast outcomes with drilling automation to improved equipment performance and production via autonomously managed vehicle movement – but the reduction in hardware is also expected to lead to significant cost savings for clients.
“We are confident that this portfolio, under the auspices of the Power of One platform, will provide return on investment for clients,” Hare said. “While it is being integrated into a standardised offering that aids deployment cost and time, the starting point for every project is how to solve the problems the mining client is experiencing. We will take time to understand what issues they are having on site and ensure the system rules and algorithms are built in such a way as to prioritise solving these. At the same time, we will highlight as many opportunities to optimise their operations as we can.
“This is how we ensure that value is generated immediately from day one.”