Tag Archives: LiDAR

Newcrest grads underline automation possibilities with SmartHog development

The use of an all-terrain unmanned ground vehicle, incorporation of military spec hardware and sensors, a bank of lead/acid batteries, and the ingenuity of three mechatronics graduates have brought Newcrest Mining closer to its goal of automating the PC1 extraction level at its Cadia East gold-copper underground mine in New South Wales, Australia.

The company has progressively been rolling out automation-focused technologies at this mine steered by its Mining Innovation and Automation (MIA) Team.

Last year, this team, with the help of Epiroc, successfully implemented the first semi-autonomous integrated production level at the mine, with, at the time, an autonomous Scooptram ST18 capable of full 24/7 production across seven drives of a whole panel cave at the operation.

It is a slightly smaller machine that is helping the company progress from the automation of production and support equipment at the mine to autonomously completing a range of inspection tasks on the fully-autonomous PC1 extraction level.

The seeds for the SmartHog vehicle – a WartHog all-terrain unmanned ground vehicle with ‘smarts’ – were sewn back in early 2021, when Cadia’s first mechatronics graduate arrived to join the MIA team.

“A challenge was set to build an automated underground inspection robot utilising a WartHog chassis,” Aaron Brannigan, Cadia General Manager, told IM, explaining that the challenge provided a hands-on task for the graduate that would result in a solution that was beneficial in realising the team’s key focus of improving safety through technology and innovation.

The new graduate began to design this robot with the WartHog chassis as the base and, over time, was joined by two more mechatronics graduates – one with a dual computer science degree – where the conceptual work behind the robot really started to accelerate.

In early 2022, the three started to build the robot from a range of hardware, all based on military specifications to withstand the underground environment.

Brannigan explained: “To achieve this, the graduates made every cable themselves, crimped every connector, assembled all the components and sensors and wrote the software code for various aspects of the sensor outputs.”

Since the inspection robot was designed to replicate tasks typically performed by people on the level, it had to be fitted with a range of sensors including LiDAR, Radar, a PTZ camera, stereoscopic camera, LED spotlights and a weather station for wet bulb temperatures and measuring wind velocity for ventilation purposes, the company explained. Powered by a bank of lead/acid batteries, the SmartHog was commissioned on surface and, in June 2022, completed trials underground, including being ‘checked in’ to the autonomous system.

“With some further testing and improvements, the SmartHog will soon live permanently underground in the autonomous zone and will be able to complete a range of inspection tasks,” Brannigan said. “This moves us closer to our goal of automation at the extraction level and is a key focus of improving operational safety and sustainability through technology.”

IM put some questions to Brannigan to find out more.

IM: How are you leveraging technology from the automotive sector in the SmartHog? What kind of adaptations are required for this to work underground?

AB: The SmartHog utilises automotive industry radars as a way of localising its position underground. LiDAR is vulnerable to interference from dust and moisture in the air, whereas radar can ‘see’ through these, allowing the SmartHog to continue to navigate and know its position underground when these are present. We believe the use of radar in this context is industry-leading and our intent with this is twofold: first, it demonstrates the advantages and reduced downtime of radar over LiDAR and, second, it encourages original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to move from LiDAR to radar for their autonomous equipment so they can take advantage of the benefits it offers.

IM: What existing underground communications infrastructure is in place at PC1 to help facilitate the real-time transmission of data from the SmartHog?

AB: Our underground PC1 level has Wi-Fi throughout which forms the basis of the autonomous system, and this is connected to the surface via fibre optic cables.

IM: How are you using the new data you are collecting with the SmartHog at Cadia? What tasks is it allowing you to do that you couldn’t previously carry out (or conducted differently)?

AB: The primary purpose of the SmartHog is to undertake a range of tasks that a person has usually performed in the past, improving both safety and efficiency. One example is geotechnical inspections of draw points and extraction drives. In the past when it was necessary for a Geotechnical Technician to undertake an inspection, the autonomous level would need to be deactivated and the autonomous equipment removed to ensure there was no risk of vehicle on person interaction. This is a time-consuming process and means production is stopped for the duration, not to mention the potential risk to the person entering the level on foot.

With the various sensors fitted to the SmartHog, it can scan and photograph the draw point (using the conventional digital camera and stereoscopic camera) and send this information to the surface where a Geotechnical Engineer can review it, all while autonomous loading operations continue.

As the SmartHog is ‘checked in’ to the autonomous system and is ‘seen’ by the other equipment, it can operate independently but also become part of the autonomous traffic management system. Should the Geotechnical Engineer require further information about the draw point, the SmartHog can return and drive up to the limit of the draw point and capture further data from the range of sensors.

IM: Are there other projects outside of the PC1 where you could use the SmartHog?

AB: We anticipate in the future that each panel cave could have their own SmartHog, so that a range of tasks can be completed as previously outlined.

IM: Are there plans to make more SmartHogs? Could they be adapted to carry out other tasks?

AB: The way we have developed the first SmartHog may look very different to how any future SmartHogs may look. The value the graduates gained from solving a current problem using a hands-on approach is priceless and helps demonstrate the value of the graduate program. We believe the graduate program at Newcrest is industry-leading given the types of challenges our graduates can address and solve using the skills recently acquired at university on real-world challenges.

Given the SmartHog is battery powered, as battery technology improves, the next generation of SmartHogs will be able to carry lighter and higher capacity batteries allowing for larger payloads and longer run times. This could allow the inclusion of other sensors and different types of cameras, such as infrared and thermal, which are traditionally heavy items and would limit the range of the current battery performance. The options available are endless once battery technology improves to the point where runtimes are increased and recharge times are reduced. This is not far off given the speed at which battery technology and design is improving.

Blickfeld to expand LiDAR sensing tech roots into North America

Blickfeld, the Germany-based LiDAR sensor technology company, is set to expand its operations into the US, opening a new office in the Detroit area to act as its strategic North American location.

Heading up the US division will be the company’s new hire, Patrick L Pylypuik, who has been recruited as Head of Sales in the North America region. With over 20 years experience, Pylypuik will support company growth by building critical relationships with new and existing customers and partners in the US.

A core focus for the company’s expansion will be its software capabilities in the volume measurement and logistics, crowd analytics and security space. Blickfeld says its LiDAR is disrupting various industries by providing digital 3D data about environments – helping to offset significant inaccuracies and financial burdens.

“From agriculture and forestry to construction and mining, there are opportunities for entire operations in the US to profit from more accurate and efficient business planning and operation – cutting costs and increasing companies’ competitive advantage,” the company said.

In mining, the company’s Percept software is able to translate raw LiDAR data into actionable insights, and includes features such as the detection, tracking, classification, counting, and volume estimation of objects, as well as zone entry and exit detection. It was recently updated to include a volume measurement feature for potential applications like stockpile management.

Dr Florian Petit, co-founder of Blickfeld, said: “Expanding our presence in the US provides us with a whole new set of opportunities, from an operational and partner perspective. We look forward to expanding our industry capabilities and helping companies across many different industries to optimise their operation. ”

Pylypuik added: “It’s been a pleasure to join Blickfeld at this point of fast growth – the North America region provides us with many new partner opportunities and nurturing these new relationships will be critical for Blickfeld’s international presence. I am particularly excited about the challenge of bringing a new technology to market – one which can benefit many industries.”

Trimble deploys customised Applanix POS LV system for truck automation project

Trimble has deployed its first map-based localisation system for land-based autonomous vehicle applications, with the planned retrofit of container and haulage trucks.

IHI Corporation, a heavy industry manufacturer based in Japan, will retrofit its existing container and haulage trucks with a customised Applanix POS LV® system as part of its broader autonomy capabilities for the transport of goods around industrial facilities. This project also provides potential for automation mining-related vehicles.

Map-based localisation provides precise positioning and orientation estimation, augmenting GNSS/inertial data, which is critical for safe and efficient autonomous vehicle operations. The ability to provide IHI Corp a full workflow and real-time data ensures seamless integration into IHI’s truck design, Trimble says.

“The custom-built, locally supported system leverages Trimble’s innovative engineering capabilities and technology to provide reliable performance across a variety of challenging environments,” Trimble says. “Using this system, IHI Corporation can provide robust positioning for their autonomous fleet without additional site infrastructure, lowering capital expenditure and improving scalability.”

Tailoring POS LV to work within IHI’s unique specifications and existing autonomous platform, the map-based localisation system couples an inertial navigation system (INS) with simultaneous localisation and mapping-based (SLAM) capabilities, and works with several types of sensors, including LiDAR for IHI. POS LV provides an accurate base map using post-processed data and localises vehicle positioning in real time, enabling the reliable and safe autonomous operation of industrial vehicles, Trimble says.

IHI continually enhances its work environments, while also compensating for varying labour scenarios and personnel shortages, Trimble says. This makes the need to automate transportation critical to operations.

“By partnering with Trimble, IHI can develop a retrofit system that addresses two major challenges – affordability and consistent reliability – within the autonomous operation of large-scale industrial equipment,” it says. “Customers such as IHI rely on Trimble to create autonomous solutions that enable them to meet their strategic goals no matter where they are on their journey to autonomy.”

RIEGL and DMT collaborate on tailored mining monitoring solutions

In a joint development between RIEGL and DMT, the RIEGL VZ-400i and VZ-2000i 3D terrestrial laser scanners are now being integrated into the DMT SAFEGUARD monitoring platform to, RIEGL says, offer innovative and tailored monitoring solutions for the mining and infrastructure industries.

The open architecture of the RIEGL VZ-400i and the RIEGL VZ-2000i 3D Terrestrial Laser Scanner allows customisation of the scanner for complex data acquisition and processing tasks by means of Python scripts and Python-based apps. RIEGL’s Online-Waveform-Processing technology ensures high quality data, while 24/7 fully remote operation is proven, it says. Laser scan data is processed by integrated apps in real time on the scanner, with final results visualised via a web viewer tool.

With DMT SAFEGUARD a precise integration of RIEGL’s VZ-i Series scanners into a web-based platform is available, according to RIEGL. The individual customisation options allow additional sensors to be integrated directly on site, or external data sources integrated as well. GIS functionalities allow the integration of maps in order to display the most important data, with real-time documentation options, document management, an automated real-time assistance system and sophisticated reporting completing the service.

The new system provides real-time, exhaustive geospatial information and all decision-relevant parameters such as deformation values are available on demand from anywhere on the globe, RIEGL concluded.

Exyn’s automation software to be fully integrated into Easy Aerial Osprey aerial platform

Exyn Technologies has selected Easy Aerial, a leading provider of autonomous drone-in-a-box solutions, to be one of its core airframe partners for the ExynAero™ product line.

This collaboration not only highlights Exyn’s ongoing efforts in fostering strategic partnerships but also marks the first fully-integrated autonomous LiDAR drone made in the US powered by Autonomy Level 4 (AL4), meaning Exyn’s software stack will be fully integrated into the Easy Aerial Osprey airframe, the company said. The product will be commercially available in the September quarter of 2022.

The Easy Aerial Osprey is a durable drone, made of advanced composite materials, with motor redundancy for increased safety and reliability. The Osprey’s design makes it extremely efficient for its relatively compact form factor. The hex configuration makes the airframe ideal for carrying a variety of large payloads or cargo, up to 6.6 lb (3kg), over longer distances, even in adverse weather conditions, Exyn says.

“This partnership shows Exyn’s vision for the future of aerial autonomy, the expansion of our platform partnerships, and a push to secure a US-based airframe that can meet our rigorous standards as we continue to grow,” Nader Elm, Co-Founder and CEO of Exyn, said.

The Easy Aerial Osprey is designed and manufactured in the US and will be similar to the existing variants currently operated by several US DoD agencies,enterprise end users and deployed in more than 15 different countries. The Osprey boasts a flight endurance of 25 minutes with heavy payloads and up to 55 minutes with lighter configurations. It will support modular camera and sensor attachments as well as standard LED lighting for underground illumination. Exyn’s latest venture demonstrates the relative ease of integration of their autonomy onto a new airframe and steady growth of their product lines.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Exyn to create the world’s first fully integrated LIDAR drone powered by Autonomy Level 4,” Ido Gur, CEO of Easy Aerial, said. “Exyn’s autonomy is best-in-class, and equipped on the robust Osprey airframe, survey teams will be able to log even more critical data than before while remaining out of harm’s way.”

Burgex adds ExynPak LiDAR capabilities to mine mapping offering

Burgex Inc Mining Consultants has announced newly acquired in-house capabilities to provide high accuracy mapping of surface and underground mine workings with the addition of the ExynPak from Exyn Technologies to its fleet of mining and mineral exploration solutions.

With a gimballed Velodyne LiDAR sensor and the ability to provide real-time 3D mapping with survey-grade accuracy, the ExynPak is the leader in high accuracy handheld mapping for mining and exploration applications, according to Burgex. Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM) provides accurate, survey-grade 3D mapping in real-time without the use of GPS, it added. This delivers precision mapping in underground mining environments that have been traditionally difficult to map using modern methods.

“The ability to map underground and surface mining workings in high resolution provides an enormous advantage to mine planning and mineral exploration projects,” Burgex said. “With LiDAR capabilities of over 600,000 points per second and a 360° horizontal field of view, it is possible to quickly identify slopes, faults and other geological features in real time. In addition to generating <3 cm accuracy point clouds in real time, the ExynPak is also equipped with two FLIR Chameleon3 RGB cameras that are capable of colourising points – providing yet another layer of functionality to geologic mapping and mine planning projects.”

Leveraging portable LiDAR with aerial data collection provides a new level of flexibility in modelling for mining and mineral exploration projects that is not offered at many, if any, other mining consulting firms in the US, Burgex said. Combined with aerial mapping, the Burgex team can pin underground and surface LiDAR surveys to geo-referenced base surveys and maps – creating a completely modelled project that can be used for mine planning, exploration programs, and more.

Additionally, Burgex Mining Consultants has recently added a DJI Matrice 300 RTK (M300) to its fleet of UAVs, providing even greater capabilities for aerial data collection.

“Not only can the M300 collect data more efficiently that other UAVs, but it can also simultaneously carry up to three payload sensors,” the company said. “The M300 has a max transmission range of up to 9.3 miles (15 km) with a 55-minute maximum flight time. The IP45 water and dust protection ratings and expanded operating temperatures will enable operation in a broader range of field conditions.”

Stuart Burgess, CEO and Co-Founder of Burgex Inc, said: “We are very excited about the addition of this new equipment and the new services we will be able to provide for our clients. From underground to surface, we’ll be able to map and model projects quickly and with centimetre accuracy, which is something that used to be very difficult and expensive to achieve, especially in underground environments. These new tools represent the next generation of mining and mineral exploration advancements.”

Hitachi to leverage Baraja Spectrum-Scan LiDAR tech on autonomous mining vehicles

Baraja, the creator of Spectrum-Scan™ LiDAR technology for autonomous vehicles, has announced its first volume commercial deal for long-range LiDAR with Hitachi Construction Machinery.

The multi-year commercial partnership will give some of the largest mines and mining operators global access to high-performance LiDAR systems capable of withstanding the world’s most hazardous mining environments, according to Baraja.

Baraja has worked closely with Hitachi Construction Machinery, a strategic partner and investor, to develop a LiDAR, Spectrum Off-Road using the core Spectrum-Scan platform, configured specifically for autonomous and semi-autonomous mining machines and vehicles.

Earlier this year, Baraja partnered with automotive supplier Veoneer to deliver Spectrum-Scan LiDAR for L2+ through L4 autonomous vehicle applications.

Spectrum-Scan, Baraja says, is built for the automotive industry and mining machines and vehicles at scale and will continue to evolve to implement its technology into many different types of vehicles to meet the world’s ever-changing needs.

“Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan LiDAR technology is built to enable true autonomy in mining, optimised for heavy industrial settings, and delivers high-resolution point clouds tested in a ruggedised system capable of withstanding hazardous environments,” the company says. “Baraja’s Spectrum-Scan technology has been tested in mine sites around the world, and proven outperformance in dust and fog, designed for high thermal tolerance (-40°C to +85°C) and built to endure shock and vibration in the harshest of environments on the planet.”

Federico Collarte, CEO and Founder of Baraja, says: “With this high-volume commercial deal, Hitachi Construction Machinery confirms Baraja’s maturity in long-range LiDAR by moving our technology to the real world at scale. This is a significant indicator that Baraja’s long-range LiDAR technology trumps the competition given the ruggedisation and reliability of the technology in mining environments. As a continuation of our existing relationship with Hitachi Construction Machinery, this will include the funding and testing partnership. The data and durability testing under this partnership will enable a step-change in LiDAR performance and durability in all sectors including autonomous vehicles.”

Hideshi Fukumoto, Vice President, Executive Officer and CTO, Hitachi Construction Machinery, added: “Following our strategic investment in Baraja earlier this year, this commercial deal demonstrates our continued confidence in Spectrum-Scan LiDAR as a high-performance system. After comprehensive testing with Baraja, we have been able to work closely with Baraja to accelerate the development of Spectrum-Scan LiDAR products with mine site specifications and the commercialisation of advanced autonomous driving and mining.”

Delta Drone to fly UAV-based LiDAR units at Newmont’s Ahafo gold mine

Global drones-as-a-service provider Delta Drone International says it has been re-appointed by Newmont Ghana Gold Ltd, a subsidiary Newmont in Ghana, for a light detection and ranging (LiDAR) project on its Ahafo mine.

Delta Drone International will provide a drone-based LiDAR solution to create an accurate 3D model of the earth and its surface characteristics to map new areas for the mine and mitigate potential risks prior to mine expansion construction commencing, the company says.

Delta Drone International CEO, Christopher Clark, said: “To continue working with Newmont Corporation, one of the world’s leading enterprise gold mining companies, who is using advanced drone techniques for several types of project applications, is a testament to our specialist expertise and drones-as-a-service model.”

He added: “Using the latest in drone LiDAR technology, we can fly with this sensor in a fixed-wing drone, allowing us to map new areas and essentially compete with manned LiDAR, but at a lower price point.

“We are seeing increased demand to use our LiDAR capability to create ‘digital elevation models’ that allows companies to see below thick forest and other surface vegetation and more accurately determine site suitability for certain types of infrastructure and how a site can be used.”

HARD-LINE readies Auto RockBreaker, TeleOp Assist and Brow Alert for MINExpo crowd

HARD-LINE plans to unveil a diverse line-up of new mining products geared towards automation and safety at MINExpo 2021 next month.

The company’s Auto RockBreaker, TeleOp Assist and Brow Alert will be just some of the company’s booth highlights from September 13-15, in Las Vegas.

HARD-LINE’s Auto Rockbreaker is going to “disrupt” the mining industry, according to the company.

“For the first time ever, operators will have the ability to automate many rockbreaking tasks” HARD-LINE said. “With Auto Rockbreaker, mining companies will be able to reduce maintenance and operator training costs, decrease wear and tear while extending the life of all rockbreakers.”

The system has many functions, including auto deploy and auto park, as well as other features making the operator experience that much more intuitive with its 3D User Interface, it said.

TeleOp Assist is the latest addition to the company’s TeleOp suite, which equips the base TeleOp system with intelligent steering assistance and collision detection to keep machines off walls while driving.

Using real-time 3D LiDAR scans, Assist will automatically steer to handle the articulation adjustments required to keep the machine as centred as possible within the drift, the company said.

“With Assist’s adaptive technology, a pre-scan of the drift is not required – providing significant cost savings,” HARD-LINE said. “The system does not require any training when moving from one level to another.”

Brow Alert, meanwhile, is an added level of protection for underground mining operations.

It serves as an add-on system designed to deter an operator from manually driving a vehicle past the brow line of a stope by using sensors and modules.

The system is easy to install, reduces risk of workplace injuries and fatalities, encourages accountability and keeps operators a safe distance from the brow, the company says.

Auto RockBreaker, TeleOp Assist and Brow Alert will be joined by the likes of RRC (Radio Remote Control), TeleOp system, vehicle conversion kits (drive-by-wire), and HARD-LINE’s low-profile loader series (LP401 and LP301) on the company’s MINExpo booth.

Delta Drone to use LiDAR-equipped UAVs at Barrick’s Mali operations

Delta Drone International is expanding its operations into Mali with a contract to deliver “advanced LiDAR services” to Barrick Gold.

For the first time in the region, the drone-focused company will use advanced light detection and ranging (LiDAR) solutions to examine mining site expansion options through its mining specialist brand, Rocketmine, it said. It will do this through a fleet of mining-specific drones and expert mining pilots.

Barrick operates the Loulo-Gounkoto mining complex in Mali, which comprises two distinct mining permits, Loulo and Gounkoto, and is situated in the west of the country, bordering Senegal and adjacent to the Falémé River. Both Loulo and Gounkoto are owned by Barrick (80%) and the State of Mali (20%). The complex produced 193,014 oz of gold in the March quarter.

The one-week operation of these drones will deliver Barrick the data required to guide decision making while continuing to focus on day-to-day mining operations, Delta Drone said. Rocketmine will also manage the necessary requirements by Mali’s local civil aviation authority to ensure all services conducted on the site are compliant.