Tag Archives: LiDAR

Arvizio and Sight Power look to optimise the mining process with digital collaboration

Arvizio has announced a partnership with Sight Power that, they say, will see the two firms offer stakeholders a seamless integration of mining data, 3D models and LiDAR scans to be shared between Sight Power’s Digital Mine™ platform and Arvizio’s Immerse 3D augmented reality (AR) solution.

The combination provides the industry with a powerful, integrated suite of mining operations software and AR to optimise the mining process by reducing costs, improving efficiencies, increasing productivity and enhancing safety, the companies say.

“Digital transformation is a major trend across all aspects of mining and AR is emerging as a key component to incorporate and visualise mine planning data in the design, planning, operations, resource management and investor relations processes,” the companies said.

Digital Mine is a system for collecting and processing detailed information relating to all operations and work processes in the mining enterprise, according to Sight Power. This information, when merged with modelling, monitoring and distributed sensor systems, offers a cohesive solution to automate daily, routine operations for geologists, mining engineers, mine surveyors and other specialists resulting in increased labour productivity and reduction in technical errors, it said.

Arvizio’s Immerse 3D allows 3D models and LiDAR scans, used with Digital Mine, to be visualised in AR. The hybrid-rendering and advanced model optimisation capabilities of Immerse 3D can visualise LiDAR scans and geological models from mining operations that may cover many kilometres and include multiple layers.

“Further, Immerse 3D enhances the Sight Power Digital Mine platform by extending the capabilities of Digital Mine to include multi-user, multi-location AR visualisation and collaboration in fully synchronised sessions utilising web meeting platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom,” the companies said.

Sergey Reznichenko, CEO at Sight Power, said: “Our work with leading mining companies using Digital Mine demonstrated that combine operational technology, monitoring systems, devices and spatial datasets into a single workflow system streamlines mining operations at every phase.

“We are delighted to team with Arvizio to integrate Immerse 3D AR visualisation into our workflows and use augmented reality to empower stakeholders around the world for a more efficient exchange of information, problem solving, verification of key operations and safety systems in their mining projects.”

The Immerse 3D platform extension enhances capabilities of Digital Mine technology using AR in these, and other, scenarios:

  • Supporting staff training and equipment repairs to reduce operational costs and downtime;
  • Extending digital twin capabilities for processing plants for real-time monitoring;
  • Real-time virtual presence at mining site; and
  • On-going evaluation of mine evolution models to identify issues and avoid costly overruns.

Hyperspectral imaging technology tested at Western Australia gold, iron ore mines

The University of Queensland and research partners Plotlogic Pty Ltd have developed new automated mining technology that, they say, will facilitate automation of the mining process while improving operating efficiency.

The research has shown how artificial intelligence can use scans of the mine face to almost instantly identify valuable minerals and waste rock, allowing each stage of the mining process to be planned more effectively in advance, UQ said.

Professor Ross McAree, Head of School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering from UQ, said the new technology used visible and infrared light to automatically classify materials.

“Each mineral has its own characteristic response to different wavelengths of light, so by scanning the mine face with our system we can map out the minerals present in the rock and their concentration (ore grade) almost instantaneously,” Professor McAree said.

This real-time mapping allows the mining process to be planned out before digging even starts, according to the researchers.

“Beyond this immediate efficiency gain, the enhanced ability to recognise ore grade could also underpin future autonomous mine systems,” Professor McAree said. “Machines equipped with this imaging system would be able to recognise ore grade as they were excavating it. Linked to artificial intelligence, this could allow automated machinery to operate in the mine environment, removing workers from hazardous parts of the mining process.”

Real-time ore grade classification at the mine face could also enhance mine scheduling and improve resource recovery and minimise processing waste, the researchers claim.

The project was supported by the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA), with MRIWA CEO, Nicole Roocke, saying investment into research like this helped position Australia’s minerals industry at the leading edge of technology development.

“This imaging approach could prove particularly valuable where rapid extraction and consistency of ore grades could provide a competitive advantage to those leading the way,” Roocke said.

The project, which was conducted in 2018-2019, had a total grant value of A$850,850 ($653,322). In addition to MRIWA, UQ and Plotlogic, CITIC Pacific Mining and AngloGold Ashanti were also involved, hosting trials at the Sino iron ore and Tropicana gold mines, in Western Australia, respectively.

It was based off the OreSense® prototype system, developed to meet the needs of the research project, as well as offering a commercial pathway for early industry adoption of the technology.

“The prototype delivers a system capable of acquiring, processing and classifying hyperspectral data in the field and in real time, mapped to terrain and geo-referenced for integration with mine maps,” the project partners said. “In order to be the most general and applicable to all minerals, the hyperspectral imaging capabilities cover the visible to short wave infrared spectrum (400-2,500 nm).

“The surveying capabilities of the system rotate in more than one axis to perform face scans and build a 3D data-cube from two individual line-scanning hyperspectral sensors. The system spatially and spectrally fuses the data cubes from the two sensors to provide a single data-cube for an entire scene. The system also performs on-board corrections and post-processing of the hyperspectral data to support real-time ore grade classification.”

The prototype used on site during the trials consisted of a sensor head with LiDAR and hyperspectral cameras, a pan-tilt unit and a GNSS receiver among other elements (see photo above).

Fortescue expands automation focus to light vehicles at Chichester Hub

Fortescue Metals Group says the future of mining mobility is being advanced at its mines, with the successful operational deployment of autonomous light vehicles (ALVs) at the company’s iron ore mining operations in the Chichester Hub of Western Australia.

Developed by Fortescue’s Technology and Autonomy team as a solution to improve the efficiency of the Christmas Creek mobile maintenance team, ALVs remove the need for fitters to make around 12,000 28-km round trips annually to collect equipment and parts, the company estimates.

With the assistance of Ford Australia, four Ford Rangers have been retrofitted with an on-board vehicle automation system to support the driverless equipment transfer service, which will improve efficiency and safety by enabling team members to spend more time on maintaining assets.

The system features an integrated LiDAR/Radar perception system that facilitates obstacle detection and dynamic obstacle avoidance, a comprehensive independent safety management, and fail safe braking system and extensive built-in system monitoring and fault response capability.

The successful deployment of ALVs at Christmas Creek will provide the opportunity to implement a similar system at other operational sites to improve safety, productivity and efficiency, Fortescue says.

Fortescue Chief Executive Officer, Elizabeth Gaines, said: “Since the outset, Fortescue has been at the forefront of innovation in the mining industry, underpinned by our value of generating ideas. It is this focus on technology and innovation that has driven our industry-leading operational performance and cost position.

“The autonomous light vehicle project is a significant advancement of our in-house automation capability, building on our leading autonomous haulage system program which has already delivered significant productivity and efficiency improvements for the business.

“With the flexibility to introduce similar systems into other mobile assets, this project is fundamental to our future mobile equipment automation projects.”

Ford Australia President and Chief Executive Officer, Andrew Birkic, said: “We’re very proud that our award-winning Ford Rangers have been used as part of the Fortescue Metals Group autonomous light vehicle project.

“Ford, globally, is at the forefront of research into autonomous vehicles, and working with companies like Fortescue is critical to gaining an insight into specific user applications.”

Emesent’s Hovermap aids ore pass decision making at Petra’s Finsch diamond mine

Highly accurate point cloud data sets from a Hovermap scan have allowed Petra Diamonds’ Finsch mine engineers to “see” the condition of ore passes for the first time and avoid an estimated five months and R5 million ($350,000) in remediation, Emesent says.

Finsch, in South Africa’s Northern Cape, uses ore passes and underground silos to transfer ore between levels or to redirect ore for load and haul to the surface. Blockages, hang-ups, overbreak or scaling can impact the structural integrity and result in extended downtime and significant remediation costs. Accurate imagery enables mine engineers to gauge the integrity of ore passes and plan timely and cost-effective remediation programs, according to Emesent.

Historically, however, scanning and mapping inaccessible shafts and voids has been a challenge for Petra.

The company’s management sought a means of obtaining accurate visualisations of underground voids, quickly and cost effectively, without endangering the safety of Petra personnel or contractors, Emesent says.

Petra management trialled the Hovermap multiple data capture methods with Emesent partner, Dwyka Mining Services, contracted to carry out multiple scans of an indoor stockpile, ore passes and vertical shafts, and a series of access tunnels and ramps.

Hovermap is a drone autonomy and LiDAR mapping payload. It uses the LiDAR data and advanced algorithms on-board, in real time, to provide reliable and accurate localisation and navigation without the need for GPS.

Dwyka spent a day on-site conducting a series of scans using Hovermap mounted to vehicles, a DJI drone, or lowered in a protective cage. Dwyka delivered point cloud data sets for Petra’s survey team to geo-reference and analyse, within 24 hours. It also provided visualisations of the ore passes, enabling the mine engineers to ‘see’ the condition of orepasses for the first time, Emesent said.

Alex Holder, Group Planning and Projects Lead at Petra Diamonds, explained: “We lowered Hovermap down ore passes, flew the drone into draw points and even scanned our shaft and ramps by fixing the scanner to one of our vehicles. The visualisation delivered exceeded all our expectations. The data captured in one ore pass saved us significant time and effort by confirming it was irreparable. That saved us millions.”

Using Hovermap led to an immediate decision to abandon plans to expend resources remediating a compromised ore shaft. This decision saved Petra an estimated five months and R5 million.

Heinrich Westermann, Mining Engineer at Petra Diamonds, said: “The ability to power and switch the Hovermap payload between the various applications meant that we were able to scan a considerable amount of the mine in one shift. Generally, this was either impossible and, if it were possible, it would take weeks to collect those datasets and months to see the final visuals.”

The data collected by Hovermap has become the basis of a data library for the site. It is augmented regularly and used to inform operational decision making by Petra’s mine planning and survey teams, according to Emesent.

Petra intends to deploy Hovermap scanning technology to map inaccessible locations at its other sites across Africa, Emesent says.

UP’s Vehicle Dynamics Group to boost UG mine safety with new testing facility

An engineering team at the University of Pretoria (UP) has pioneered an underground procedure which tests the performance of collision avoidance systems (CAS) in an effort to improve the safety of workers on mines through reducing unwanted interaction between vehicles and pedestrians.

The Vehicle Dynamics Group (VDG) is a research unit at UP’s Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering that is actively involved in the South Africa and international mining industry.

It saw a need to develop such a system based on the continued number of fatalities that have occurred as a result of interaction with mining machines and to be in step with subsequent changes (yet to be promulgated) in Chapter 8 of South Africa’s Mine Health and Safety Act (1996) that requires trackless mobile machines to warn the operator if a significant risk of collision exists. If the operator fails to heed the warning, the machine must automatically slow down and stop safely.

“Mining machines are becoming smarter by the day, with smart, connected vehicles promising to be the mining method of the future,” Professor Schalk Els, VDG Researcher, said. “Smart mining machines are now utilising technology such as high-precision GPS and automotive radars to prevent unwanted interaction with other machines, pedestrians and infrastructure.”

Dr Herman Hamersma, also a VDG Researcher, added: “This development is a stepping stone to full autonomy – not only on mines but in urban and highway environments too. Mining machines typically perform repetitive tasks with well-defined mission profiles, which allows for the automation of many of their operations.”

The VDG has aided in the formulation of industry guidelines to analyse and improve the readiness level of collision avoidance offerings on the market, according to UP, and has developed a standard testing procedure to evaluate both surface and underground collision management systems based on guidelines set out by the Minerals Council South Africa.

CAS assessments were previously limited to above-ground testing, with UP saying its involvement has brought about change in the CAS space, having contributed significantly to the increasing maturity of commercial offerings.

“With the VDG’s recent development of an underground testing system, it is anticipated that the technology readiness of current underground CAS offerings will be even more improved,” it said.

The performance of CAS is tested by way of a stage-gate approach. The first stage gate is a lab-scale test conducted on light vehicles in a controlled environment. The CAS is installed on the light vehicles exactly as would be in a mining environment.

Dr Hamersma said: “These vehicles are equipped with brake robots that control the stopping distance and can be controlled to represent minimum brake specifications, while high-precision GPS accurately measures the speeds and positions of the vehicles. An advanced data capturing and control system is used to control the brake robot and to record the GPS data, and the decisions communicated to the test vehicle by the CAS.”

If the CAS passes the lab-scale test, it can proceed to the next stage-gate, where the system is subjected to a single interaction test conducted in an environment that is more representative of a mine. To date, testing has been limited to surface tests due to the reliance on high-precision GPS as the ground truth measurement. However, the VDG team’s recent development of an underground system makes use of LiDAR (which uses laser light to calculate distances), cameras and automotive radar to measure the distance between objects and their speeds.

The system has been tested at a training facility at one of South Africa’s underground mines, and the first live underground single interaction test is in the pipeline. The system will be used to validate the lab-scale results of underground CAS solutions in their intended underground environment where line of sight, dust and uneven, slippery road surfaces are serious concerns.

The international community has noticed the activity in this space in South Africa, and this has led to collaborations with international CAS vendors and industry bodies such as the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM), the ISO working group leading the development of the collision avoidance standard and a project in collaboration with Mining3, a research institute based in Australia that was funded by the Australian Coal Association Research Programme (ACARP).

Freespace Operations’ Callisto to soar higher in mining drone space

Victoria, Australia-based Freespace Operations has recently customised its drone technology to address some of the challenges associated with modern mining, resulting in the production of its Callisto Modular Industrial Multirotor.

The Callisto is an autonomous modular and multipurpose industrial drone with benefits for the resources sector including increased productivity and worker safety.

Freespace Operations Managing Director, Ken King, said: “The Callisto was designed from the ground up to be an industrial system prioritising function over form,” he said. “It’s overall levels of performance and capability exceed all other comparable systems currently available.”

King says the Callisto completes aerial surveying using advanced LiDAR sensor technologies previously only available with manned aviation. It can also deliver cargo across sites and lift product out of mines autonomously.

“The result is increased productivity because tasks can be completed quicker, with precision repeatability and without the need to place people in risky environments,” he said.

According to King, the drone system offers most benefit at sites that are remote and face logistical challenges like poor weather, undulating topography, dense vegetation and poor access.

“The Callisto has been designed for typical mine sites, so safety, durability and serviceability are built into the system,” he said. “At IMARC Online we’ll be demonstrating the Callisto to companies that undertake LiDAR aerial surveying and require long-range cargo delivery.”

IMARC Online is on now until November 27, 2020.

Emesent builds mining connections as Hovermap autonomy takes off

Having recently helped DJI’s M300 drone fly autonomously underground (through its Hovermap Autonomy Level 2 (AL2) solution) and signed an agreement with Deswik to provide surveyors and planners with more accurate data from inaccessible areas, Emesent has been on a roll of late. IM put some questions to CEO, Dr Stefan Hrabar, to find out more.

IM: First off, if no communications infrastructure is in place at an underground mine, how do Emesent’s drones stream a 3D map of the environment back to the operator’s tablet?

SH: Hovermap is smartly designed to operate beyond the communication range of the operator. The operator does not always need to see a live map since Hovermap is navigating by itself. The user can place a waypoint beyond the current limits of the map, and beyond line of sight and communication range. Hovermap self-navigates towards the waypoint, avoiding obstacles and building the map as it goes. Once it reaches the waypoint (or if the waypoint is impossible to reach), it automatically returns back to the operator. The map data is stored onboard Hovermap and when it returns back to within Wi-Fi range the new map data is uploaded to the tablet. The operator can then see the new areas that were mapped and place a new waypoint in or beyond that map, sending the drone back out again to explore further.

IM: What results have you so far received from using AL2 for Hovermap at mine sites? Were the results PYBAR got from trials at Dargues and Woodlawn in line with your expectations?

SH: Last year’s trials at Dargues and Woodlawn showcased some great outcomes for the PYBAR team, including the ability for Hovermap to capture valuable data using Autonomy Level 1 (AL1). The team saw great potential in the technology, leading to the purchase of two systems for their use. Earlier this year, AL2 flights were conducted at Dargues during the final pre-release testing phase. Even the first stope at Dargues that was mapped using AL2 highlighted the benefit of the system over traditional CMS (cavity monitoring systems). A large area of overbreak was identified in the Hovermap scan. The same stope had been mapped with a CMS, but this area was not visible from the CMS scan location so the overbreak was not identified.

A number of mines have been using AL2 to map their stopes and other areas beyond line-of-sight. With AL2, they can send Hovermap into places that previously would have been inaccessible, enabling them to obtain critical data in real time without risking the machine or personnel.

The AL2-based stope scans have been more detailed and complete (lack of shadowing) than ever before. A beyond line-of-sight flight down an ore pass was also conducted recently, with Hovermap guiding the drone down 120 m and returning safely to produce a very detailed scan.

The high level of autonomy provided by AL2 also allows remote operation of the drone. We recently completed a trans-continental demo, with a customer in South Africa operating a drone in Australia using our AL2 technology and standard remote collaboration tools. The remote operator in South Africa was able to use their laptop to experiment with the technology from the other side of the world, sending Hovermap exploring down a tunnel.

This is a taste of what’s to come, with drones underground being operated from the surface or from remote operation centres thousands of kilometers away. This will remove the need for skilled personnel on site, and reduce the time spent underground.

IM: What had been holding you back from achieving AL2 with drones/payloads? Is it the on-board computing power needed to that has been the issue?

SH: Flying underground where there is no GPS, the space is tight and there are hazards such as mesh, wires, dripping water and dust is very challenging. We overcame many of these with AL1, which makes it safe and easy for a pilot to operate the drone within line-of-sight (Hovermap provides collision avoidance, position hold and velocity control). AL1 has been deployed for 18 months with many customers around the world, clocking up thousands of hours of use. This helped to improve the robustness and reliability of the core flight capabilities.

Emesent CEO, Dr Stefan Hrabar

AL2 builds on this mission-proved base capability to provide additional features. AL2 allows the system to fly beyond line-of-sight and beyond commination range. This means it’s on its own with no help from the operator and needs to deal with any situation it comes across. There are many edge cases that need to be considered, addressed and thoroughly tested. A significant amount of effort was put into these areas to ensure Hovermap with AL2 is extremely robust in these challenging environments. For example, the drone downwash can kick up dust, blinding the LiDAR sensor. We’ve implemented a way to deal with this, to bring the drone home safely. Other considerations are returning in a safe and efficient way when the battery is running low, or what to do if waypoints cannot be reached.

IM: How do you anticipate your partnership with Deswik impacting the mine planning and survey process? Do you see this reducing the amount of time needed to carry out this work, as well as potentially cutting the costs associated with it? Have you already carried out work at mine sites that has proven these benefits?

SH: Our commitment is to help mining companies increase safety and production while reducing costs and downtime. We do this by providing surveyors and planners with more accurate data from inaccessible areas, allowing them to derive new insights. Our partnership with Deswik means we’re able to provide a more comprehensive end-to-end solution to the industry.

We see this as a very natural partnership that will improve the overall customer experience. Hovermap excels at capturing rich 3D data in all parts of the mine (whether drone based, hand-held, lowered down a shaft on a cable or vehicle mounted). Once the data is captured and converted to 3D, customers need to visualise and interrogate the data to derive insights. This is where Deswik and other mining software vendors come into play. They have powerful software tools for planning, survey, drill and blast, geotechnical mapping and a host of other applications. We’re partnering with these vendors to ensure seamless integration between Hovermap data and their tools. We’re working with them to build automated workflows to import, geo-reference, clean and trim the data, and convert it into formats that are suitable for various tasks.

Surveyors at Evolution Mining’s Mungari operation have been using this new process in Deswik. Previously they needed a third software tool to perform part of the workflow manually before importing to Dewik.CAD. The intermediate steps have been eliminated and others have been automated, reducing the time from more than 30 minutes per scan to five minutes per scan.

IM: Since really starting to catch on in the mining sector in the last five years, drones have gone from carrying out simple open-pit surveys and surveillance to drill and blasting reconciliation platforms to reconnaissance solutions carrying out some of the riskiest tasks in underground mining. In the next decade, how do you see them further evolving? What new tasks could drones carry out to improve safety, cut costs or increase productivity?

SH: Emesent’s vision is to drive forward the development of ‘Sentient Digital Twins’ of industrial sites to future-proof the world’s major industries, from mining to energy and construction. These industries will be able to move to more automated decision-making using high-quality, autonomously collected data across their sites and tapping into thousands of data points to make split-second decisions about potential dangers, opportunities and efficiencies using a centralised decision-making platform.

We see our Hovermap technology being a key enabler for this future. Drones and other autonomous systems will become an integral part of the mine of the future. Drones will be permanently stationed underground and operated remotely, ready for routine data collection flights or to be deployed as needed after an incident.

Hovermap is already addressing some of the biggest challenges in mining — including safety and operational downtime. It improves critical safety to mines, keeping workers away from hazardous environments while providing better data to inform safety related decisions such as the level of ground support needed. This then feeds into better efficiency by helping mines to more accurately calculate risks and opportunities, aid decision making and predict situations.

Hovermap can significantly reduce downtime after an incident. For example, it was used to assess the level of damage in LKAB’s Kiruna mine after a seismic event. More than 30 scans were captured covering 1.2 km of underground drives that were not safe to access due to fall of ground. In another case, one of our customers saved around A$20 million ($14.6 million) after an incident, as they could use Hovermap to quickly capture the data necessary to make a critical decision.

IM: In terms of R&D, what future payload developments are you investing in currently that may have applications in mining?

SH: We’ll keep adapting our Hovermap design to suit new LiDAR improvements as they are released. More importantly, we’ll improve the autonomy capabilities so that even more challenging areas can be mapped with ease. We’re also adding additional sensors such as cameras, as these provide additional insights not visible in the LiDAR data. Our colourisation solution is an add-on module for Hovermap, which uses GoPro video to add colour to the LiDAR scans. This allows the identification of geological and other features.

Emesent’s Hovermap to provide Deswik with complete underground mine picture

Emesent has partnered with leading software developer Deswik to, it says, enable mining companies to incorporate high-quality data captured in inaccessible locations into their mine plans and surveys.

Emesent is a leader in drone autonomy, LiDAR mapping, and data analytics. Founded in 2018 through a spin out of CSIRO, Emesent has since built a reputation for delivering high-quality data capture in the mining, infrastructure, survey and mapping industries, it said.

The company’s Hovermap is a drone autonomy and LiDAR mapping payload. It uses the LiDAR data and advanced algorithms on-board, in real time, to provide reliable and accurate localisation and navigation without the need for GPS.

“This feature makes it ideally suited to map hazardous or underground environments where traditional data capture methods are difficult and dangerous,” the company said.

Deswik, meanwhile, is a global consulting and technology company delivering efficiency-focused solutions to all sectors within the mining industry. Its mine planning and management platforms are used in over 500 mine operations around the world.

The two organisations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to integrate their solutions to provide a more comprehensive solution to the resources sector, Emesent said.

In the first instance, a co-designed, semi-automated workflow has been created to import Hovermap data into Deswik’s design and solids modelling platform, Deswik.CAD. This workflow enables users to translate the Hovermap data within minutes, creating usable surfaces, solids and point clouds for as-built surveys, volume reporting and design updates, Emesent said.

“The data from Emesent’s Hovermap scanner can be imported into Deswik and visualised using any of the attributes that have been captured in the scan,” Stephen Rowles, Deswik Survey Product Manager, said. “The scan can be filtered, modified, and clipped to suit the user’s requirements before being processed in one or more of the dedicated functions for point clouds.”

Emesent CEO, Dr Stefan Hrabar, said the two companies were committed to working together to help mining companies increase the value of their models, by providing surveyors and planners with more accurate data from inaccessible areas.

“We’re excited about collaborating with another market-leading technology vendor in the resources sector,” Dr Hrabar said. “Integrating our respective solutions will assist customers to boost productivity and improve outputs.”

Deswik Partner Manager, Patrick Doig, said recent global events had piqued customer interest in technologies that allowed technical teams to collect high-quality data without the need to be physically present on site.

A partnership between Deswik and Emesent empowers their mutual and future customers to simplify processes, gain additional efficiencies and make value add decisions to their operations, Doig added.

Oxbotica and Navtech working on radar-based automation solution for mines

Oxbotica and Navtech have announced the joint product development of a radar-based navigation and perception system, to be launched in 2020.

The product represents the latest advancement in radar-based technology from Navtech and the partnership marks an important milestone in Oxbotica’s plans to take its automation-focused software from development towards commercial deployment.

The multi-module localisation system (radar, vision and laser) allows customers to deploy autonomy in both on-road and off-road locations, whether in mines, ports or airports and whatever the weather conditions where standard GPS or LiDAR is not possible, the companies said.

They explained: “The Oxbotica and Navtech product will not be reliant on any external infrastructure and can operate on its own or be fused with other location services driven by GPS, LiDAR or laser vision as part of Oxbotica’s modular and integrated approach.”

Oxbotica has already successfully tested its proprietary algorithms in a variety of environments and conditions as part of its Localisation module development and wider full-stack autonomy solution. This will be twinned with Navtech’s expertise in bringing autonomy sensors to market around the world.

Oxbotica says its autonomous driving software has been deployed in many different environments including cities, mines, airports, quarries and ports as part of its Universal Autonomy commitment: enabling any vehicle in any industry to drive itself with total freedom from external infrastructure dependency.

Navtech is a leading innovator, award-winning designer and manufacturer of commercially deployed radar solutions with safety at its core, according to the company. It manufactures a range of sensors that provide the performance to deliver on the promise of all-weather sensing in real world applications. This sees its sensors used in mission-critical applications around the world including security surveillance, road safety systems and industrial autonomous vehicles.

Ozgur Tohumcu, Oxbotica CEO, said: “This collaboration with Navtech is a key milestone in bringing autonomy especially to off-road domains such as mines, ports, or airports where existing LiDAR or GPS may not function effectively due to weather or operating conditions such as dust, rain, or snow.

“Navtech is a fantastic partner with their unbeatable track record of producing autonomy sensors – powering off-road autonomy around the world for nearly two decades. Incoming demand from customers and our own market research prove that there will be wide applications of this product addressing both on-road and off-road deployments.”

Phil Avery, CEO of Navtech, said: “Navtech are delighted to be working with Oxbotica on this project. Despite the potential of radar very few companies have successfully developed the necessary algorithms to use it properly. Oxbotica are world leaders in this area and, together with our high-performance radars sensors, we believe the resulting system will deliver a step change in the performance available for all-weather all-environment localisation and perception. This is crucial for automation in more challenging environments such as mines and ports.”

Scania pictures the future of mine site haulage with AXL

In September, Scania joined Komatsu in announcing it had come up with a cabless automated haulage concept for mines and construction sites that, it said, was a significant step towards smart transport systems of the future.

Having the Scania modular system at the heart of the design, the first live demo of Scania AXL took place at TRATON GROUP’s Innovation Day on October 2, at Scania’s demo centre in Södertälje, Sweden.

Following this, IM spoke with Karin Hallstan, Head of Corporate Communications and PR at Scania, to find out a little more about the concept machine.

IM: Why have you decided to launch the AXL now? Why do you think the mining and construction markets are ready for such an innovation?

KH: Autonomous transport solutions, in different levels of technological sophistication, are already well established within the mining industry. Scania already has autonomous trucks in a customer operation (Rio Tinto at the Dampier salt operation in Western Australia).

Also, mines are like closed industrial areas and have trained professionals in command of operations meaning they are well suited for automation. Autonomous vehicles can also make mining operations safer for people employed within the sector.

The reveal of Scania AXL as a concept had to do with Scania having a good opportunity to showcase this in relation to other news we also have planned.

IM: The success of autonomous equipment on mine sites – in terms of boosting productivity, lowering costs, increasing utilisation, etc – has often been predicated on having robust network communications to relay information from the equipment. How will Scania ensure all its customers leverage the technology to its fullest without insisting on 4G/5G/LTE, etc networks.

KH: A certain communications infrastructure will need to be in place to ensure the onboard communications equipment work. Which type and with which capacity may vary.

IM: What payload is the initial concept vehicle? What range of payloads do you expect to cater for in the mining/construction sector?

KH: Scania AXL is based on a 8×4 donor vehicle with a 410 hp diesel engine (G410B8x4NA) running on biofuel HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil). However, since it is based on Scania’s modular approach, it can be equipped with any engine and wheel configuration available in the Scania modular system. The Scania AXL can load up to 40 tons using existing heavy-duty components.

IM: Based on this, what type of mining operations are you aiming to sell into (coal, iron ore, copper, etc)?

KH: It is important to note that this is a concept which we are building and piloting to primarily learn from in terms of the autonomous capabilities and removing the cab from a truck, rather than something with a set plan to commercialise. We believe that we will start in open-pit mines in this learning process. That said, Scania AXL is specifically constructed with a low tipper truck body that is suitable for underground tunnels with as little as 2.8 m headroom. Above ground, the truck body could be bigger.

IM: You mentioned that this is the first time the company has built a truck that has many new components and technologies – can you expand on what these are and what results you expect to achieve by incorporating them in the AXL design?

KH: The fact that there is no safety driver as backup has led to several innovations with regards to system integration and safety related processes and technical solutions. For example, the original electronic braking system has a ‘safe mode’ that hands control back to the (manual) driver which, in this case, doesn’t exist. Situations like these must be handled with redundancy.

IM: How does the automation system you have developed for the AXL differ to other solutions on the market? 

KH: We will comment on our own solutions, not necessarily on others’. What we can say about the automation system for Scania AXL is that the vehicle creates its own picture of its environment and performs its task based on its own view of whether the path/road is drivable and what the assignment is. It is not a solution for automated guidance by GPS-signals or where vehicles follow a loop in the ground.

IM: LiDAR appears to be a big part of the company’s design for the AXL. Has this LiDAR technology been transferred from another vehicle in the Scania range? Or, is it from another sector?

KH: Most of the sensors (radar, LiDAR, antennas and cameras) are, in essence, early prototypes at this stage and are not available in the existing Scania range.

IM: Where and when do you expect to trial the AXL first? What do you anticipate this trial involving (testing out the full capabilities, trialing the self-driving, loading the machine, etc)?

KH: We have trialled it in our own test facilities. If, and when, we work with a customer in a location outside our test environment, we will disclose this broadly publicly.

IM: When could the AXL be available commercially and, going back to a previous question, what payload class is this likely to be in?

KH: This is a concept and a pilot, so we are not commenting on commercial availability.