Smart Underground Trail – Robotics, Sensors, and the IoT in Underground Mining

Short Description:

Sensor-based monitoring and automated maintenance of underground infrastructures such as traffic and supply tunnels, underground material storage facilities and landfills, or active and decommissioned mining, poses great challenges but at the same time offers unique opportunities for Internet of Things (IoT) tech-nologies. The Smart Underground Trail demonstrates basic technologies and applications of underground IoT at several locations and leads visitors into the research and teaching mine of TU Bergakademie Freiberg. One example highlights a sensor network for environmental monitoring and tracking of materials and people, as well as mobile robots for automated 3D mapping of underground facilities.

Coordinators:

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Helmut Mischo, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Institut für Bergbau und Spezialtiefbau
M. Sc. Frederic Güth, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Institut für Elektronik- und Sensormaterialien
M. Sc. Robert Lösch, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Institut für Informatik
M. Sc. Sebastian Varga, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Institut für Markscheidewesen und Geodäsie
Dipl.-Ing. Franziska Günther, TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Institut für Bergbau und Spezialtiefbau

Target Groups(s):

Sensor and Actuator Users, System Integrators, Industry 4.0 Users, Research and Educational Institutions, Mining Companies, Mine Rescue Brigades, University Professors, Robotics Companies, Students

Partner from Research, Industry:

All partners of the trail are entities of TU Bergakademie Freiberg:

Name Type Expertise Contact Person
Institute of Computer Science, Chair for Virtual Reality and Multimedia Group Research Virtual Reality, Robotics Prof. Dr.-Ing. Bernhard Jung
Institute of Electronic and Sensor Materials Research Sensors, Internet of Things Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Yvonne Joseph
Institute for Mine Surveying and Geodesy Research Preliminary Reconnaissance, Data Management Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jörg Benndorf
Institute of Mining and Special Civil Engineering, Chair for Underground Mining Methods Research Mining, Underground Mining Equipment Prof. Dr.-Ing. Helmut Mischo
Institute of Automation Engi-neering Research Automatisation Prof. Dr.-Ing. Andreas Rehkopf
Research and Teaching Mine Reiche Zeche Research Mining, Visitor Center Prof. Dr.-Ing. Helmut Mischo

Value Proposition:

The presented research projects have significant application potentials in the Erzgebirge mining region. For example, findings from autonomous exploration allows re-exploration of historical mines. In this way, three-dimensional and textured photographs are produced for documentation purposes. This protects cultural heritage and mining history. Robotic systems require intelligent sensors to handle tasks such as rescue or emergency response support. Existing mines are focusing on advancing automation and digitali-sation. The Smart Underground Trail explores and answers questions about the suitability, necessary core characteristics and requirements, as well as the value of such technologies.

The interaction of robotics and IoT technologies in an underground environment at the Freiberg mining site is unique. Existing co-operations with companies and research institutions serve as a platform for the dissemination and marketing of the research results. A mine rescue simulator was developed by the com-pany Cinector GmbH in cooperation with the University of Mittweida based on the 3D model of the re-search and teaching mine, which was recorded by a mining robot. This system is used for the training of mine rescue services not only in Saxony, but throughout Germany and Europe. The mine rescue simulator was nominated in 2017 for the “Förderpreis Arbeit-Sicherheit-Gesundheit” of the German Trade Associa-tion for Raw Materials and Chemical Industry (BGRCI). The “Living Lab Reiche Zeche” is equipped with Bluetooth transmitters and receivers of the company safectory GmbH and contributes to the modern tracking of the visitors of the research and teaching mine. The unique conditions in Freiberg create a clear competitive advantage, which serves as a basis for research into future technologies. A technology transfer with local companies is planned and desired.

Pain Killers:
    • Clarity on available IoT technologies, specializing in their opportunities and limitations in mining
    • Detailed expert presentations regarding sensors and robots and their interactions, with open dis-cussions
    • Information about the current state of research: What is currently possible at what cost?
    • Scientific assessment of ideas and solutions by researchers in the core areas: robotics, sensors, and mining
Gain Creators:
    • Creating a concept for a digital infrastructure in underground facilities
    • Increasing information density through continuous monitoring of all relevant data
    • Insight into the development of technical, infrastructural, and logistical support (i.e. for emergency mine rescue services)

Character:

Intensive Trail: The course lasts two days and includes interactive presentations and a mine visit.

The 2-day Smart Underground Trail is available Monday to Friday (advance booking required). Figure 1 shows a typical schedule of the Smart Underground Trail.

Figure 1. Exemplified schedule of the Smart Underground Trail, ©Tu Bergakademie Freiberg

The interdisciplinary Smart Underground Trail introduces visitors to research regarding the underground applications of IoT and robotics through lectures and presentations hosted at the various institutes of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg. This is in connection with visits to modern laboratories. The individual de-partments are instrumental in the development of all components for setting up an underground IoT in-frastructure. Individual research projects are presented, from the development of smart equipment, such as sensors, in the cleanroom laboratory to the construction of a mining robot and the implementation of the SmartEquipment. In the CAVE visualization laboratory, visitors find themselves immersed in a projection of data recorded in the mine. The developments in automation technology, as well as the mapping and localization technologies in the underground setting, contribute to the vision of an autonomous robot in a networked mining environment. How existing and newly developed technologies are tailored specifically to the underground conditions is demonstrated. Another highlight of the visit will be the TU Bergakademie Freiberg’s research and teaching mine, including a tour of the installed demonstrations. In the mine, the participants enter an IoT environment where they will experience tailor-made applications of selected part-ners themselves. A final networking meeting for an evaluation and exploration of possible future co-operations completes the Intensive Trail.

Demonstrators:

„LIVING LAB REICHE ZECHE“

(represented by the Institute of Electronic and Sensor Materials): The “Living Lab Reiche Zeche” infrastructure is a sensor network consisting of a variety of sensor elements for monitoring people, machines, and robots in the mine where it records (usually anonymously) location and activity. The aim is to combine these aspects with the monitoring of environmental parameters, also detected by sensors. Further information: http://tu-freiberg.de/esm/forschung/projekte/living-lab

SMARTSENSORBOX

(Institute of Electronic and Sensor Materials): The SmartSensorBox is a Smart Housing system for networked sensors and communication units. The ARIDuA project is developing a unified and modular sensor platform including an interface for integration on robotic platforms and mining equipment.

Clean Room

(represented by the Institute of Electronic and Sensor Materials): The Central Cleanroom Laboratory (ZRL) offers many technologies for semiconductor fabrication: a lithography area for structuring, a wet-chemical area for etching and cleaning steps, the furnace and CVD area for temperature treatment and chemical vapour deposition, the PVD area for physical vapour deposition by thermal evaporation and sputtering, ALD tools for the deposition of individual atomic layers, a dry etching cluster, and a PECVD tool for low tem-perature deposition. In addition, the ZRL has devices for characterizing the produced layers and structures, such as a spectral ellipsometer for determining layer thickness. All of these technologies are used in the production of sensor layers and structures, for IoT-related projects such as ARIDuA and Living Lab. Further information: http://tu-freiberg.de/en/einrichtungen/zentrales-reinraumlabor/university/facilities/central-cleanroom-laboratory

Figure 2. Clean room employees at a sputter tool for the deposition of thin films, ©TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Fotograf Eckhardt Mildner
Cave

(Institute of Computer Science): At the Institute of Computer Science, the X-SITE CAVE is an innovative projection room that allows entry into virtual reality. With the help of the CAVE, participants explore different virtual models of the mine. At several stages of abstraction, the visitor experiences a virtual tour and gets a first impression of the size and structure of the underground facility. Further information: http://tu-freiberg.de/fakult1/organisation/ausstattung/cave

Figure 3. The autonomous robot Alexander explores a virtual model of the mine in the CAVE, ©TU Bergakademie Freiberg
Research Robots

(Institute of Computer Science): The complex and challenging environment of a mine requires special robots. With two mobile robots: a boat and a drone (Figure 4), the Institute of Computer Science is well prepared for use above and below ground. Laser scanners, image and depth cameras, as well as omnidirectional cameras enable the construction of 3D models. The robots autonomously explore their surroundings and generate maps while recording environmental conditions such as temperature, air pressure, and radioactivi-ty. This complex interaction is only possible by means of robust and innovative algorithms. The creation of appropriate software is one of the core competences of the robotics team. Meet our robots Alexander, Julius, Elisabeth, and Elios and explore their interaction with IoT technology. Further information: https://miningrox.informatik.tu-freiberg.de/en/roboter/?noredirect=en_US

Autonomous Mobile

(Institute for Mine Surveying and Geodesy): The autonomous mobile (Figure 5) is used for the online collection of geo-characteristics in the extraction of raw materials (integrated sensors for underground use). We will show you how to update geomodels based on online data.

Figure 4. The research drone Elios operating in the mine, protected by a custom cage, ©TU Bergakademie Freiberg
Figure 5. Autonomous vehicle for the collection of geo-features in the mine, ©TU Bergakademie Freiberg
Mine Rescue Simulator

(Institute of Mining and Special Civil Engineering): The mine rescue simulator is a program based on a 3D game engine in which a training simulator for mine rescue was developed. The virtual model of the simulator is based on 3D scans of the research and teaching mine. The simulator is actively used in the training of the student mine rescue team at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg (Figure 6).

Current Projects:

    • ARIDuA – Autonomous robots and the Internet of Things in underground mining, funded by the Free State of Saxony and the European Social Funds (ESF) (http://tu-freiberg.de/aridua)
    • Real Time Mining – Real-time optimization of extraction and the logistic process in highly complex geological and selective mining settings, funded by Horizon 2020 (https://www.realtime-mining.eu/)
    • „Living Lab Reiche Zeche“ (http://tu-freiberg.de/esm/forschung/projekte/living-lab)
    • UPNS4D+ – Underground 4D+ positioning, navigation and mapping system for the highly selective, efficient and secure extraction of strategic economic relevant mineral resources, funded by the BMBF (http://tu-freiberg.de/fakult3/mage/forschung/upns4d)
    • Mining-RoX – Robotics in underground mining, supported by the SMWK, project end 2016
    • iDeepMon – Intelligent Deep Mine Shaft Monitoring: Creation of complex 3D models for the monitoring of safety aspects in mine shafts, funded by the EIT (http://www.ideepmon.eu/project/)
    • UNDROMEDA – Underground Robotic System for Monitoring, Evaluation and Detection Applications, funded by the EIT

Opportunities for Projects and Funding Instruments:

    • The research mine as a test environment for robotics, sensors, or IoT technology
    • Individual research and development projects in the context of robotics, sensors, or sub-surface IoT
    • Industrial contract research and studies in the previously mentioned fields
    • Advice regarding the use of mobile robots, IoT components, or sensors in harsh environments
    • Specifically for companies in the extractive sector: joint projects within the framework of the Europe-an Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Raw Materials (https://www.sab.sachsen.de/)
    • Special funding instruments for high-tech startups interested in applications in the extractive sector by the EIT Raw Materials

We offer customized workshops to the participants of the Smart Underground Trail to discuss their ideas with the Trail Partners. Furthermore, we refer to the colloquium “Robotics, Automation and IT in Min-ing” during the annual “Berg- und Hüttenmännische Tag” (http://tu-freiberg.de/en/bht/forschung/zentrale-veranstaltungen/bht-freiberger-universitaetsforum) of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg in June.

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