Queensland researchers are taking automation in the mining industry to the next level, with driverless underground trucks on the cards for the mining industry.
Researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision have been chosen to help Caterpillar advance its mining equipment and automation technology.
The Queensland Government awarded a team lead by Robotic Vision Chief Investigator Michael Milford $428,000 in funding as part of its Advance Queensland Innovation Partnerships program.
The funding, combined with other funding from QUT, Caterpillar and CRC Mining, will help Milford and his team develop technologies that could ultimately enable the automation of underground mining vehicles.
Right now, lasers are being used to help with attempts to automate vehicles involved in underground mining operations. Milford and his team will develop a camera-based positioning system on mining vehicles to help track them in these harsh, underground environments.
“If you know where everything is in a mine site at all times you will be able to optimise how the mine site operates and keep your industry competitive,” said Associate Prof Milford.
“We hope that we can develop some next-generation positioning technologies which can be deployed throughout their fleet of vehicles that are all around the world.”
The Queensland Government funding was announced by State Development Minister Anthony Lynham and by State Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy Leeanne Encoch.
“The researchers will look to solutions based on developing a cost-effective, reliable camera-based positioning system for locating and tracking underground mining vehicles within one metre of accuracy as well as a sophisticated, multi-sensor system that provides centimetre-accurate positioning,” Ms Enoch said.
Prof Milford said Caterpillar will give researchers access to some very good equipment, as well as access to some exclusive mine sites.
“We’ve really enjoyed developing this relationship with Caterpillar and CRC mining, so we’re really happy that we have some support from the government to really fulfil and build on this relationship,” Prof Milford said.
He said some of the systems his team will be working on are already automated. Their job will be to improve their reliability.
This was one of 15 projects to receive an Advance Queensland grant.
Work on this project is expected to start by early next year.