The October 2013 issue of the International Resource Journal highlights the capabilities of ASI's mining vehicle technology in the article "Age of Autonomy."
"One of the greatest benefits of automation is the efficiency of a machine, and the way in which it operates," said Mitch Torrie, Director of Vehicle Automation at ASI to Juliet Langton, Editor of the International Resource Journal (IRJ). The IRJ approached Torrie in August about the impact of vehicle automation in the mining industry. ASI has provided robotic solutions to the mining industry for about ten years and has taken part in a range of technology advancements over the years. The following quotations are excerpts from Torrie's interview with the IRJ.
Productivity & Cost Improvements "Often we get reports from customers that their manual drivers will speed down a hill, potentially damaging the vehicle frame, so that they can sit and eat their lunch or read the newspaper," said Torrie.
Automation technology is designed to operate mining equipment as closely to OEM specs and safe operating procedures for the environment as possible, making maintenance schedules much more predictable.
"Even if the operator sets a high speed on a road, for example," continued Torrie, "the software looks ahead and knows the center of gravity and the mass and everything else for the vehicle, and it will slow the vehicle down for a corner if it might roll at the speed that the operator set."
One of the greatest barriers to the acceptance of mining automation technology has been the high cost. However, as the technology becomes more refined, the prices continue to become more affordable.
"When we started," said Torrie, "the price for one GPS unit with 2.5cm accuracy was $55,000—now it's more like $7000. Our technology is priced at a fraction of the cost of the machines to which it is fitted… automation costs about $150,000 for your typical vehicle. The technology pays itself off pretty quickly."
Mine Safety Safety is one of the key concerns for mining companies around the world. Recent years have seen highly publicized mine incidents, highlighting the dangers of the environment. Partially or completely removing human workers from the mine site improves the safety outlook.
In addition, automated mining vehicles are typically equipped with a variety of safety sensors that detect obstacles, workers, and other vehicles in the operating area. ASI develops its command and control software with a variety of safety parameters to further improve safety.
"If there's a blind corner," explained Torrie. "Or a vehicle coming up over the other side of the hill, the GPS software can see what's there and stop the vehicle if a collision is possible." Additional LiDAR or radar sensors enhance the ability of vehicles to "see" what is around them and react in a safe manner.
The Future of Mining "Like any emerging technology," said Torrie, "vehicle automation still has to prove itself. Mining is one of the newest industries to adopt unmanned vehicles, although it has been trying to do it for many years.
"There are several mining companies buying unmanned systems now, and the more mines using the technology, the more people will understand its capabilities and embrace it. I think that the more widespread the technology becomes, the better it will become."
Read the full article by accessing the October 2013 issue of the International Resource Journal.