Mining Contract: Mine Escape Vehicle Technology Retrofit Demonstration
The objective of this contract is to conceptually demonstrate the integration of selected, appropriate mine escape vehicle escape enhancements into existing mantrips being refurbished or new mantrips under construction. The project effort will also support continued evaluation and refinement of the mine escape vehicle concept along with the durability and effectiveness of the selected escape enhancements.
Contract Status & Impact
This contract is ongoing.
The investigation and analysis of past mine disasters has determined the need to develop technologies and tools that enhance a mine worker’s ability to self-escape from underground mines that can be made up of several miles of workings. In a previous contract, OMSHR evaluated the concept of providing mine workers with a vehicle containing technology enhancements to provide life support, communications, navigation, and guidance enhancements to aid miners in self escape. While this past work identified and evaluated the types of technologies that should be integrated into mantrips to enhance self-escape, the practicality of integrating some or all of the enhancements into existing mantrips was not determined, and several technologies evaluated under this previous work did not meet the necessary performance criteria.
As part of this current contract, Raytheon has conducted an engineering analysis to evaluate recent advancements in those technologies that did not previously meet performance criteria. Several technologies likely to meet the desired performance criteria were identified, and feasibility assessments for retrofitting existing mantrips to integrate these improved technologies have been completed. The improved technologies were laboratory tested and have recently been installed on the proof-of-concept vehicle and undergone evaluation in a simulated underground mine environment. At least two of the upgraded enhancement technologies have shown significant potential: a fast-response methane detector technology and a guidance system technology. A fast-response methane detector that shuts down the vehicle if it enters into an explosive atmosphere is one way to ensure the vehicle does not cause an explosion while facilitating self-escape. Catalytic bead methane monitors and an infrared sensor were tested with response time in moving airstreams being the performance criteria evaluated.
Comparative response time measurements of the two methane monitors under both static and dynamic conditions were documented, with the response time of the infrared sensor being significantly faster than that of the catalytic bead, making it the more desirable selection for the MEV application. Numerous different guidance systems were also evaluated: electronic scanning radar, mechanical scanning radar, radar transducers, thermal camera, infrared camera, ultrasonic detection system, and scanning LiDAR. It was determined that, while it may be ideal to install several of these technologies on a special purpose vehicle as they can complement one another, an infrared camera system is a low-cost enhancement for existing mantrips which can provide significant improvement in limited or denied visibility situations.
The final task of this work effort will be to develop practical designs for integration of these technologies in conjunction with the equipment manufacturers and mine operators. It is anticipated that in the future successful and practical escape enhancements will be offered as options to aid miners in self-escape by mine transportation vehicle manufacturers.