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Mining Contract: Robotics Mission Feasibility Study

Contract DetailValue
Contract #08FED898349
Start Date9/30/2012
Research Concept

Sandia National Laboratories has been developing drilling technology for programs such as geothermal and fossil energy recovery for over 30 years. Recently, Sandia has been exploring the development of compact, mobile, ultra-high speed drilling systems for a variety of potential applications. One application of great interest is to support future mine rescue efforts with the capability to locate a drilling system over a portion of a mine where personnel are believed to be trapped, then rapidly drill one or more exploratory holes to access the mine and provide the rescue team with the ability to explore those areas with remote camera systems and provide life-sustaining supplies to those who may be found.

Program Area

Contract Status & Impact

This contract is ongoing.

This contract was funded as part of an interagency agreement program, which provides a formal means for federal government agencies to share and further technology that could apply to and benefit mine safety and health. OMSHR identifies other government agencies with the knowledge, skills, and abilities relevant to a health and safety gap and works collaboratively with these agencies to identify the type of technology solution desired and to determine specifications for this technology.

Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) has developed a specialized track-mounted robot that can be used as a scout to explore mine workings, in advance of mine rescue team deployment, subsequent to a mine fire or explosion. The Gemini Scout frame is a proven robotic system with a high degree of mobility over difficult terrain. OMSHR is interested in this research because it provides a specialized and unique insight into the development and use of robots in the underground mine environment. The use of robots and robotic assist technology could play a significant role in post-disaster mine exploration and rescue work.

Under this contract, Sandia has been tasked to accomplish the following:

  • Repair and refurbish the current disabled robots. Testing and evaluation conducted by NIOSH has left the current units in a various state of disrepair. Work under this task will involve repair and replacement of any and all parts that are broken, worn out, or otherwise damaged.
  • Evaluate the current robot power train with the assistance of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Approval and Certification Center to determine if the system can be deemed permissible for use in underground coal and gassy underground metal mines or if it contains "fatal flaws" and redesign if necessary.
  • Develop a concept of operations for a mine rescue team assist vehicle. During the process of entering a mine subsequent to a mine disaster or fire, mine rescue teams are faced with the daunting challenge of quickly and safely moving through mine workings that have been affected by the event. The teams must clear debris, reestablish ventilation, and make the entry travelways safe for passage. The mine rescue team assist vehicle will transport and carry equipment, first aid supplies, communication equipment, injured miners (and, conceivably, deceased miners) from outside the mine to the fresh air base. The vehicle will not serve to explore the mine workings ahead of the rescue teams, but could transport a robot to the fresh air base that is capable of exploring the mine workings.

Work under this contract will explore technology that could be utilized or developed using the existing MSHA standards for permissibility, define mission requirements, and outline the concept of operation and the costs for developing a prototype where appropriate. This work will include evaluation of technology that is being utilized by MSHA and under development by NIOSH and available in the commercial sector.

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  • Office of Mine Safety and Health (OMSHR)
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