Mining Contract: Development and Testing of a Mine Escape Vehicle (MEV)

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Contract # 200-2010-36723
Start Date 9/10/2010
End Date 9/14/2013
Research Concept

The Mine Escape Vehicle (MEV) design concept is centered on retrofitting an existing mine personnel carrier chassis with available, mine-worthy equipment capable of providing life support functions for 10 to 12 miners, operating in an oxygen-deficient, low- or no-visibility atmosphere, and traveling at speeds faster than mine workers can walk out of a mine.

Topic Area

Contract Status & Impact

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In September 2010, a contract was awarded to Raytheon UTD to acquire the specialized subsystem technology, construct a proof-of-concept Mine Escape Vehicle (MEV), and then test and evaluate the MEV subsystem components and vehicle platform. In the NIOSH conception of the roadmap to develop the MEV, it is thought that the subsystem components should be readily available and not require substantial research and development before they are offered to the mining industry. This simplistic approach would guarantee delivery of a fully functional MEV to the mining industry in the shortest time possible. However, as subsystem components evolve and newer or more sophisticated technology is created, these newer components could be easily added to enhance the capability of the MEV. NIOSH believes that the MEV subsystem components should have the flexibility for retrofit into existing vehicles for greater utility and to avoid the need to provide and maintain specialized escape vehicles at each section of the mine. This retrofit capability may enable mine operators to potentially convert some mine conveyance vehicles into MEVs thus enhancing the potential for mine rescue or escape. Finally, it is intended that most of the MEV subsystem components should have utility and function outside of the MEV should escaping miners need to dismount from the vehicle platform and move through the mine on foot.

From November 2012 to May 2013, the MEV operated in the mine which served as a test platform to introduce both the MEV concept and its enabling technologies to potential end users. This time period was also used to evaluate the utility and ruggedness of the various subsystem technologies. During the field evaluation, the MEV traveled over 2.8 million feet or nearly 535 miles while logging 166 engine operation hours. In addition to its routine daily use, three focused two-day evaluations were conducted to gather additional information related to outstanding performance concerns as well as to gain additional experience by operators in driving the vehicle under impaired visual conditions. These evaluations also provided an opportunity to interact directly with mine management and the miners who used the vehicle on a daily basis to obtain first-hand their observations, insights, and impressions.

Feedback from mine workers and mine management suggested that they embraced the MEV concept and the specific technical capabilities related to the life support and guidance subsystems. Field testing identified some issues with the chassis selected for the retrofit and limitations of the subsystem technologies initially selected for integration. A new contract was awarded to Raytheon UTD under a fiscal year 2013 Broad Agency Announcement solicitation by OMSHR to integrate MEV subsystems (along with any new technological upgrades) into three mantrip designs to address these remaining issues.

Page last reviewed: July 18, 2016
Page last updated: July 18, 2016