Mining Contract: Development and Demonstration of a Robotic Support Vehicle for Underground Mine Rescue Efforts

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Contract # 200-2014-59274
Start Date 8/28/2014
End Date 8/31/2016
Research Concept

This study will design and develop a mine rescue support machine that will increase the ability of mine rescue teams to respond to catastrophic mine events. The goal will be to develop a machine to meet the specific needs of a mine rescue team, with extended range data and control communication and an explosion-proof or intrinsically safe design.

Topic Area

Contract Status & Impact

This contract is complete. To receive a copy of the final report, send a request to

The MICROTRAXX™ line of compact mine-duty track-driven equipment has been used in the underground coal mining industry for nearly twenty years. Many customized versions of this equipment have been built to perform specific support tasks ranging from cleaning mine entries with loaders to carrying section fans and power centers with haulers to cutting shelter holes with cutters. Machines have been produced as narrow as 26 inches and as low as 28 inches. The track drive provides for mobility in difficult terrain, and the machines operate at normal walking speeds. The compact size of these machines and their power to do work provide an exceptional platform from which to build a mine-duty machine, and the ability for customization to task-specific needs makes this equipment an ideal candidate for development of a robotic mine rescue support machine.

The machine to be developed by ROHMAC, Inc., under this research contract will require a power source that will meet permissible requirements as the post-event mine environment may lack ventilation and could contain explosive atmospheres. Radio remote control has been used on MICROTRAXX™ machines for over 15 years. This allows the machine to work in places that may be unfit for personnel, such as confined spaces, while the operator is located in a safe area. Remote control technology is available that may be able to extend the operating range of this equipment, and research and testing should produce a control system that will operate at significant distance underground. Addition of video equipment to the control system could enhance the ability of an operator to control the machine remotely as well as provide additional feedback on mine conditions to a command center. The control and communications system would also allow for transmission of data from sensors carried by the machine such as a methane monitor or multi-gas detector.

When complete, this study will produce a robotic mine rescue support machine that will improve the ability of a mine rescue team to respond to catastrophic events. It will improve safety for rescue team personnel by allowing them to explore mine areas to identify hazards before venturing into them. The machine should also improve the response time required to locate and rescue miners, and will be able to transport injured miners.

While the prototype developed for this study would require Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) approval for use in permissible areas before being a practical mine rescue machine, it is unlikely that an approval could be completed within the scope and timeline of this project; therefore, to prove a concept prototype, testing of the device could be performed in a fresh air area of a mine to show its capabilities. A successful machine design will be submitted to MSHA for approval, but the approval process would be handled separately from this study.

Page last reviewed: September 20, 2016
Page last updated: September 20, 2016