Mining Contract: Autonomous Docking of Face Haulage Mining Machinery in GPS-Denied Environments

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Contract # 75D30120C08908
Start Date 9/1/2020
End Date 12/31/2023
Research Concept

In 2017 and 2018, there were 14 fatalities in US underground coal mines.  Of these, nine (64%) had the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) accident classification of "Powered Haulage." Considering these hazards as well as those associated with respirable dust (e.g., coal and silica dust), roof and rib falls, fire, etc., removing miners from hazardous locations to safer ones would greatly benefit miners. The objective of this contract research is to develop autonomous navigation concepts capable of navigating a shuttle car from the continuous miner change-point to the continuous miner coal discharge conveyor under various situations representing realistic mining conditions.  This will include positioning of the shuttle car under the continuous miner discharge conveyor.  These developments will be demonstrated with a shuttle car and continuous miner in a realistic environment.

Contract Status & Impact

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This contract represents a 2-year+ effort to develop, evaluate, validate, and demonstrate a novel, low-cost, multi-modal solution to autonomously navigate a shuttle car (SC) toward the continuous miner (CM) and position it under the CM discharge conveyor. This action will be demonstrated at two levels, as described below.

Initially, the sensing, navigation, and control system will be integrated into a 1/6-scale mock mine consisting of simulated coal pillars, a continuous miner, and shuttle car. The CM will be positioned at various locations within the lab-scale mine that simulate practical cutting and loading locations for cutting in the straight, turning crosscuts, etc. The shuttle car will autonomously tram to, and position itself under, the CM coal discharge conveyor.

Secondly, a full-scale shuttle car will be instrumented with sensors and the position-control algorithm. (Funding limitations prevent the opportunity to install autonomous controls on the full-scale SC). The sensor input will be used by the position control algorithm to provide precise navigation control commands that will be executed by an operator, demonstrating the ability of the position control to navigate the shuttle car to the proper position under the CM discharge conveyor. This will be accomplished by adapting and optimizing SRI International’s cutting-edge GPS-denied navigation as well as model-based object detection and tracking technologies.

These efforts will be built upon existing research on autonomous underground mining systems at the University of Kentucky in partnership with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) and Alliance Coal, funded by the Alpha Foundation.

Page last reviewed: December 7, 2023
Page last updated: August 24, 2023