Mining Contract: Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue Vehicle Update

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Contract # 15FED1518029
Start Date 3/1/2015
End Date 9/30/2016
Research Concept

Under this inter-agency agreement, Sandia Laboratories updated and improved three Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue vehicles and provided training and technical support on the use and operation of these vehicles to NIOSH Mining staff and members of the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA’s) Mine Emergency Operations Branch.

Topic Area

Contract Status & Impact

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

Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue Vehicle

Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue Vehicle (click photo for larger image)

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. The Office of Mine Safety and Health Research (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.

Under a previous interagency agreement, Sandia National Laboratories’ Intelligent Systems, Robotics, and Cybernetics group was tasked by NIOSH Mining to modify the existing Gemini unmanned vehicle—a specialized track-mounted robot that has proven effective in navigating difficult terrain with a high degree of mobility—and create three identical mine rescue robots. These robots 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 robots underwent a rigorous testing and evaluation process at the Sandia test facility and on site at the NIOSH Bruceton, PA, facility. This demanding testing created a state of disrepair to the vehicles and identified a number of potential upgrades that could be incorporated into the design.

This contract tasked Sandia to refurbish and update the vehicles based on a comprehensive review of the onboard components, technologies, and instruments. The major changes are listed below: 

  • resolved a housing water seepage issue,
  • redesigned the track, driver, and idler wheels,
  • repaired an electrical short between vehicle bodies,
  • designed a fiber optic link and reel that will tether the vehicle to the operator, and
  • established a communications link to the MSHA Command Center Communication System.

 After addressing these issues, the user manual was updated to reflect these changes, and the vehicles were returned to NIOSH’s Bruceton Research Laboratory in Pittsburgh, Sandia representatives then conducted user training and provided technical support to NIOSH Mining staff and members of the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s (MSHA’s) Mine Emergency Operations Branch.

With these changes in place, the Gemini-Scout Mine Rescue vehicles are ready for deployment to any mining disaster or similar catastrophic disasters.

Page last reviewed: January 11, 2017
Page last updated: November 23, 2016