EGU21-1368, updated on 03 Mar 2021
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-1368
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

UNEXUP, a robotic exploration technology for underground flooded mines

Márcio Pinto1, Norbert Zajzon2, Balazs Bodo1, Luís Lopes1, Stephen Henley3, José Almeida4, Jussi Aaltonen5, Claudio Rossi6, and Gorazd Zibret7
Márcio Pinto et al.
  • 1La Palma Research Centre SL, Canary Islands (marcio.tameirao@lapalmacentre.eu)
  • 2Institute of Mineralogy - Geology, University of Miskolc, Miskolc, Hungary (nzajzon@uni-miskolc.hu)
  • 3Resources Computing International Ltd, Matlock, UK (steve@vmine.net)
  • 4INESC TEC, Porto, Portugal (jose.m.almeida@inesctec.pt)
  • 5Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland (jussi.aaltonen@tuni.fi)
  • 6CAR UPM-CSIC, Madrid, Spain (claudio.rossi@upm.es)
  • 7Geological Survey of Slovenia, Ljubljana, Slovenia (gorazd.zibret@geo-zs.si)

UNEXUP is an EIT RawMaterials supported project (Project Number 19160) with the aim to improve and commercialize the robot-based technology developed in the H2020 UNEXMIN project (2016-2019). In UNEXMIN three underwater robot prototypes (UX-1 a,b,c) were built with geoscientific and navigational instruments capable of collecting valuable geological, mineralogical and spatial information from flooded mines without causing harm to the environment, risk to human lives, or high dewatering costs. This technology was tested in five different field trials and proved to be an efficient exploration method to sustainably evaluate the potential for mineral resources in these mines. For example, scanning sonars and structured light systems can map the environment even with near-zero visibility, the visible light cameras allow the identification of structural and geological features, the gamma-ray counter helps to identify minerals with natural radiation, and the pH, EC and water sampler allow the characterization of the waters in these sites.

In UNEXUP (2020-2022) the objective is to further improve this robot-based technology, test it in real-life environments, and commercialize it as an exploration service. The UNEXUP technology will comprise two new robots, which will add to the three UX-1s that were developed in UNEXMIN. These new robots consider the feedback and requirements from potential customers (e.g., mining companies and Geological Surveys) and other stakeholders of the predecessor project.

The first robot, UX-1Neo, is an upscaled version of UX-1, with the same dimensions and functionalities. This robot was built to address the limitations and malfunctions found in the previous line of robots, and it has software improvements that allow reduction of the number of operators, with faster mission setup time, and more efficient data collection and processing. With hardware improvements, it is a lighter, modular robot with better thruster control, an additional camera, and easily swappable batteries. The second robot, UX-2, to be built in 2021, will be a more complex unit with increased modularity, higher TRL, and greater operational depth. The modularity of both robots allow the sharing of some geoscientific instruments that are being developed, such as multispectral camera, water sampling unit, water chemistry measurement, and fluxgate magnetometer. In addition, there will be a rock sampling unit supported by a robotic arm, which will be developed exclusively for UX-2.

The robots will demonstrate their capabilities under real-life environments during the project. A real service-to-client approach is being carried out, and commercial missions have already been scheduled for the UX-1Neo in 2021. Some examples include a 3D inspection of a water well, geoscientific survey of a flooded salt mine, as well as other survey missions under discussion in Europe and worldwide.

Both robots are equipped with navigational and geoscientific instruments to address surveying requirements in flooded mines. However, there is a range of other applications for this technology, including: inspection of water wells and reservoirs, cultural heritage sites, cave exploration, environmental risk evaluation, and many other underwater structures that can benefit from this technology.

How to cite: Pinto, M., Zajzon, N., Bodo, B., Lopes, L., Henley, S., Almeida, J., Aaltonen, J., Rossi, C., and Zibret, G.: UNEXUP, a robotic exploration technology for underground flooded mines, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1368, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu21-1368, 2021.

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