Issue 55 Uncrewed Systems Technology Apr/May 2024 Sellafield’s UAV equipment l Applied EV Blanc Robot l Battery tech l Robotican’s Goshawk l UGVs l UAVHE RW1 rotary l Roboat UVD l Autopilots l Arkeocean UVD l UMEX 2024 l CycloTech UVD

64 Insight | UGVs “That includes movement of extracted materials, and critical activities like maintenance and repair. Technicians need to drive out to faulty equipment, diagnose it, and go back to locate the appropriate tool or part if it isn’t on the maintenance truck,” says Zach Savit, senior manager for business development at Stratom, and the company’s lead expert on mining. “There’s a lot of moving pieces that can benefit from autonomous systems, like Stratom’s autonomous pallet loader (APL). We’re especially getting asked about our ability to deliver things in underground, GNSS-denied environments and how we’d integrate the APL with other systems.” The APL is a 4,535 kg, rugged, autonomous forklift-type vehicle, which runs on four tracks and has tracked conveyors or ‘rollers’ on its lifter, enabling it to pull objects on or push them off through stiction, while also being able to lift pallets and objects equal to its own body weight. It is powered by a 2.8 litre Cummins Defense diesel engine, with a 20-gallon tank, enabling up to eight hours of operation, 50 km of distance per refuelling and a top speed of 8 mph (12.8 kph), although the tank can be swapped for a larger or smaller one as needed. Underground navigation is aided by the availability of 3D scans and maps of mining environments, although the APL is equipped with Lidars and cameras for localisation and guidance, based on real-time perception of its surroundings. Mark Gordon, president and CEO of Stratom, adds: “To really tackle subterranean and above-ground, GNSS-denied environments that you can frequently get in mines, we will be utilising SLAM [simultaneous localisation and mapping] and the same Lidars, cameras and IMU that the APL already has, but actually mapping out the environment in real time, so we can navigate through it, even if there have been changes since the last mapping was done.” Stratom has developed an autonomous refuelling system, consisting of a robotic arm that can be guided by camera, Lidar or other sensors, depending on the environment, and an off-the-shelf fuel nozzle mounted into the end of the arm. “A vehicle pulls up into a defined ‘box’ area, and through a scanning process the system intelligently locates the vehicle’s fuel-tank port, adjusts the arm to engage with that port and starts fuelling. It is fully autonomous, not just an automated, factory-type process where you’re going from point A to point B,” Gordon notes. Savit adds: “The Cadia mine in Australia, for example, has Sandvik loaders, which work autonomously in a predefined ‘autonomous zone’, but for refuelling, someone has to go get fuel and fill them up, so there’s a big gap in the efficiency of that autonomous system, and our autonomous refuelling system would reduce the need for personnel to enter the autonomous zone or for vehicles to leave it.” Refuelling is one of the more hazardous tasks in mines. Some trucks are 10-12 m tall, and over the past five years, the US alone has seen 50 injuries relating to getting up and down from trucks, and 280 other non-fatal accidents relating to other aspects of refuelling (according to the US Mine Safety and Health Administration’s data-retrieval system), so considerable safety gains may be made through making this autonomous. Last-mile transport We last featured Estonia-based AuVe Tech for its Iseauto autonomous shuttle in our 43rd issue (April/May 2022). It has since developed its next-generation shuttle, MiCA (an amalgam of ‘minu’, meaning ‘my’ in Estonian, and ‘car’). Almost the entire vehicle has been designed from a blank sheet, with every controller, sensor, drivetrain system and structural material chosen from scratch to achieve an architecture that the company views as optimal for last-mile passenger transport. “Last-mile means operating safely on roads that aren’t very wide and therefore don’t give much room to manoeuvre, but we also wanted to make a vehicle that was a little bit bigger than the Iseauto, mainly to give passengers more comfort in the amount of seating available, as well as greater visibility through more window area around the cabin,” says Johannes Mossov, a member of the management board of AuVe Tech. “We’ve designed MiCa structurally such that it will be easier to produce in higher volumes, with fast assembly made possible through its parts. Accessibility of the different compartments and components for maintenance and April/May 2024 | Uncrewed Systems Technology Stratom’s autonomous pallet loader (APL) is being tapped for use in a number of tasks across mining operations (Image courtesy of Stratom)