A UK-based company, 3D Laser Mapping, has developed robots equipped with lasers to automatically scan mines. Its latest mission was to create a 3D map of the San Jose silver mine in Mexico. The remote survey vehicle (RSV) 3D-R1 weighs about 135 kilograms and is 0.6 meter high. It has a width of 0.9 meter and a length of 1.1 meter. For its Mexican mission, the RSV captured about 100 million data points in about 3 days. And it delivered a full 3D vision of the silver mine, including an accurate volumetric calculation of previously 'worked' areas. As wrote the 3D Laser Mapping's owner in a previous document, 'We already have laser scanners in aircraft, ground vehicles and even robots, what comes next could be down to you.' But read more...
You can see on the left a side view of the remote survey vehicle 3D-R1 developed by the Nottingham-based 3D Laser Mapping company (3DLM). This robot has been developed by 3DLM in partnership with Jobling Purser LLP as a lightweight, remotely-controlled robotic vehicle. It's interesting to note that James Jobling-Purser developed the RSV as a research project while studying at the Camborne School of Mines. (Credit for picture: 3DLM on this page).
The survey of the Mexican silver mine has been commissioned by the Arian Silver Corporation based in the UK and in Canada. Here are two links to its San Jose project and to a recent press release, "Further Bonanza Silver Grades Intersected at San Jose" (April 7, 2008).
On the left is a front view of 3D-R1. (Credit: 3DLM on the press release mentioned in the introduction)
Now, what are the other characteristics of this laser-scanning robot which can provide a mobile electronic eye in hazardous environments such as underground mines? "Combining state of the art laser scanning units with wireless communications and advanced robotic technology the robot, known as 3D-R1 offers significant improvement in the speed of data capture, the range and coverage of measurements and the safety of survey personnel."
And how did the robot fulfill its mission? "The data capture element of the project was completed in just over 3 days. Covering 2.2 km of underground drives, stopes and access ramps 3D-R1 conducted more than 80 scans per day collecting an estimated 99.36 million individual data points – more than 5 Gigabytes of data! The raw data was then processed to create a comprehensive 3D plan of the underground mining operation. The data was delivered to the client in a variety of formats, compatible with leading mine development software packages including Datamine, Micromine and Vulcan, and was in use at the client site in less than a month."
Another link to 3DLM on the Directions Magazine gives additional information about the software used by 3D-R1. "The software runs in the MicroStation CAD environment and we are also a Bentley MicroStation reseller. Produced by Innovmetric Software, [based in Quebec, Canada,] PolyWorks is a powerful point cloud software solution that processes data obtained from any short-range, mid-range, or long-range 3D scanner."
If you're interested by other applications made possible by advances in laser scanning for 3-D mapping, I strongly suggest that you read a long article written by Dr. Graham Hunter, Managing Director of 3DLM for GeoInformatics, a Dutch magazine, "Laser Scanning for Change Detection" (July 31, 2007).
Here is the paragraph about mining operations. "Although portable laser scanning is proving to be an important innovation for many markets, some of the most important commercial developments for laser scanning have been in the mining sector. Here laser scanning is proving to be a tremendous asset in supporting mining operations through site monitoring and improving site safety. A system called SiteMonitor has been designed to provide accurate and repeatable measurements of surfaces and slopes in hazardous or inaccessible environments. The application was first developed for monitoring slope stability on old coal mine waste tips in South Wales, UK. Now the system is being adopted more widely in the mining industry. SiteMonitor records movements in the slope surface as small as 10mm with a distance range of up to 1000m. It records and analyses up to 8,000 measurements per second to create a detailed, accurate and continuous record of the slope profile. SiteMonitor can deliver real commercial benefits by allowing mining operations to be optimised; allowing greater extraction volumes through steeper slope profiles; something that is only possible with continuous monitoring."
Other sections of this article include tracing the movements of dinosaurs by their footprints, checking unsafe rock structures or slope deformation. It also describes the usefulness of the 3D-R1 robot. "Traditional scanning in hazardous situations often lead to blind spots due to restrictions in access but the RSV is moved by remote control from location to location. It can perform scans and video in areas that are otherwise not safe to enter. Even in safe environments, the RSV is a useful tool that can increase productivity by 75% be eliminating the need to manually set up scanners at each location. Being light and easy to use, 3D-R1 can also be used easily elsewhere and potential applications including tunnel surveys and the surveying of earthquake, fire or blast damaged buildings."
[Disclaimer: Please note that I have no financial ties with 3D Laser Mapping.]
Sources: 3D Laser Mapping press release, April 9, 2008; and various websites
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