A fully autonomous vehicle that is capable of driving at 70 miles per hour may be a long way off, but safely navigating and supporting remote mining operations is already taking place. From robotic drills to driverless haul trucks and robotic ore quality analyzers, laser scanning is an essential technology in these applications.
Ultimately, we may see “fully automated ‘man-less’ mines that are completely operated by machines,” Dr. Bernhard Jung, a professor of computer science at Freiberg University of Mining and Technology in Germany, told NBC News MACH in an email. Automation means mines of the future could exist on the ocean floor and even in space. “Making use of robots may be our only chance to ever extract minerals in such areas,” Jung says.
And just as aerial drones can be flown by pilots thousands of miles away, automated mining operations can be supervised from a distance. “You can operate these robots remotely from halfway across the world,” says Dr. Herman Herman, director of the National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. For example, he said, “That will allow people in the Midwest to work and operate mining equipment in Australia.”
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