Atlas Copco goes cabless

Atlas Copco showcased its PV 275 CA at MINExpo 2016, a fully-autonomous and cab-less Pit Viper 275 blasthole drill.

Mines are moving more and more towards automation in blasthole drilling and customers have been asking for the cab to be removed, says Atlas Copco's VP of Marketing – Blasthole Drills, Jon Torpy.

In its place a terminal with an RCS display, controls, a stool, and a table was installed.

"At some point during the drill’s life some troubleshooting or maintenance will require some operational control from the deck and this terminal accommodates those rare occasions," the company explained in a press release.

Here's an edited interview with Torpy explaining the blasthole drill:

MINING.COM: Can you tell me something about the Pit Viper?

Jon Torpy: This is the Pit Viper 275. This is a fully cab-less machine, fully autonomous machine. We call it the PV 275 CA, “C” stands for cab-less, “A” stands for autonomous.

A lot of our customers are running autonomous drills, we have autonomous drills out on the field, and they have asked us, do you really need to have the cab, now the machine is fully autonomous? And this machine is our answer to those questions.

So, we’ve removed the cab and we have all the autonomous features that we are showing this year at MINExpo.

MINING.COM: Why did you have to remove the cab?

Jon Torpy: So a lot of customers have asked us: Is the cab really necessary if you’re running a fully autonomous drill? And the fact is that in a fully autonomous environment the cab doesn’t really get used. In some cases the controls are required if you are doing maintenance or something like that, so we still have the control system on there for maintenance practices or if they need to go out there and troubleshoot or control certain systems, but the removal of the cab really allowed us to free real estate, to free up space on the drill that we can now consider for other options that our customers are asking for, whether it is increase in water, increase in fuel, or even a few other projects that we are looking at to start to use this space that has freed up now as a result of removing the cab.

MINING.COM: Can you talk about other changes in the machine's design?

Jon Torpy: Yes. With the cabless machine there are parts of the autonomous system that are good to incorporate into the walk-around procedures of the machine. So typically during a walk-around procedure you’d check oil levels, you’d check the dipstick, but with an autonomous drill we introduced a lot of sensors and a lot of cables. So, typically we would have a lot of those up on the drill inside the cab and we’ve actually moved them down into a lower cabinet, so now that walk-around can take place on the ground, troubleshooting -if needed- can take place there, whereas before it took place in the cab.

MINING.COM: When the cab goes away it does give you options in terms of changes in configuration to this model’s series?

Jon Torpy: A little bit. So we are exploring the changes in configuration that we can make to it. That’s the discussion that’s happening with customers now. What do we do with this space now that we have removed the cab?

MINING.COM: Can you tell us something about the field detection services?

Jon Torpy: Within automation, being able to track any obstacles that come into the area in an autonomous drill is important, we want to keep the people safe, we want to keep all the equipment on the mine safe, and we want to keep the drill safe.

These systems are really there when the standard operating procedures within the mine fail. So we have obstacle detection, which is the spinning laser. That’s going to look completely around the drill and identify any obstacles that enter into its space. When that happens, the first thing the drill is going to do is give a warning, a horn, the lights will flash, and it will say “You’ve entered my space and you shouldn’t be here.” In case the vehicle, the person, or the obstacle continues to move towards the drill and enters the next layer of protection, the drill will actually shut down and not continue its work instructions until it’s overwritten or given new instructions by the remote operator, who can be sitting a thousand kilometres away, but who can look at the drill and identify what the hazard is and make a decision.

The lights are there to give visual indication. Anybody approaching the drill can look at it and see if it’s running autonomously. If we have an autonomous drill with a cab there’s still a potential that an operator could be on board, so those lights would actually give an indication if it’s running autonomously or if it’s running with an operator on board, and as people move around the mine within the operating procedures they then know what kind of mode the drill is operating in.

Then we also have a personal detection system, which uses RF, so anybody who is working in the proximity of the drill, maybe within the blasting crew, can have this personal detection system as well. And the drill would do the same thing. If personnel with that detection system entered into the field, they would give a warning and if they get too close, they will then shut down and not continue operation.

And the reason we have the two systems is the spinning lasers only have a certain degree of accuracy as we get closer to the ground, so within half a metre that could look like a pile of dirt that is actually okay for the drill to run over. If, for some reason, someone was out on the pattern and they happened to trip and fall and maybe twist their ankle, and they have their personal detection, then it helps identify that this, in fact, is an obstacle that the drill should not get close to.

So we have different sensors with different layers of protection, just to make sure that the entire pattern, the entire area where the drill is operating is completely safe.

Atlas Copco at MINExpo

MINING.COM: You also have a new Pit Viper that you are introducing…

Jon Torpy: Every MINExpo since 2000, we’ve introduced a new Pit Viper. I think in terms of drill portfolios, Atlas Copco continues to invest and expand our drill portfolio, so with that every MINExpo we’ve introduced a new model in our lineup. I think that we are the only drill manufacturer that continues to build a portfolio at that speed and that level, and the drill is the Pit Viper 231, this is a new single-pass drill, it is a smaller footprint single-pass drill for 16-metre single-pass, fits really nicely with the single-pass capability in the whole size, as well as the footprint, very nicely, for a lot of the gold mines around the world, in terms of the bench sizes.

So, this product is going to fit in that and it also uses the same rig control system that is the platform for all of the Atlas Copco mining products when we want to do semi-autonomous or fully autonomous mining operations. So this machine, as well, can be built to be autonomous, just like the Pit Viper 275.