Caterpillar to Develop Autonomous System for Blasthole Drills

Caterpillar announces a product development program that will create an autonomous system for blasthole drills used in surface mining operations. This program further demonstrates the Caterpillar commitment to deliver a fully integrated suite of autonomous mining equipment, technologies and systems for enhanced safety, efficiency and productivity.  

"The Cat autonomous drill system is another important technology in realizing our vision of an autonomous mine site," said Gwenne Henricks, vice president of the Caterpillar Electronics & Connected Worksite Division. "By leveraging existing technologies and coupling those with knowledge gained from our collaboration with leading automation engineers and industry experts, Caterpillar will be able to offer mining companies a robust autonomous drill system."

Caterpillar will design the autonomous drill control program by building on the proven software and hardware of the Caterpillar® AQUILATM Drill System, the market leader in such technologies. The AQUILA Drill System Guidance module uses satellite navigation to determine precise hole location and collar height, enabling correct positioning of the drill and accurate drilling depth. AQUILA Drill Systems also offer additional modules, such as auto drill, that fulfill many of the functions needed for autonomous operation.

In addition, the autonomous drill system will leverage the sensing and motion technologies used in the Caterpillar autonomous haulage system and will integrate with the Cat® autonomous mine infrastructure. Integrating drills into the autonomous mine infrastructure is another step toward the implementation of the autonomous mine site, where machines will function efficiently without in-cab operators.

 "Based on our twelve years of experience with AQUILA technology, the next key step change in improving the drill and blast process is automating the drill," said Chris Curfman, president of the Caterpillar Global Mining Division. "A blasthole drill equipped with a Caterpillar autonomous system will enhance safety, and reduce variability in the drilling and blasting process."

Caterpillar intends to make its autonomous drill system available for integration with various blasthole drills. The company plans to have its autonomous drill system in test at select mine sites in 2010.

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