Load-haul dump machines at the brink of autonomy

Despite ongoing advances miners still haven't crossed the hurdle of fully implementing automated underground vehicles and are opting for intermediate steps instead, according to a post by CIM Magazine.

One of the major hurdles to automating load-haul dump machines was replacing human judgement required for filling a bucket. Researchers from Queens University, who partnered with Atlas Copco, found a way to monitor the force/velocity relationship between the loader and the muck pile.

In field tests Atlas Copco successfully applied the technology on its LHD machines. Clients were interested but were still not comfortable handing over full operations to the robots.

With the software to build an LHD machine that could finally haul, dump and load autonomously, Atlas Copco began discussing commercialization – and that is when the project hit a common glitch in mining: resistance to change. “When you look at the business case, it seems that very few totally autonomous machines are sold,” said Ola Pettersson [Atlas Copco's group manager for LHD applications]. “It is often difficult to convince clients to go for autonomous equipment. So we actually tweaked the project and decided a better path for us was to do something different and make it a load-assist function that can be added to any loader. We think this would be especially good when you run your loader with a radio remote controller.”

Read more.