VTT, Nokia and Sandvik research safe autonomous underground mining

Friday, 20 October, 2023

VTT, Nokia and Sandvik research safe autonomous underground mining

Finnish company VTT has announced that it has partnered with Nokia and mining equipment company Sandvik, along with other Finnish companies, in a joint R&D project that shows the potential of industrial 5G and edge intelligence in offering new solutions for safe underground mining.

The mission of the Next Generation Mining project was to research, demonstrate and evaluate the feasibility and potential of industrial 5G, digital twin and edge computing enabling safe digitalisation of underground mines. The aim is to provide highly automated and remotely controlled mining operations.

“In this project, VTT has applied and further strengthened research competences related to 5G performance, situational awareness, sensor technologies, edge computing and artificial intelligence on new mining applications assessed in not only local laboratory environments but also in the real operational test mine environment,” said Sauli Eloranta, Vice President, Safe and connected society, VTT.

The key results of the project include various novel solutions based on 5G and edge intelligence. These technologies enable virtual and dynamic safety zone algorithms and concepts, situational awareness and adaptive autonomous control solutions for autonomous moving mining machines, 360° real-time video streaming for underground vehicles, and digital twins of underground mining sites connecting the site systems, devices and vehicles for near real-time communications. Also, radio signal measurements were made to improve the wireless network design capabilities and performance in underground environments. These solutions can improve safety, productivity and environmental sustainability in underground mining.

“This is a great joint-initiative among multiple ecosystem partners, creating new and unique capabilities to revolutionise the mining industry by enabling real-time video streaming and safe remote operations,” said Jarkko Pellikka, Ecosystem and Innovation Manager at Nokia. “These capabilities will play a crucial role in unlocking the full potential of industrial 5G for the future mining industry and developing further the Nokia Connected Digital Mine capabilities with Nokia Private Wireless and MX Industrial edge as platforms for edge applications.”

This project developed and applied a new R&D process, where the common long-term goals, experimental system architectures, iterative development of the prototype systems and evaluation trials were done in collaboration among the consortia. The R&D process included multiple prototyping and evaluation trial rounds enabling evaluation and improvement of the technology from laboratory all the way to integrated prototype systems in the Sandvik underground test mine. In addition, a workshop series was held on mine information modelling, engaging relevant actors outside the consortia in Finland and abroad.

“The underground mining environment is unique and complex. To deeper understand what affects safety, reliability and performance of the prototype systems developed in the project, Sandvik offered its state-of-the-art Test Mine facilities in Tampere to be used as test bed for NGMining technology trials and demonstrations,” said Miika Kaski, Commercialization and Networks Lead at Sandvik. “We provided real-life mining use cases where the prototype could be deployed and tested. On top of solving technical aspect set forth in NG Mining, it was also great to develop and learn new ways of working with project partners.”

Image: Sandvik

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