Autonomous Docking of Face Haulage Mining Machinery in GPS-Denied Environments

Grants and Contracts Details


Regulatory agencies and the mining industry have made great strides in improving miner health and safety. Innovations such as the flooded-bed dust scrubber, miner-tracking devices, and proximity detection devices, as well as countless technologies and improvements resulting from the Miner Act of 2006 have undoubtedly improved miner health and safety. While many mine health and safety improvements have been made in recent decades, the underground mine environment still presents numerous health and safety hazards. In particular, the coal mine working face is wrought with hazardous locations. In 2017 and 2018, there were 14 fatalities in US underground coalmines. Of these, nine (64%) had the accident classification of Powered Haulage. For example, on January 14, 2019, a surveyor in a Kentucky coalmine was struck and killed by a shuttle car tramming to a feeder. The Final Report on this fatality stated that the “operator’s field of vision was greatly reduced due to the size/height of the shuttle car and the low mining height” [i]. Considering these hazards, as well as those associated with respirable dust, roof and rib falls, fire, etc., removing miners from hazardous locations to safer ones would greatly benefit miners. Recent technological advances are making this possible. One example is Rio Tinto’s operation of 100 autonomous surface mine trucks in mines in the Pilbara region of Australia [ii]. Another is the MINEGEM Automation System being tested at the Malmberget mine. This system is being developed for the semiautonomous operation of load-haul-dump (LHD) vehicles. With it, an operator is able to select a tramming goal for the LHD and have it complete that goal using a self-guidance system [iii]. Miner health and safety would be greatly improved by automation of face haulage by shuttle cars in underground room and pillar mining operations. Shuttle car functions are repetitive and monotonous, leading to the potential lack of attention by the operator. Visibility is poor, creating hazards to the shuttle car operator as well as those working near the shuttle car. This project addresses shuttle car navigation from the continuous miner change point to the changing location of the continuous miner. It is meant to build on an existing project on autonomous underground mining systems at the University of Kentucky, in partnership with Komatsu and Alliance Coal, funded by the Alpha Foundation. That project focuses on autonomous navigation of the shuttle car from a point near the feeder to a point near the continuous miner (and back), tramming through entries and crosscuts while avoiding collisions. Its scope of work does not include positioning the shuttle car at the mobile continuous miner. This research proposes to develop autonomous navigation concepts for face haulage vehicles by supplementing the operator’s awareness and directing tramming actions for docking with the production machine. The objective of the project is to develop autonomous navigation concepts capable of navigating a shuttle car from the continuous miner change point to the continuous miner under various situations representing realistic mining conditions. These developments will be demonstrated with shuttle cars and continuous miners in realistic environments.
Effective start/end date9/1/2012/31/23


  • National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health: $643,501.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.