The evolution of advanced guidance techniques for autonomous underground vehicles

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 97, No. 1076, 2004

L. Bloomquist, J. Law and C. Arnoldi

This paper describes how Automated Mining Systems (AMS) is evolving the state-of-the-art in guidance systems for autonomous underground vehicles. The techniques, trade-offs, and lessons learned from these systems are described, including the safety regime that has been implemented. First generation autonomous guidance systems for underground vehicles relied on infrastructure for the vehicle to follow. However, there are additional costs associated with that approach. The current generation uses a pair of laser range finders as its only guidance sensors. This system uses a minimum of infrastructure, in the form of a redundant system of location referencing. Advanced steering and drive control algorithms are incorporated into this generation of system. The next generation of infrastructureless guidance systems will be based on a 3D vision sensor, which was originally developed for autonomous Mars rovers and is being adapted for underground mining use. Results of early underground field trials are presented, along with a description of this emerging technology.
Keywords: Automated Mining Systems, Infrastructureless guidance systems, Underground vehicles, Guidance system safety, 3D vision systems