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Utah Mine Disaster and Robots

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Paul Hovnanian P.E., Aug 13, 2007.

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  1. It seems they just finished drilling a shaft down to the mine in Utah
    and promptly abandoned it when the camera they dropped down it didn't
    have a decent field of view.

    There are a number of companies who build various robots (more
    accurately, remotely guided vehicles) for bomb inspection and other
    hazardous applications. Some of these have tracks instead of wheels to
    negotiate rough terrain. It would seem like a good idea to drop one of
    these with a camera down the pipe and have it look around where fixed
    cameras can't go.

    Does anyone make such a unit capable of being deployed down a 6 inch
  2. Glen Walpert

    Glen Walpert Guest

    Great idea, a search on "pipe inspection robots" turned up some real
    products such as
    which will go down the bore, but might not be able to handle the mine
    floor. I have seen tracked versions in the past which might work
    better. I'll bet if the mine owner were to get someone calling pipe
    inspection robot manufacturers something usable could be found.
  3. mpm

    mpm Guest

    You would also think that with potentially six miner's lives at stake,
    they could drill more than one hole at a time.

    They should have had a dozen or more drills up there (or en-route)
    making swiss cheese out of the place. Worst case, they miss (but it
    would be an educated miss). Best case, they gain valuable time when
    their 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.. attempts come up empty.

  4. After the second hole hit a spot with a poor view, I'd have sent someone
    down to the local hobby shop to pick up an RF controlled car and a
    wireless TV camera and slid that down the pipe along with an antenna.
    Evenn if it can only maneuver a few dozen yards from the pipe, it might
    see something that the fixed camera couldn't. That would be a small
    price compared to another hole.

    I'm wondering if someone has something a little less toy-like available.
    Maybe not specifically for mine use, but a spec for an inspection robot
    that has to be inserted through a 6 inch pipe might have quite a few

    Paul Hovnanian mailto:p
    100 buckets of bits on the bus
    100 buckets of bits
    You take one down,
    and short it to ground
    FF buckets of bits on the bus
  5. MooseFET

    MooseFET Guest

    They make things for pipe inspection that may do the trick. They are
    remote controlled not robots but perhaps one of them could be driven
    far enough along the floor to see down the tunnel.
  6. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Those wouldn't get far on the rocky and rough floor of a mine. But I am
    sure that the drilling caused a lot of noise and that the miners would
    bang onto some kind of pipes or whatever runs through the shafts and
    that could be heard. Problem is that this is a checker board of a mine.
  7. mpm

    mpm Guest

  8. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    They probably didn't want to cause more cave-ins.

  9. JosephKK

    JosephKK Guest

    MooseFET posted to
    A concept for us all to keep in mind, the bore is about 1700
    meters / yards deep to get to the miners. This introduces new
    factors to simplistic approaches.
  10. mpm

    mpm Guest

    I agree that is what they will say, if / when pressed on the issue.
    But you would not feel that way if you were one of the trapped miners.

    And if a couple dozen 2" holes cause that much trouble 1700-feet down,
    we'll likely never get them out alive anyway... -mpm
  11. Jim Yanik

    Jim Yanik Guest

    And there may be trapped gasses (or airborne coal dust)that any spark could
  12. MooseFET

    MooseFET Guest

    I thought they said that many feet.

    At 1700 meters, the video signal in the cable won't look very good.
    The cables used for pipe inspecting sorts of things use very small
    coaxes that are quite lossy. The electronics has a high frequency
    boost to correct for the cable losses. There are limits on how much
    of this you can do.
  13. Guest

    Given the rought terrain, how about a disposable camera-carrying radio
    controlled blimp?

    Lower it a small canister on a cable containing antenna, feedline, and
    release mechanism.

    It drops to the floor, inflates out of the canister, and then you can
    fly around for as long as the batteries last.

    Of course the link will be somewhat limited beyond line-of-sight to
    the entry point. Carrying a spool of cable/fiber is probably not
    practical with a small flying vehicle. Some little repeaters to
    drop? Or maybe drop a second blimp and ground the first to act as a

    One also wonders if there would be a way to bury armored feedlines
    (trench in the floor then refilled?) leading deep into the mine as a
    mater of course, and have some things like this pre-positioned so that
    you don't even have to weight for the drill.
  14. Joel Kolstad

    Joel Kolstad Guest

    At some point you're better off going wireless since the power loss follows
    1/R^2 rather than exp(-kR) as it does for coax cables.

    In coax it's eventually the power that limits you. Something like LMR-195
    (RG-58 size -- ~0.2" diameter) is ~0.8dB/100ft. at 5MHz (plenty for reasonable
    video images), so that's 45dB loss over 1.7km -- still quite workable starting
    with modest power levels (and RG-58 will handle plenty of power... of course,
    getting that power into the cable is another matter).
  15. Guest

    You could switch to fiber...

    You could reduce the frame rate...

    You could use digital compression....

  16. Have you looked at the sat photos of the uneven, rocky ground above
    that mine?

    Service to my country? Been there, Done that, and I've got my DD214 to
    prove it.
    Member of DAV #85.

    Michael A. Terrell
    Central Florida
  17. The downside of a blimp is that it may get hung up in something without
    constant control inputs from the remote operator. A wheeled or tracked
    vehicle can move slowly and stop to examine the terrain before
    A gerry-rigged system might only have a few hundred yards range inside a
    mine. But that's a few hundred yards further than they can see now.

    If I were designing such a robot for this job, I'd give it the ability
    to deploy some low powered sensor/repeater nodes that form a mesh
    network. As the robot reaches the limits of its comm range, it just
    drops another node. These nodes can be equipped with some sensor
    capability in addition to their networking function (in the event a live
    miner walks by) and can provide some navigational data based on how the
    network configures itself.
    Pre-position some mesh network nodes, connected to a power and comm
    buss, but with a low power, battery backed up mode. That way, if the
    feeds become severed, they begin autonomous operation. During normal
    mine operation, they provide normal operations networking functions.

    If a standard can be developed for such devices, than communications and
    rescue equipment (both walkie-talkies and robots) can be designed to
    take advantage of existing nodes in place and new nodes only need to be
    deployed to bridge damaged areas.
  18. That's what they use for hi-def video feeds from submersible vehicles.
    They can do several miles with such equipment.
    These would be employed for lower power r.f. telemetry between the
    deployment point and the robot.
  19. Guest

    Yes. However, if it can be made cheaply enough (maybe $200) you just
    drop in another. And the stuck one is there as a repeater. You could
    have both tracked and flying vehicles available...

    Or a jumping vehicle... Or 9" mechanical cockroaches...
    Yes, I like the mesh netowrking. But in addition to dropable nodes,
    between multiple cheap (abandon when stuck / out of motive juice)
    vehicles too.
    I believe some work is also being done on VLF communications for
    mining use/rescure.
    But I don't know if you can get enough antenna and power on a portable
    and penetration was a few hundred feet, likely not enough to reach
    outside on its own.

    Would be interesting if you could do pre-placed wired nodes, with
    backup VLF capability to bridge gaps where the feeder is seperated.
  20. mpm

    mpm Guest

    It would almost have to be fiber anyway.

    The weight of coax (1700-feet unsupported) will probably stretch it
    out like a angle hair pasta. In other words, worthless as
    transmission line. Not to mention the RF losses.

    I'm thinking a little battery operated camera with an fiber-optic
    interface, towed on a small steel cable, also carrying a fiber. I'd
    be really surprised if they're doing it any other way.

    Also, FYI - RF propagation in underground coal mines is pretty much
    line-of-sight, for reason too complicated to get into here, unless you
    want to... -mpm
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