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Geotechnical Engineering


Geophysical Technologies for Detecting Underground Coal Mine Voids:
An Interactive Forum

Robotic Characterization of Mine Voids

Presenter: Dr. William "Red" Whittaker, Chief Scientist
Firm/Organization: Workhorse Technologies, LLC
Fredkin Professor, Carnegie Mellon University
Phone: 412-268-6559
Fax: 412-268-1338
Mailing Address: Carnegie Mellon University
The Robotics Institute Field Robotics Center NSH 2109
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213


Robots are emerging as a means for locating and delineating mine voids. Robots can generate 3-D models by occupying voids with remote machines and measuring surfaces like pillars and ceilings using sonar and laser sensors to gather data that is processed to create maps.

We describe the machines, sensors and software for robotic void modeling, but without great detail, since that is not the main thrust here. Rather, we report on field applications and the void models that are generated by robots in field applications. Our examples show results from mobile mapping of drift mines and borehole deployments into wet and dry mine voids.

Robotics technology offers substantial advantage for investigations like Stabilization planning and verification, auditing mineral reserves, and evaluating the condition of roof support. Applications for the technology include abandoned mine investigations, and the economizing of exploratory plans.

Robotic characterization of mine voids has quickly matured from an idea through research and product to commercialization. Workhorse Technologies, LLC is a new company that has arisen to provide robotic void mapping services.

The technical future includes creation of borehole deployable robots, submarines and boats, wireless communications, radio positioning, autonomous exploration, equipment guidance, and thin seam mining. The agenda for fulfilling the enterprise is to perform demonstrations, deliver commercial services, and engage in strategic relationships. Robots and remote range sensors are distinguishing themselves as new tools of the mine void mapping industry.

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Updated: 04/07/2011

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