Remote Vehicle Operation in the Mining Industry
The mining industry has come a long way since the days of the Gold Rush. Technology is continuously being developed to improve efficiency, sustainability, and – most importantly – worker safety. Meglab has propelled themselves to the forefront of worker safety-innovation with their newest technology, the MicroGuide® Pro Surface Edition, an app that mining companies can use to remotely operate underground vehicles from surface and is easily adaptable to match client needs. This app offers many benefits such as the increase in worker safety and productivity, and can work on any brand of vehicle, using any type of controllers.
Remote operation of vehicles isn’t new technology in the mining industry. In Perth, Australia, remote-operated and self-operating vehicles regularly navigate open pit mines alongside human-operated vehicles.
What sets Meglab’s MicroGuide® Pro Surface Edition apart from others is its integration system. Meglab developed an app that can be installed on any brand of vehicle to be used with any type of remote control, including: joysticks; remote operating chairs; and video game controllers such as Xbox and Playstation, making it a more affordable option for automation. Meglab also installs the selected telecommunication networks to support their technology, providing a highly reliable, truly turnkey product to its customers.
Meglab worked in partnership with Beaufor Mine to test out their MicroGuide® Pro Surface Edition prototype in a real underground setting. The MicroGuide® was installed on a Load Hauler working underground at Beaufor Mine. Meglab was successfully able to use their system to operate the machine from start, move it forward and backwards, steer and lift and dump the bucket. During this project, they also tested the efficiency of their underground telecommunication network.
For this new product, Meglab uses an antenna system that allows the user to operate mobile units from surface. During the prototype test, the vehicle covered a distance of 380 feet using only one antenna. Adding additional antennas, the Microguide® Pro Surface Edition will be able to reach greater distances.
Meglab has developed many features to make the MicroGuide® Pro Surface edition one of the safest teleoperation systems on the market. The app includes a Man Alive feature, park break, and an operator-controlled delay when moving the vehicle forwards and backwards. The most important safety features are the laser boundaries installed at drift crossings that will automatically shut down remotely operated vehicles crossing the beam. It also allows for the safe operation of vehicles in unsupported areas, keeping the worker out of harm’s way.
There are many risks involved with mining, especially when working underground. From ground instability to high temperatures, workers have their hands full managing the dangers surrounding them while also trying to focus on production.
Fortunately, Canada has done its homework throughout the years to keep its miners safe, and works continuously to improve its safety protocols.
In Canada, remote-operated vehicles are increasing in popularity as the technology has evolved to be much more affordable and user-friendly. They also significantly improve worker-safety by reducing workers’ exposure to sources of danger and allowing them to work in a more comfortable, less strenuous, and more predictable environment. Companies can also increase their talent pool as remote-operating opens the doors for workers with disabilities, assigned to light duty work, or that live in different parts of the world.
Companies who use remote-operated vehicles also see an increase in productivity as they can continue working in environments that would otherwise be deemed unsafe. For example, during blasts, the workers are sent to surface for a period of time to evacuate the gases. With remote-operated vehicles, workers can safely operate LHD’s from surface, even during gas clearance and shift changing periods.
An increasing number of mining companies are investing more and more in digitization and automation as it allows for increased productivity while keeping their workers in a safe environment. Over the years, Meglab has developed a number of products and services focused on automation and integration to help mining companies reach higher safety standards while reducing costs. The Microguide® Pro Surface Edition will be a welcomed addition to any fleet.
Active in over 15 countries, Meglab delivers practical and cost-effective solutions to meet the industry challenges. As a specialist in mining technologies, the company has developed trustworthy business relationships and became world known for their integrated solutions.