Ausdrill’s collaboration makes the safest rock ladder a virtual reality

VR-controlled HALO digital twin.

The application of robotics and virtual reality technology to the mining industry is taking another step forward thanks to a research collaboration between the subsidiary of Perenti Ausdrill, the University of Technology of Sydney (UTS) and the Innovative Manufacturing CRC ( IMCRC).

The three organizations are committed to developing a new system to make rock ladder operations safer. Nicknamed Project HALO (High Access Localized Operations), the robotic system with high-level autonomous control will create a safer way to perform rock-scale operations with the use of virtual reality (VR).

Rock climbing is the process of “cleaning” a rock surface that has been mined before mining. The goal of rock climbing is to remove loose or unstable rocks from an exploited surface that could fall and potentially injure people working in the area or damage equipment.

The process has traditionally been done by manual means: by specialized equipment that descends abseiling down a rock surface to remove loose rock. The introduction of robotics will have multiple security advantages.

The $ 460,000 project, jointly funded by Ausdrill and IMCRC, will create the next evolution of a HALO platform developed by Ausdrill and UTS in 2020. The project team, led by Dr. Gavin Paul at UTS, will integrate a robotic arm suitable for rock climbing in various mining environments and add a control system capable of translating movement and human orders into the corresponding robotic actions.

The project will also explore VR interfaces and devices to connect the HALO platform
to an operator.

Ausdrill aims to develop a new prototype that can be field-tested and produced at its Perth manufacturing plant.

HALO will address multiple occupational safety and health issues and also create a range of technology-based value-added opportunities, such as addressing the current shortage of qualified and certified personnel to perform rock ladder activities.

Ausdrill chief operating officer Roy Coates said the use of innovative virtual reality technologies and 3D interfaces will create a more secure and customizable process than had ever been seen before.

“Halo is a revolutionary new technology that will improve the safety and efficiency of rock scale operations while reducing associated costs.

“We are using technology to redesign how we perform the rock ladder to eliminate the risks associated with working at height and reduce our employees’ exposure to hazards. This project demonstrates our commitment to safety and the elimination of dangers to our workforce “.

Simon Dawson, director of industrial transformation at IMCRC, added: “The fusion of these technologies, especially the online control of a robotic system through virtual reality is a new concept.

“It demonstrates what is possible and how robotics, automation and virtual reality can be applied in a practical sense to support and advance the manufacturing industry in Australia.

“In times like these, innovation has never been so important. We are delighted to support Ausdrill in developing a tool that can be used worldwide. ”

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