INESC TEC is testing one of the most advanced submarine robots in the world

| 01 June 2021

These tests had the collaboration of EDM – Empresa de Desenvolvimento Mineiro S.A., which is responsible for the Urgeiriça mine, but also from former partners of the European project UNEXMIN, precursor of the current robot.

The UNEXUP project aims to improve the technology previously developed at UNEXMIN making it commercial. The new exploration robot has improved hardware and software, revealing a better performance in terms of range and depth, acquisition, management and data processing.

“It is one of the most advanced underwater robots in the world, with a new modular architecture, high operability and a very broad set of sensors, in a reduced volume (approximately a sphere of 70 cm in diameter). It includes six cameras, laser-based 3D sensing and acoustic imaging and mapping sensors. New capabilities that give exploration missions more reliability and safety, with lower costs”, says Alfredo Martins, CRAS researcher and professor at the Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto (ISEP).

This autonomous underwater robot allows the exploration of flooded mines up to a thousand meters deep, obtaining relevant information such as their structural state and mapping (allowing to know if there were landslides or other problems) and important geological information. It makes more possible to determine the existence of mineral resources with economic interest which, otherwise, would be more difficult and dangerous to obtain, or would have higher costs (such as, for example, the need of water removal, lowering the water level).

At the present day there are about 30,000 closed mines in Europe, many of which are now flooded, but still contain important and exploitable mineral resources. With this project it will be possible to introduce a robot on the European audience, capable of producing geological, mineralogical and spatial information in the safest possible way, from flooded mines and other confined underwater environments, filling a specific market need that currently, is not covered.

UNEXUP is funded by EIT Raw Materials with a value near €2.9M and is due in December 2022. In addition to INESC TEC, the project includes the following partners: University of Miskolc (leader) and UNEXMIN GeoRobotics, Hungary; La Palma Research Center and Polytechnic University of Madrid, Spain; Resources Computing International Ltd (4dcoders), UK; University of Tampere, Finland; and the Geological Survey of Slovenia, Slovenia.

The INESC TEC researcher mentioned in the news is officially linked to ISEP-Porto.

UX-1Neo junto ao Poço de Santa Bárbara (Mina da Urgeiriça) (Fonte: UNEXUP)

Imagens captadas pelo robô numa galeria do Piso 6 a 140 m de profundidade

Robô UX-1Neo (Fonte: UNEXUP)

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