UNEXMIN is an EU-funded Horizon 2020 project that developed a novel robotic system, primarily for the autonomous exploration and mapping of Europe’s flooded mines, but also with other applications in mind. The Robotic Explorer platform, made by three robots – UX-1a, UX-1b and UX-1c, uses non-invasive methods for autonomous 3D mine mapping for gathering valuable geological, mineralogical and spatial information. This can possibly open new exploration scenarios so that strategic decisions on the re-opening of Europe’s abandoned mines can be supported by actualised data that cannot be obtained by any other ways, without major costs and/or risks.
The UNEXMIN Multi-robot Platform represents a new technology line that is only made possible by recent developments in autonomy research that allows the development of a completely new class of mine explorer service robots, capable of operating without remote control. Such robots do not exist nowadays and UX-1 is the first of its kind.
Major research challenges are related to miniaturisation and adaptation of deep sea robotics technology to this new application environment and to the interpretation of geoscientific data. After component validation and simulations to understand the behavior of the technology components and instruments to application environment, the production and assembly of the first UX-1 robot was finished in April 2018. Since then, the first prototype has been tested at the Kaatiala mine (June 2018), Idrija mine (September 2018), Urgeirça mine (March/April 2019), Ecton mine (May 2019) and Molnár János cave (June/July 2019).
The UNEXUP project (https://unexup.eu/), funded under EIT RawMaterials, is a direct continuation of the Horizon 2020 UNEXMIN project. While in UNEXMIN efforts were made towards the design, preparation and testing of an innovative exploration technology for underground flooded mines, in UNEXUP the objective is to launch the technology into the market, while further improving the system’s hardware, software and capabilities.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon H2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 690008. Copyright – UNEXMIN. Project starting date is 1 February 2016 with a duration of 45 months.
The project includes 12 partners from 7 different countries, where the University of Miskolc (coordinator), Mechatronics Research Group at Tampere University (TAU), Centre for Robotics and Automation at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores, Tecnologia e Ciência (INESC TEC), and Resources Computing International Ltd form the technology development of the project.