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Mounted Cameras Track Location of Autonomous Vehicles Underground

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A new positioning technology uses vehicle-mounted cameras supported by algorithms to track the position of a vehicle in underground tunnels to within yards of its location. Autonomous vehicles operating in underground mines currently rely on expensive sensing or infrastructure modifications to navigate.

Professor Michael Milford, Queensland University of Technology.

QUT Professor Michael Milford led a team to help autonomous vehicles see through mazes of underground tunnels. Courtesy of QUT media.

A research team from Queensland University of Technology, in collaboration with Catepillar, Mining3 and the Queensland government, developed the technology.

“We have developed a positioning system that uses cameras rather than lasers, based on more than a decade of research in biologically-inspired navigation technology,” said professor Michael Milford.

According to Milford, the system developed by the team is able to intelligently evaluate the usefulness of the images coming in from the camera and disregard images that are blurry, dusty or washed out from incoming vehicle lights.

“This is stage one of the project. It’s commercially important to be able to track the location of all your mobile assets in an underground mine, especially if you can do it cheaply without needing to install extra infrastructure or use expensive laser sensing,” he said.

The team is planning a third field trip to a mine site with the goal of further increasing the precision of the system. Previous field trips led the team to refine and add to the system’s intelligence to better handle the challenging environment.

“This new field trip will enable us to start testing the second stage of the project, a more precise positioning technology,” said Milford. “If you can track the vehicle’s position to within a few centimeters then you can use that technology to run the vehicle autonomously.”

The research was presented at the Australasian Conference on Robotics and Automation, Dec. 11-13, 2017, at the University of Technology, Sydney.

QUT researchers share their vision for mine safety as they develop new technology for underground mining vehicles to navigate through dust, camera blur and bad lighting. Courtesy of QUT media.
Dec 2017
Research & TechnologyAsia-Pacificimagingcamerasindustrialenvironmentautonomous vehiclesautonomous vehicle technologymining technologiesTechnology News

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