LKAB deploys Boston Dynamics robotic dog Spot® for safe inspection of damaged mine areas

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A “robotic dog” called Spot® has begun work with iron ore miner LKAB at its Kiruna operation within the Sustainable Underground Mining (SUM) project and it says is now being “trained intensively” for underground tasks. “Spot is an innovative step towards an even safer LKAB,” says the company.

“Spot gives us greater possibilities for inspecting damaged areas of the mine safely and efficiently,” says Nikolaos Petropoulos, Senior Research Engineer in the department of Technology and Process Development at LKAB in Kiruna.

American robotics company Boston Dynamics is behind the technology now being tested in a mining environment at LKAB. Spot, whose body and motions resemble those of a dog, moves dynamically and with remarkable agility over the surface of the ground. Spot is also able to judge distance, climb and move through a challenging environment, thanks to the many sensors installed in its body. In addition, Spot is equipped with an advanced 360-degree camera, scanner and other sensors.

“The robot is easily manoeuvred, has battery capacity for 90 minutes of runtime, and can use it’s vision system to recognise terrain and adapt to different environments,” explains Nikolaos Petropoulos.

LKAB says Spot represents a great leap forward in terms of engineering and development, “but this new technology is above all a step in the right direction towards a safer LKAB. Spot can enter difficult-to-access and confined areas on its own. One of many applications is to use Spot to investigate the outcome of the previous night’s blasting – something that is not physically possible until blasting gases have been evacuated.”

Spot is a vital part of the SUM project – a unique joint project in which LKAB, ABB, Combitech, Epiroc and Sandvik are collaborating to set a new world standard for mining at great depth. On Friday September 25, Spot began underground training in preparation for investigating the area of the Kiruna mine that was damaged as a result of the seismic event of May 18.

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