The test project was designed to address the challenges and dangers associated with search and rescue efforts in underground mines. The premise is that tele-operated vehicles can be incredibly useful tools to assist in search and rescue missions—and would keep people out of harm’s way. Underground mines are challenging environments for transmitting high bandwidth data across long ranges. Rajant maintained that this obstacle could be overcome by relaying information across multiple network nodes while mobile relays move to the best location to relay wireless signals and move with the teleoperated vehicle to provide coverage.

“We’re excited to share the results of the project completed with the Colorado School of Mines,” said Frank Olivieri, director of sales, mining, Rajant. “Hopefully, the successful results from this project will demonstrate the utility of this technology and how it can be leveraged to improve mining search and rescue operations in near future.”

As part of the project, Rajant established a wireless Wi-Fi mesh network at the Edgar experimental mine, and equipped an autonomous vehicle (golf cart) with a Rajant BreadCrumb ME2 Wi-Fi mesh node. Rajant Wi-Fi nodes are capable of automatically reconfiguring based upon signal strengths from peer nodes. Rajant then configured a Bobcat skid steer loader with two microprocessors that allowed the team to transfer the remote control information over the Wi-Fi mesh network, and send simulated signals to the Bobcat electronics for teleoperated control. All the data collection and sampling of the environment was accomplished without sending anyone into the mine.

Several scenarios were simulated by sending the teleoperated Bobcat deep into the mine. When the teleoperated Bobcat was out of range, the autonomous golf cart would inch closer to relay information back to the user. Successful testing of both the mobile Wi-Fi mesh and the teleoperated skid steer loader illustrate the proof of concept for wireless teleoperated control within an underground mine.