In subterranean conditions, such as in underground coal mines, accidents involving roof fall and sidewall breakdown are a risk that could result in the loss of human life. According to the Ministry of Labor and Employment in India, 377 operators working in the mining of coal, minerals, or oil sectors in the country were fatally injured in accidents between 2015 and 2017. This number has ranged from 962 in 2004 to 352 in 2014 and has yet to reach zero.
To prevent such accidents, a research team of subterranean rescuer students has developed a unique robotic system, designed to keep coal mine workers better protected. The system was recently presented at the Smart India Hackathon 2019 and won prize money worth Rs 1 lakh.
The Robot Operating System (ROS), produced by a team of six students who attend the Ramrao Adik Institute Of Technology in Mumbai, creates 3-D models and 2-D maps of underground coal mines to asses potential risks. The system also assesses levels of toxic gases, including methane and hydrogen sulfide.
“ROS is the heart of our system used to execute the SLAM algorithm to produce the required 3D model and 2D map of the sealed environment,” said a 22-year-old team leader, Ajit Mutalik. The other crew members are Vineet Menon (21), Ajay Lohar (20), Swapnil Patil (19), Tushar Kurane (20), and Shradda Gaikwad (20).
Initially, Ajit and Vineet presented this idea at the e-Yantra ideas contest 2018 at IIT Bombay, under the guidance of their professor at Ramrao Adik Institute of Technology, Sanjivani C. Chakote. After winning the “Best Hardware Category” award at the 2018 event, the two students began working on upgrading their project. Eventually, the four other students joined them to advance the robotic system.
The project was also mentored by Sanjivani and Sandeep Sangale, a faculty division at Ramrao Adik Institute of Technology. “For a particular coal mine, we suggest carrying out 3D mapping, periodically. Then, continuous 3D maps can be compared to get information regarding any modifications within the structure of mine,” shared Ajit.
The robot has sensors that can conduct concentration monitoring of a tunnel by using a combination of 2D maps and Google Maps to identify dangerous zones. At the same time, the system periodically measuring harmful gas levels and will automatically alert miners to abandon the area if high levels are detected.
A few of the robot’s features include:
Simple to implement
Ajit said his team is currently contemplating whether to launch the product in the mining industry as is or to first pursue additional research and testing. “Two of us have achieved our eighth-semester examinations and the prevailing are still pursuing their graduation. So, we have selected to either launch the product together or continue investigating in the same area,” he said.
Regardless of the team’s decision, the students believe this is a first-of-its-kind solution for miners or underground workers that can serve to prevent accidents relating to subterranean roof falls, slides, and flooding inside a mine or tunnel.
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