Engineering & Mining Journal

NOV 2018

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AUTONOMOUS HAULAGE SYSTEMS 54 E&MJ • NOVEMBER 2018 nicate with Central Control. The loading equipment operators create spot courses for the autonomous trucks and maintain the loading area. The operators on the support equipment must also understand the system and the importance of re- moving obstacles. The Central Controller monitors the system, handles the excep- tions and coordinates with Dispatch. Komatsu has a robust training program for technicians and overall equipment operations. "It starts with establishing a foundation through eLearning and virtual classroom," Yureskes said. "The object is to get people up to speed as quickly as possible and deploy the training to as many people as we can at one time. We can do that on site or at the proving grounds. We also offer simulator training. A lot of this training takes place well before these per- sonnel are in the field interacting with the autonomous system." Once they are in the field, Komatsu starts the hands-on validation training. "They have to demonstrate a certain level of skills before they can graduate to the next level," Yureskes said. "It's competen- cy-based training that's certificated. This is included in the site licenses that's issued to the mine. The foundation and process of training would be very familiar, but the au- tonomous aspect would be something new." Yureskes reminded people that the system is not a one-size-fits-all solution. "With these installations, there is a lot of customization," he said. "Komatsu will have dedicated on-site support. The oper- ations that get the most of out the system are the ones where the lines between the customer and Komatsu are blurred and they are working together in a partnership with mutual goals." The Technology Guiding the System The Komatsu AHS system relies on two applications: FrontRunner, which is con- trolling the truck; and Dispatch, the same Modular FMS that's already being used at many mines today. "Dispatch doesn't care if the truck is manned or not," Cook said. "It's treating it as an asset and it's trying to determine how to get the most tons out of the system." In the Central Control Room at the Komatsu proving grounds, Cook ex- plained how Modular tests new hardware and software before its released to the customer. "About 90% of the test work is conducted at Modular Mining's headquar- ters in Tucson before they bring it to the proving grounds," Cook said. The Komatsu proving grounds opened in late 2015 and the company uses the 700- acre facility to test open-pit mining equip- ment. There are three models of autono- mous haul trucks operating at the facility, an 830, 930 and a 980. The loading units vary from a rope shovel to hydraulic front shovels all the way down to wheel loaders. In the real world, one skilled operator can manage as many as 30 trucks. "With these systems, the loader operator has a lot more responsibility," Cook said. "He is the one deciding where the trucks are positioned. With autonomous mining, double-side load- ing is very easy. The loading tool operators have the confidence the trucks will not back into them. If there is an obstacle, the truck will develop a path around it." The manned vehicles have a device telling them the position and route of the trucks and where they will turn. "We no longer need indicators because the oper- ators stop when they see a truck and look at their screen to see where that truck is going," Cook said. The backbone to all of this is the wireless communication. Most mines to- day use WiFi, the 80211 band, but Cook foresees a mass migration to long-term evolution (LTE) wireless. "With video and all the data coming out of the pits, LTE will be a better application," Cook said. "It's more mobile jumping from access point to access point. Wi-Fi was designed as a stationary system, which works well for offices and factories." None of the technology on the truck is proprietary. "Anyone could buy these parts and cobble them together," Cook said. "What is proprietary is how the dif- ferent levels of information are integrated into the system and the IP for the sys- tem. A PTX-C mobile computer accepts the messages from Centrol Control and disseminates them through the truck's control systems to make it propel, brake, and turn left or right." The trucks use multiple methods — GPS, a set of gyros as well as radar and la- sers — to verify its position. Currently, the system connects to two constellations, but the next generation will connect to four. The Komatsu AHS is based on the Modular Dispatch FMS and the FrontRunner program.

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