A Real-Time Control Network for Robotic Mining

by William H. Schiffbauer, U.S. Dep of the Interior, Pittsburgh, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Robotics for Challenging Environments


The application of computers and computer networks to coal mining machines is one approach the U.S. Bureau of mines is pursuing to enhance safety for the coal miner while at the same time increasing productivity. Toward that end, a network composed of microcontrollers, computers, real-time operating systems, and sensor systems are being integrated by the Bureau that will act as the backbone for robotic mining machine control. Several commercially produced mining machines have been modified by adding sensor systems as required and applying the network as described, effectively giving the mining machines tele-robotic and semi-automatic capabilities. The machines are being used to perform research in a number of areas including at least, navigation, multiple machine interaction, coal interface detection, mining scenario simulation, graphical representation, and operator interaction. Presently the network is composed of two main parts, the mining machine and the control hut. The separation between the two is usually 500 feet. In the future, additional mining machines will be attached to the network using the control hut as the central hub. The mining machine has a collection of microcontrollers on-board which perform mining machine control, sensor monitoring, and communications with the control hut. The control hut houses the computers which provide for control, navigation, and visual displays of the mining process. The computers in the control hut interchange control and sensor information through a dual ported memory system. All control and monitoring information passing from the mining machine to the control hut passes through a real-time microcontroller-based control and communication network.

Subject Headings: Coal mining | Mines and mining | Equipment and machinery | Automation and robotics | Control systems | Computer models | Computer networks | Sensors and sensing

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