Autonomous system for navigation and surveying in underground mines



This paper describes an autonomous platform for navigation and surveying within networks of tunnels, as those typically found in underground mines and caves. In this context, we propose a system allowing two modes of operation: surveying and autonomous navigation mode. In the surveying mode, a remotely located supervisor instructs the platform to move through successive sections of the network, gathering range data that is then concatenated into two- and three-dimensional survey maps of the environment. In navigation mode, the supervisor specifies high-level missions using the previously acquired survey maps. A motion planner then translates each mission into a set of consecutive navigation actions separated by natural landmarks. Mission execution consists of autonomously detecting landmarks, self-localizing, and performing the planned navigation actions. Advanced and innovative features, mostly related to surveying capabilities, navigation mode switcher, and the integrated aspect of our system, distinguish it from navigation systems used in productive mining vehicles described in the literature. The proposed system starts sharing some functionality with robotics systems devoted to exploration of abandoned mines. The full functionality of the navigation/surveying system has been proven through a series of on-site experiments in underground mines. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.