China recently deployed what is reportedly the nation’s first self-developed, electric autonomous robotic carrier to a coal mine in the country’s north, marking a significant step toward commercializing the technology.
The robot, named CarMO, began operation on May 6 in an unmanned section of an open coal mine in Erdos, a coal-rich city of the country’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
The application came hard on the heels of the launch of CarMos the previous day, which was organized under the auspices of The Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), China University of Mining and Technology-Beijing and Waytous, a CAS-incubated mining service provider.
“The tendency toward higher levels of intelligence and autonomy is of huge significance to high-quality development of mines,” said Chen Long, CEO of Waytous and concurrently a researcher at CAS.
According to him, CarMo supports three modes, namely, short-distance control, long-haul drive and autonomous driving, making the device fit for such tasks as heavy-duty material handling and transportation in open mines and bulk ports.
Running on electricity, CarMo is said to have achieved a breakthrough in integration of chassis functions, core control algorithms and fusion of sensing and positioning technologies.
These technical attributes have considerably enhanced the efficiency and safety of mine operation, while drastically reducing labor costs and environmental pollution.
According to Waytous, CarMo has fully independent intellectual property, with 95% of its key components being produced or sourced at home.
During the ceremony marking the adoption of CarMo, Kong Fanfei, deputy mayor of Erdos, delivered a speech, in which he said Erdos’s demonstrated coal and natural gas reserve make up a sixth and a third of the national total, respectively.
Therefore, the city has a big demand for robots that can spur the automation of its mining industry, he added.
Compared to traditional mining equipment, each CarMo can supplant three mining vehicle drivers, passing on about 400,000 yuan (US$57,800) a year in labor cost savings to clients.
China issued a “Robot+” action plan early this year, outlining 10 typical application scenarios where robotics can play a positive role in enhancing productivity and addressing labor shortages, among other benefits. Smart mining is one among them.
“(Efforts should be made to) advance intelligent mining, disaster prevention, inspection, deep shaft rescue, driverless transportation, geological detection, dangerous operation and other use cases correlated to mining,” the document says.