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Spot breaking new ground at LKAB

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Global Mining Review,

Robotic dog Spot continues to break new ground at LKAB and is being modified and developed according to LKAB's specific requirements.

Spot has already spent several days underground since beginning work at LKAB in September 2020, and is quickly learning new tricks.

“Working better and better in the terrain where it has been tested, Spot is learning more about our mine environment all the time,” said Nikolaos Petropoulos, Senior Research Engineer at LKAB.

Since Spot is equipped with AI technology, the robot has the ability to recognise environments, adapt to the terrain and develop patterns of movement based on situations it has previously encountered. In fact, Spot can perform tasks based on the operator's commands and find its way from point A to point B without the operator having to be present. This is called Autowalk. Spot can navigate through challenging terrain, avoiding obstacles in the form of, for example, vehicles and boulders, while following an accurate compass reading.

“Spot creates its own image of the terrain and reads the surroundings to optimise its route. The more the robot is trained in the mine environment, the more its ability improves,” added Petropoulos.

Spot represents a great leap forward in terms of engineering and development, but this new technology is above all a step in the right direction towards a safer LKAB. Spot can enter difficult-to-access and confined areas on its own, and one of many applications is to use Spot in the event of fire. This means that Spot can assist emergency services personnel.

"Spot can carry up to 14 kg of equipment. This may include everything from gas detection alarms to first aid kits, oxygen cylinders, fire blankets and thermal imaging cameras," continued Petropoulos.

Another possible application is to use Spot as a hub, a sort of carrier for technical equipment.

“We can install drones on Spot that can fly into environments independently, and then dock again when the task has been performed,” concluded Petropoulos. “The robot is easy to manoeuvre and will be able to be used by many operators. No special experience is needed to work with Spot, but those who have played TV games will have an advantage.”

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