A new robot design is being evaluated by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that could one day join the standard safety toolkit for commercial mine operators.

Sandia National Laboratories (booth 1815) is showing a mine rescue robot design that could make a major difference in mine disasters.

The robot has a segmented body joined by a U-joint that allows the segments to move independently. That means that "you basically always have a track on the ground and clawing its way over rubble piles and stairs," says Jamieson "Jake" Deuel Jr., manager of robotic and security systems for the lab.

Sandia's Gemini Scout is based on the decade-old Gemini system developed for US Special Operations Command. The lab has built three: NIOSH is putting two through their paces and Sandia has the third on display in it booth, which it is tweaking based on test results.

Gemini Scout can wade through up to 61cm (24 inches) of muck, is equipped with multiple cameras, a mine-approved light, a commercial gas sensor, a FLIR sensor, microphone and speaker. It communicates via line-of-sight radio but Sandia is developing a fiber optic tether that would allow it to go further into mines.

Massachusetts-based Black-I Robotics would build the robots if NIOSH approves the system. A decision is expected in October, Deuel says.

Source: Flight Daily News