Next-Gen Coal Mining Rescue Robot


"Gemini Scout's infrared camera can spot survivors' body heat."

Next-Gen Coal Mining Rescue RobotImagine a mining disaster in 2012: In the aftermath of an explosion, a group of miners are trapped deep underground. Following established procedures they are hunkered down in a refuge chamber, which means they have air, water and food for a few days. Their best chance is to stay put and wait for help—but the clock is ticking.

Rescue teams are painfully slow, but this time they have help—in the form of a mine rescue robot called Gemini Scout.

Gemini is specifically designed for this environment and trundles swiftly on its caterpillar tracks. About 4 ft. long and 2 ft. wide, it has a camera turret raised high above the body. Gemini's body is in two parts with a flexible joint in the middle, allowing it to scramble up rough slopes and negotiate tight corners that would foil other bots of similar size. The mine has safety hatches called man doors at intervals with awkward lips, but the flexible Gemini can get through even when they are a foot off the ground.

Guided by remote control, Gemini goes well ahead of its handlers, its gas sensors providing warning of toxic fumes or explosive gases. It allows the rescuers to assess the walls and roofs in damaged tunnels before setting foot in them.

Gemini Scout has been developed by Sandia National Laboratories, with funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Gemini's camera turret, with its pan-and-tilt mount, provides an all-round view of the entire machine. This aids situational awareness and makes it easier to free the machine if it gets stuck. The infrared camera can spot survivors' body heat. There are also fixed front- and rear-facing cameras on the body and it can drive in either direction.

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