Open architecture provides flexibility and efficiency in autonomous mining

Mining operations are the ideal application for autonomous equipment, with the potential to increase both efficiency and workforce safety.

To this end, FLANDERS has developed an open-architecture autonomous system for surface drills. The intention is for the system to provide customers flexibility and efficiency in autonomous drill deployment, enabling them to operate any type of drill and integrate it into their existing fleet and fleet management system (FMS).

The hope is that this type of development will help meet growing demand in the industry, with the number of autonomous systems around the world expected to grow by more than 300 per cent by 2023.

Designing open automation systems gives FLANDERS the flexibility to use a broader array of protocols and components. An open approach provides significant benefits to customers including:

  • Optimised system performance with access to the latest industry technologies, programming languages and communication protocols.
  • Future-proofing is assured with adherence to open standards to ensure continuous compatibility with the latest technologies (such as evolving protocols).
  • System development speed is maximised due to use of familiar industrial programming languages and compatibility with standard components.
  • Large choice of compatible best-in-class components are provided by open automation’s flexibility.

Open autonomy technologies use open standards to facilitate visibility and control of systems without direct human interaction, relying heavily on open standards, such as ANSI/ISA-95 and those advanced by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). These standards are fully defined, published, and voted on by industry experts from suppliers and mining companies — ensuring an absence of bias.

An open approach avoids vendor lock-in and offers customers the freedom to choose preferred technologies, independent of their primary industrial systems. Furthermore, it enables highly skilled autonomy suppliers to integrate with customers’ existing operations while backed by a proven expert in the industry.

FLANDERS product development manager Josh Goodwin said the mining industry has the greatest opportunity to take advantage of these solutions.

“The mining industry has proven to be at the forefront of deploying early generation autonomy systems because the business case has been clear for operators,” he said

However, even years after early deployments, less than 5 per cent of drills are autonomous in mines around the world.

“We strongly believe an open autonomy architecture enables customers to speed up autonomy adoption,” Goodwin added.

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