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Russian coal miner puts 5G to the test

Pilots viability of next-gen network for autonomous trucks Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – July 1, 2020

SUEK, among the world's largest coal and energy companies, is testing autonomous trucks using 5G network at its Chernogorsky open pit mine in Khakassia, Russia.

A pilot project at the coal mine in southern Russia is testing the potential of 5G to network 130-ton BELAZ-7513R equipped with an autonomous haulage system developed by Zyfra, a Finnish-Russian industrial digitization leader.

The trucks are part of the Zyfra Intelligent Mine system, a mining automation platform that utilizes robotics, industrial artificial intelligence, and internet of things.

Zyfra said taking the human out of the cab significantly improves haul truck efficiency.

"Robotic dump trucks allow for a significant increase in freight transport production rates (up to 30%) thanks to a reduction in non-technological downtimes related to human factors (shift changes, lunchtime, etc.), an increase in the average speed of robotic dump trucks during travel and thus an increase in the number of movements per shift (by approximately 20%)," said Pavel Rastopshin, managing director at Zyfra.

The purpose of the pilot project at Chernogorsky is to test the viability of 5G for unmanned and remote-control transport, as well as document comparisons between current WiFi-mesh networks and 5G.

SUEK is eager to see the benefits that the latest 5G technology can bring.

"Having used mesh-based industrial internet technologies at our enterprises for ten years, we are testing an alternative for the first time, and it is proving its technological worth," said Dmitry Sizemov, deputy director of information technology at SUEK.

Since its formation in 2017, Helsinki, Finland-based Zyfra has grown to develop many industrial digitalization technologies for machinery, metallurgy, mining, and oil and gas.

Operating in nearly a dozen countries, Zyfra has outfitted massive Russian BELAZ dump trucks with an entire system of sensors that allows them to operate autonomously at Chernogorsky.

The 5G network, which utilizes equipment from Chinese supplier Huawei, covers roughly a mile of road traveled by the coal hauling BELAZ trucks.

Video streams from high resolution cameras mounted along the travel route are transmitted and received by the information processing center for real-time equipment control.

"The 5G network has demonstrated its reliability in robotic equipment application tasks at open pit mining sites," said Rastopshin. "When selecting a specific type of data transfer technology, it is important to look at the quality of the service provided and its approximate value to the applied robot technology economy at a particular mining site."

In addition to automation, the high rate of data transfer and lack of delays offered by 5G is expected to open new technological doors for the mining sectors.

"The implementation of 5G networks at open pit mining enterprises opens up huge opportunities not only for robotized facilities, but also for advanced solutions for industrial safety, dispatch and monitoring, which require higher rates and greater reliability of data transfer, as well as flexibility and stationary infrastructure independence," said Sizemov.


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