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Draglines are massive machines commonly used in surface mining to strip overburden, revealing the targeted minerals for extraction. Automating some or all of the phases of operation of these machines offers the potential for significant productivity and maintenance benefits. The mining industry has a history of slow uptake of automation systems due to the challenges contained in the harsh, complex, three-dimensional (3D), dynamically changing mine operating environment. Robotics as a discipline is finally starting to gain acceptance as a technology with the potential to assist mining operations. This article examines the evolution of robotic technologies applied to draglines in the form of machine embedded intelligent systems. Results from this work include a production trial in which 250,000 tons of material was moved autonomously, experiments demonstrating steps towards full autonomy, and teleexcavation experiments in which a dragline in Australia was tasked by an operator in the United States.
Date of Publication: Sept. 2007