Underground » Health and Safety
This report describes the continuing development of the NUMBAT underground mine reconnaissance vehicle. The project objectives follow an earlier ACARP project to demonstrate the vehicle to the industry and the recommendations of an underground coal mines rescue strategy group set up after the 1994 Moura disaster. This group proposed that the existing NUMBAT prototype be maintained to provide a level of post-incident response capability and at the same time be available to serve as a test bed for the demonstration of new technologies and methods for mines rescue.
In this project the NUMBAT has been maintained in a ready condition, and has been involved in exercises such as the jet engine underground inertisation trial at Collinsville No 2 mine, and in a response to an underground incident at Stawell Gold Mines. These successful activities are described in the report.
During the life of the project the NUMBAT has been enhanced to enable operation in hazardous environments by implementation of an updated gas analysis system and development of a control system which enables the vehicle to automatically react safely to sudden, potentially hazardous changes in underground gas concentrations. The new computer, control and communications systems greatly facilitate software and hardware maintenance and enable reconfiguration of the vehicle and operating parameters during a mission to cope with unforeseen circumstances. A risk review was conducted to identify controls required over the storage, transport and deployment of the NUMBAT. These controls have been implemented in the project. The operating range of the vehicle has been extended to 10km and an upgraded communications system now supports the transmission of four colour video channels.
The project has been concerned with through-smoke navigation systems. It has been shown that the most effective and economical system is based on the thermal camera although this device is limited in underground applications. Experiments have shown that navigation using other than conventional visioning systems is feasible if appropriate sensors are developed.
The project also involved the use of the NUMBAT as a platform for the development of technologies to transfer to new types of rescue vehicles. One such vehicle is the Rescue Emergency Vehicle (REV), a large-scale vehicle designed to carry rescuers and victims and operate in hazardous environments and irrespirable atmospheres. The REV is currently in the early development stage. The communications, control and gas sensing systems have been modularized for convenient installation in REV-type vehicles.
Ongoing work is of course also required in order to maintain the NUMBAT in operational readiness in its proven unique information-gathering role as a resource of Mines Rescue services.