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Workshop online: “New Challenges in the Mineral Raw Materials Industry: Safety, Digitalisation, Technology & Innovation”

On Thursday, 12 November 2020, the Cluster Portugal Mineral Resources and the Centre for Robotics and Autonomous Systems – INESC TEC, with the support of EIT RAW MATERIALS & TEC4SEA, organized an online Workshop entitled “New Challenges in the Mineral Raw Materials Industry: Safety, Digitalisation, Technology & Innovation”. This event was held within the framework of the Raw Materials Week 2020, with the purpose of emphasizing the importance of the mineral raw materials in our everyday lives, and to discuss the strategies to be pursued to guarantee a constant supply of raw materials in Europe.

Several projects were presented, with a focus on digitalisation in mining, smart solutions, mineral processing, and others. The event was divided in two main Sessions, and the participants included stakeholders of the mining industry, company representatives, SMEs, start-ups, universities, research institutions, experts, and other players of the sector.

In this opportunity, Norbert Zajzon – project coordinator of UNEXUP – was invited to talk about the project in the first Session of the event, as one of the ongoing EIT RawMaterials projects. The presentation covered overall information about the project, its relationship with the precedent UNEXMIN (funded under the Horizon 2020 programme), the objectives, developments of the robotic platform, and the expected achievements within the next years of implementation. In addition, Norbert introduced the 26-minute UNEXMIN documentary that was released earlier this year, which shows the background and concept of UNEXUP as well. 

A total of 78 participants were watching the presentation and learned more about the latest updates on the project.

For those who are interested in contacting the UNEXUP consortium, leave us a message by filling the contact form, and follow us on social media!

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Consortium meeting, towards the final steps of 2020!

Last week, on 28th October 2020, the UNEXUP consortium had an e-meeting to discuss the work plan for the final months of 2020. The main topics included the advancements in the development of the new robot, as well as field missions and the production of the first UNEXUP movies. In addition, the partners briefly discussed the initial steps for January 2021.

The main topic of discussion was the field trials with the UX-robot for this year. Due to the travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the consortium had to rearrange the schedule of such trials. Constraints related to logistics of shipping the robot, equipment and operators to the sites made the consortium come up with feasible alternatives to the original plan. Some pilots were moved to 2021, while others were fit in 2020’s possibilities.

In the upcoming months, the next UX robot will be ready to be tested in INESC TEC facilities. After the calibration tests in the lab’s tank, the robot will be able to perform its first field trials in natural underwater structures. These missions will demonstrate the capabilities of the robot in real-life environments, which will be filmed and documented by a dedicated professional team.

Illustration of the “Call for Pilots” campaign, implemented on UNEXUP social media channels.

The field trials’ movies will be a commercial showcase of how the upgraded software, hardware and functionalities of the robot will add value to mining companies, Geological Surveys and other industries that can benefit from the technology. The official repository platform for such movies will be the UNEXUP YouTube channel.

Stay tuned by following us on social media!

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UNEXUP participation at the EIT RawMaterials Summit 2020!

The EIT RawMaterials Summit was held online on 29 – 30 September 2020, in which more than 140 experts and over 700 participants had the opportunity to share insights, knowledge and future plans on the supply and use of sustainable raw materials in the EU. Despite the adaptations related to the current global pandemic, the two-days event was a successful opportunity to connect experts and the public interested in innovation, new possibilities, and best practices within the raw materials sector.

The first day was dedicated to talks under the #INNOVATIONTRACK topic, which covered subjects related to digitalization in exploration and mining, resilient battery materials supply chains, as well as circular economy: policies and innovation. In addition, EC/DG Grow  launched the European Raw Materials Alliance, which aims at strengthening industrial ecosystems in Europe, with a focus on rare earths and permanent magnets. Afterwards, there were discussions between stakeholders on the topic, which wrapped-up the Day 1 of the event.

The second day covered additional and fruitful talks on the future of the sector on innovation, education, and venture. In this opportunity, the project coordinator of UNEXUP – Norbert Zajzon (University of Miskolc) – was invited to present the project at the EASME section: H2020 – Innovations and innovators along the raw materials value chain. Norbert presented both UNEXUP and the predecessor project – UNEXMIN – in a streamed presentation to hundreds of attendees, who could learn more about the pre-existing robotic technology, as well as the upcoming improvements, field trials and commercialization of the robot-based exploration service for flooded environments.

Events such as the EIT RawMaterials Summit substantially contribute to the sector, since the demand for critical raw materials for green technologies will increase in the upcoming years and decades in Europe, in order to meet the ambitious Green Deal goals by 2050. Therefore, projects that address new exploration and extraction methods have been strongly encouraged.

The participation of UNEXUP in the event demonstrates that the innovative robotic technology to survey flooded mines will add value to the mining sector, by allowing the geoscientific and spatial evaluation of currently inaccessible sites without human risks or major costs.

Stay tuned!

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UGR’s ROV Training Program

Would you like to learn how to drive an underwater ROV in flooded mines or caves?

If so, then get involved with the UNEXMIN GeoRobotics’ (UGR) training program. The program is in its development stage and UGR offers a unique opportunity to participate in this exciting new adventure. The UNEXUP consortium members have the skills to operate underwater vehicles in the most difficult of flooded environments. Through UGR we would like to share our experience with valued customers through an ROV training program that will ultimately see you controlling the advanced underwater vehicles being developed in UNEXUP!

The rough outline of the training program has already been developed and will be rolled out in 2021. The program contains:

  1. Theory part: How ROVs are built, the general components, potential difficult situations that can be encountered, types of navigation systems and more.
  2. Simulator training: For operators to get familiar with the controls and data feedback, as in-house practice.
  3. Real-life training: This last part of the training will involve different ROVs in increasingly difficult environments such as a pool, open water, and tunnel, shaft or cave.

In order to cover – and exceed – the expectations from future operators that are interested in the Training Program, UGR would like to receive input and comments from you. What would you like to do and experience during the training?

If you are interested in this program, please get in touch with UGR now: info@unexmin-georobotics.com. Feel free to ask questions, provide suggestions or comments regarding your interests in the upcoming ROV Training Program.

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Promoting UNEXUP at the Mineral Exploration Symposium 2020!

The 2020 edition of the Mineral Exploration Symposium was a two-day virtual event (17-18 September) organized by the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE). Despite the fact that it was an online event, it was still a great opportunity for many researchers and the mining community to present and discuss the current state of projects and initiatives that intend to address a continuous supply of critical raw materials to the EU.

The first day was a clustering event, which started with an introductory section lead by members of the European Commission. Marcin Sadowski – EASME – opened the event with welcome words and remarks. After that, Gerardo Herrera – DG Grow – presented an introduction to the EU challenges on mineral exploration and its importance for the society, in which the UNEXMIN project – predecessor of UNEXUP – was mentioned among the past EU-funded projects (see figure). Finally, the last words of this section were from Jonas Hedberg – EASME – regarding “Mineral exploration in the Horizon programme”.

The following sessions consisted of interesting presentations about various themes, each followed by an interactive Q&A session.
• Session 1: Societal challenge 5 – Raw Materials
• Session 2: ERA-NET Cofund on Raw Materials (ERA-MIN 2)
• Session 3: European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Raw Materials
• Session 4: European Geological Surveys Research Area (GeoERA) – Raw Materials
In this opportunity, the UNEXUP project was presented under Session 3 – European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Raw Materials. The presentation covered overall details about the project, its background, relationship with H2020 UNEXMIN, UX line of robots, field trials, and the commercialization of the robotic technology. The talk raised interest from participants of the event, who asked questions about the current state of the market analysis, future customers’ perception about the project, as well as how UNEXUP will contribute to the reassessment and reopening of abandoned mines in the EU.

The wrap-up section was led by Véronique Woulé Ebongué – EASME, European Commission – who provided an overview of the presented projects and fruitful discussions of the first day of the Mineral Exploration Symposium 2020 virtual event, which counted with a maximum number of 200 worldwide attendees.

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UNEXUP at GeoUtrecht 2020

UNEXUP was present at the GeoUtrecht 2020 event, which was held last week – from 24th to 26th of August – as an interactive virtual conference. Among the activities, there were virtual field trips, an ice-breaker party, plenary and individual sessions, events, an exhibition hall and the conference closing event. The programme was divided in four main Sections, in order to cover several topics that are relevant for the Geosciences community that attended the event:

  1. Earth and Humankind
  2. Earth Evolution
  3. Deep Earth
  4. Data infrastructure, education and open topics in the Earth System.

The UNEXUP presentation on Tuesday (25/08), under the session 1.4-2 Raw Materials and their societal relevance for Europe, in which the attendees learned about the background of the project, its objectives, developments, future robots, pilot tests, and commercialization of the robot-based exploration technology for flooded mines. The project raised interest from participants and moderators, who asked questions about the next field missions and the developments in UX-1 NEO that will address the limitations found in the former UX-1. There were also comparisons between UNEXUP and the Robominers project, which is another unique and innovative EU project that also addresses the exploration of raw materials from currently inaccessible mine sites in the EU.

GeoUtrecht 2020 was a successful event in which there were more than 620 conference participants, 141 of which were students. Fruitful discussions and presentations about the various topics demonstrated a high level of engagement within the virtual environment of the conference. The next year’s edition will be held in Karlsruhe (Germany), in September 2021!

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1st Progress Meeting

On Thursday (23/07) and Friday (24/07) of last week the UNEXUP consortium met online for the First Progress Meeting, supposed to happen in person, in Porto (Portugal), but due to the COVID-19 situation it had to be held online. On Thursday the work package leaders presented their current work and next steps for 2020 and after; while on Friday there were further discussions and plan of actions for the future.

The first day started with a presentation from the Project Coordinator Norbert Zajzon (WP3), which covered overall information about UNEXUP, the current state of the project, as well as future plans. After that, the other Work Package leaders – WP0, WP1, WP2 and WP4 – discussed about their current status:

Work Package 0: Market strategy and business development portfolio

UGR (UNEXMIN GeoRobotics Ltd.) presented the current state of the Go-to-Market strategy and business plan for the UNEXUP technology. Discussions on the branding, future services, test markets, competitors and marketing tools provided a broad understanding of how the commercialization of the underwater exploration service will be provided to the future clients of the company.

Work Package 1: Technology upscaling and development

The INESC TEC team, together with TAU (Tampere University), UNIM (University of Miskolc), UPM (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid) and RCI 4dcoders, presented the current state of the robotic technology and instrumentation. INESC TEC talked about the navigational instrumentation, autonomy, testing of components under environmental extremes, as well as the new design of the UX-1 NEO. In addition, an introduction of some of the developments that will be implemented in UX-2, the second generation of robots within UNEXUP, was also presented.

The partners from UNIM showcased the geoscientific instruments that are being developed to extend the UX robots’ functionalities; Tampere University led discussions about the development of other tools, such as the robotic arm; the UPM team presented the current state of the software development, and the improvements in guidance and navigation; and finally, the RCI 4dcoders talked about data post-processing software, as well as solutions for the UX-1 NEO thrusters.

Work Package 2: Pilots

UNEXMIN GeoRobotics Ltd. is also the partner responsible for the pilots within UNEXUP. The UGR team presented the current state of the sites selection, mission planning and potential contacts that are being made in order to test the robot under real-life environments. The objective is to conduct these missions in a real service-to-client approach, and to demonstrate the UNEXUP technology capabilities under industrial conditions.

Work Package 4: Communication, dissemination and outreach

La Palma Research Centre (LPRC) is the partner responsible for the communication and dissemination of the projects’ activities. The LPRC team talked about past and current dissemination efforts and outreach material (website, social media channels, publications, events and others); as well as the dissemination plan for the next months of UNEXUP.

The second day (24/07) was dedicated to internal discussions and decision-making regarding key topics, as well as future plans for the upcoming months. The meeting started with a talk, led by RCI 4dcoders, about the sensors that will be needed for the improvements in the robotic technology, in which a “shopping list” was created for the future. After that, UGR led further discussions about the pilot selection, based on feasibility, relevance and financial criteria. The UNIM team presented some potential candidates for the pilot sites, and led the discussions about the required field equipment, risk assessment and logistics, in order to perform the pilot mission successfully and safely. The last block of discussions was dedicated to data post processing for the generation of valuable geoscientific data from the missions.

After two days of fruitful discussions and updates, the consortium is ready to start the second semester of 2020 with further developments, calibration, tests, and promotion of the UNEXUP robotic technology-

Hopefully in the near future you will be able to meet the UNEXUP consortium in person at events and conferences from the raw materials and robotics sectors.

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UNEXUP at IN THE BLACK’20 Online Workshop

Today, on 2 July 2020, the UNEXUP coordinator – Norbert Zajzon – presented the project at the IN THE BLACK’20 Online workshop- The Safety of People and the Planet through the Application of Technology, under the SESSION II [“Raw” Projects in Sustainable Discovery and Innovation]. The event was organized by INESC TEC (UNEXUP partner), EIT RawMaterials and TEC4SEA.

The event started with an opening session, introduced by Stef Kapusniak, who mentioned the importance of eliminating the safety and environmental risks in mining in order to gain social acceptance on it.

The SESSION I was about the application of technology in mining, in which Bramley Murton – from the National Oceanography Centre, who mentioned the importance of deep sea mining. Following, Gary Van Eck – Diamond FutureSmart Studies, De Beers Group – presented about the importance of the technology in mining safety and management of risks. The first session was concluded by Marc Lincoln – Project Management Technology De Beers Group, who presented about the application of technology in mining, processing, energy and logistics.

The UNEXUP presentation opened SESSION II of the event. In this opportunity, Norbert Zajzon covered various topics about the project, such as overall details, funding, consortium partners, background, objectives, and expected results of UNEXUP, and the planned evolution of the UX-1 robotic platform. The Project Coordinator showed the new UX-1 NEO, which will be ready in the second semester of 2020, with the new software, hardware and scientific payload that will be included. In addition, he mentioned the importance of the pilot tests, which will be performed to calibrate, test and validate the technology under challenging underwater environments, in a “real service-to-client” commercial approach. Norbert closed the presentation talking about the Go-To-Market strategy, which will be led by the company UNEXMIN GeoRobotics Ltd. – the future provider of the exploration service for flooded mines. After the presentation, a round of questions about the navigation system and autonomy concluded the participation of UNEXUP in the online workshop. SESSION II was concluded by Pedro Jorge – INESC TEC – who talked about Applied Photonics (CAP) by introducing the inSITE project, which is an EIT RawMaterials project is going to perform in situ ore grading system using LIBS in harsh environments.

After the presentations, there was a closing session with final words. The IN THE BLACK’20 online workshop was a great opportunity for the UNEXUP technology to be promoted to a total of 71 participants, from the mining sector and other stakeholders’ categories.

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UNEXUP and Pipebots joint webinar

Last Thursday, on June 18th 2020, the UNEXUP consortium participated in a joint webinar with the Pipebots team. The talk covered various topics of both UNEXUP and the predecessor project UNEXMIN. During the two-hour talk, there were three presentations, followed by a “Questions and Answers” section at the end of the webinar.

The first presenter was the project coordinator of UNEXUP – Norbert Zajzon, who talked about his experiences in coordination of the projects, as well as about IPR (Intellectual property Rights) regarding the development of a joint technology. Norbert mentioned his criteria when selecting the team pillars – technology development, stakeholders and technology exploitation – that comprise the consortium partners, and emphasized the commitment of the consortium towards the successful outcome of the UNEXMIN project (2016-2019).

After that, Alfredo Martins, from the partner INESC TEC (technology development), showed the transition between the UX-1 robotic platform from UNEXMIN to the new prototype within UNEXUP. Alfredo mentioned some of the lessons learned from the UNEXMIN field trials, as well as some new functionalities and instruments that will be added to address the pre-identified issues, in order to improve the robot’s performance and reliability under the upcoming challenging environments where the surveying missions will take place in the near future.

Finally, the partners Ramón Suarez and Zorana Milošević, from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM), presented about the guidance, navigation and control of the underwater robotic explorer UX-1. The presentations covered the software and hardware programming and testing, in order to improve the navigational and perception systems of the robotic platform.

There were 37 participants in the joint webinar, which was a great opportunity for the UNEXUP consortium to discuss about overall details of UNEXMIN and UNEXUP, as well as to share experiences with the competent team of Pipebots about the technology that is involved in the UX-1 based robotic system.

Is this a path for future collaboration?

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Follow-up consortium e-meeting

Since the second week of March 2020, when travel and social restrictions started to be implemented in Europe due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UNEXUP consortium has carried on the work and follow-up meetings online.

Last week, on 5 June 2020, the project partners had an e-meeting to discuss past, current, and upcoming activities of the project. The main topics covered the workflow despite the ongoing restrictions, the development of the new UX-1 robot, pilot tests, future events, as well as management-related subjects.

Fortunately, the supply chain situation for the new UX-1 robot is optimistic, as commercial activities are progressively returning to normal in Europe. Therefore, the initial plan of delivering the robot in the second semester is a reality for the consortium. Based on that, the UNEXUP partners discussed the potential test sites for 2020, in order to test the new robots’ capabilities under real-life, industrial, conditions. For that, the “CALL FOR PILOTS!” campaign has started:

Contact us if you have a challenging case study where we can demonstrate the capabilities of our robot!

In addition, overall management activities were discussed, regarding deadlines, future online events, as well as the next progress meeting date. Stay updated on our website and social media channels and learn more about UNEXUP past and upcoming steps!

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