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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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New website!

Ever since the beginning of UNEXUP – in January 2020 – the main source of information about the project was the UNEXUP web page within the Horizon 2020 UNEXMIN website, the “predecessor” of UNEXUP – funded by EIT RawMaterials. This web page and its sub-pages were created with the purpose of raising awareness about the upscaling relationship between the projects, and to cover specific information regarding UNEXUP details.

This is how the UNEXUP information used to be displayed within the UNEXMIN website:

Now UNEXUP has taken a further step, and it has developed its own website (https://unexup.eu/). This web address is the current main source of information about the project, and it covers everything that used to be present in the predecessor’s website, with additional information and new functions for the visitors to have a positive experience when navigating. It has a simple menu, with pages and sub-pages organized by correlated subjects, and a footer with additional topics about the project, such as the social media icons, twitter feed and EIT RawMaterials funding information.

Visitors are welcome to learn about the project by browsing through the pages, downloading dissemination material, reading the “News” section, understanding the developments in the UX robotic platform, watching videos of the pilot tests (whenever ready), and more.

In addition, visitors are able to get in contact with the project representatives by filling the simple contact form under the CONTACT US page. The UNEXUP consortium is looking forward to keeping in touch with you!

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UNEXUP at EGU2020: Sharing Geoscience Online

From 4 to 8 May 2020 the geoscience community had the opportunity to participate in the EGU2020: Sharing Geoscience Online (#shareEGU20). This event was the alternative solution in response to the current COVID-19 lockdown measures, which lead to the cancellation of many events and, among these, the EGU General Assembly 2020, usually held in Vienna, Austria.

On 8th of May 2020 the UNEXUP project was introduced in the EGU Online chat, under the session “ERE5.4: State-of-the-art in mineral exploration”. This session aimed to bring together geoscientists involved in mineral exploration for the 21st Century. The projects presented in this section covered various topics, such as new methods of exploration; imaging; conceptual modelling and quantification of deposits and mineral systems; cost reduction in exploration; non-invasive exploration; integration of multidisciplinary methodologies and datasets; scale-up and replicability; industry-academia synergies and FAIR data repositories.

After uploading the abstract and the presentation on the platform in advance, the presenters had seven minutes to make a brief introduction of the project in an online live chat, followed by questions and discussions between the participants of the chat.

The UNEXUP project raised interest from individuals who wanted to learn more about the current technology involved in UX-1. Questions about the geophysical methods, multispectral imaging, as well as the navigational system demonstrate that the UNEXUP technology can be an innovative and game-changing solution for sustainable mining in the future.

The “ERE5.4: State-of-the-art in mineral exploration” session counted with 16 presentations, and a total of 66 active participants in the online chat. The UNEXUP presentation and abstract are going to be available until the 31st of May, therefore interested individuals are still very welcome to write comments, ask questions, and learn more about the project.

 

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UNEXUP e-meeting on “risk mitigation measures”

On April 22nd the UNEXUP consortium had an e-meeting in order to discuss the current situation of the project’s activities, mainly regarding the risk mitigation measures due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing and travel restrictions made the UNEXUP partners think about alternatives and adjustments in the workplan for the time being.

Two distinct scenarios were considered, in terms of quarantine restrictions: mild and severe. The consortium developed different strategies for both situations, in order to maintain the line of work based on the pre-established timeline. The strategies were focused on the main milestones to be reached by the UNEXUP team this year.

The main outputs for 2020 are the upscaling version of UX-1, with improvements in the software, hardware and capabilities of the robotic system; and the first pilot test, in order to test the robot’s performance under real-life conditions. The envisaged pilot test will be the first opportunity to demonstrate how the UNEXUP technology performs, and how it can add value to projects related to underwater surveying/mine mapping.

Because of the COVID-19 situation, the project partners will meet online regularly in order to align the workplan based on the current scenario, and prepare the next steps accordingly.

Stay home, stay safe!

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Technical Requirements of UNEXUP

As described in the “UNEXUP Objectives” page, the consortium aims to make further improvements in the current UX-1 multi-robotic platform, in order to upscale its hardware, software and capabilities. These envisaged improvements come from dialogue and discussions with stakeholders from the predecessor project – UNEXMIN, which enabled the consortium to understand what is expected and needed by the mining companies and other potential clients of the mine mapping/exploration service for flooded environments.

Therefore, the upscaling of UX-1 will be market oriented, and not only addressed to raising scientific interest. This concept is the core difference between the H2020 UNEXMIN project, and the current UNEXUP – funded by EIT RawMaterials. UNEXMIN was a research project whose purpose was to develop and test a multi-robotic system to survey underwater environments; UNEXUP is an upscaling project, with the purpose of bringing commercial interest to the technology, while improving it based on market requirements and expectations from future customers.

The new UX-1, to be developed and tested this year will address the limitations detected in the current robot during UNEXMIN field missions. In addition, software and hardware improvements, such as greater depth capacity, more endurance, replaceable batteries, vehicle positioning and better navigation and geoscientific instruments will enhance the robots’ capabilities to conduct raw materials exploration/mine mapping missions in a safer and more reliable way, under more challenging environments.

In addition, the technology developers of UNEXUP will build an additional robot to be added to the UNEXUP robotic system. This robot is planned to be ready in the second project year – 2021 – and will open new exploration possibilities for the mining community. It will be a heavier vehicle, with greater depth capacity and scientific payload, which will be defined and tested at later stages of the project.

 

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