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WVU Engineers Utilize Robots to Improve Mine Safety


Injuries and deaths caused by roof collapses and falling debris are common culprits for underground mine accidents.

The Solution

WVU Engineers are developing an autonomous robotic system to monitor the structural integrity and safety of underground mines to help prevent miners' injuries or deaths from roof collapses and falling debris.

Berk Tulu, assistant professor of mining engineering, studies a map with personnel from Laurel Aggregates, a large surface and underground limestone quarry near Morgantown. (Left to Right) Barry Fink, Tulu, Brian Cramer, Richard RohrssenIhsan Berk Tulu, assistant professor of mining engineering, along with Jason Gross, Yu Guand Guilherme Pereira, from the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering, are developing an autonomous robotic system to monitor the structural integrity and safety of underground mines. 

According to Tulu, in underground mines in the United States, “fall of ground”-related accidents are one of the leading causes of injuries. This occurs when part of the roof or a pillar collapse. Although underground stone mines have generally experienced good ground stability, a recent mine pillar collapse in Whitney, Pennsylvania and reported roof fall accidents in other mines highlight the potential safety impact on the miners.

By using a combination of remote vehicles that consist of an unmanned aerial vehicle attached to an unmanned ground vehicle, the team will provide high-resolution 3D maps for assessment of pillar and roof damage. These maps will be used to monitor the structural integrity of the mine pillars to enable an early detection of potentially dangerous conditions that could lead to a mine collapse.   

To date, the team has designed the system, have started sensor integration, and have been testing various software components in our labs and within a relevant simulation environment.   

“The ultimate goal of this research is to improve the safety of mine workers in regional mining operations in Appalachia, the U.S. and around the world. Therefore, this research will serve WVU’s mission as a land-grand institution by improving the safety of West Virginia and the U.S. residents who are working in the underground coal mining industry.” — Berk Tulu


LaModel boundary element software, with its’ new stone pillar wizard, has the potential to allow underground stone mine operators to identify zones of pillar and roof fall hazards. By overlying geological structure maps that are generated from high-resolution 3D maps constructed from autonomous robotic system scans, the ultimate goal is to identify and reinforce compromised pillars to improve miner safety.

Learn More About This Project

Contact Berk Tulu or Jason Gross for more information.