(Photo by Sebastian Thrun, Carnegie Mellon University)

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have delivered on a pledge to fast-track a robotic mine mapping tool (ENR 9/16 p. 50). They recently sent a 1,600-lb robot named 'Groundhog" into a mine closed since the 1920s and displayed its data collection live to several hundred observers at a conference on mine mapping 155 miles away.

The 4-wheeled device used laser scanners to map what it found on a 100-ft trial excursion. "It was in muck that was over the tires. It wasn't swimming, but it was digging through some pretty nasty stuff," says Warren Whittaker, a consultant on the project.

The machine went in alone, collected data and extracted itself without aid from a standby rescue-tether. The data was processed live and transmitted to the symposium in Charleston, W. Va., Oct. 29.

Other technologies attracting particular attention were advances in seismic wave analysis and the use of directional, "long hole" horizontal drilling to explore conditions hundreds, even thousands of feet ahead of human miners.

Ray McKinney, administrator of the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration's Coal Division, says the robotics were "pretty interesting," and the accuracy of directional drilling technology was surprising. "I keep getting calls from people wanting more information," he says. Proceedings should be posted at www.msha.gov this week.