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Portugal developed a robot to explore flooded underground mines - report

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(Kitco News) - According to the Macau News Agency (MNA), the Institute for Systems Engineering and Computers, Technology and Science (INESC TEC) of Portugal has developed a robot for the exploration of flooded underground mines with the ability to navigate autonomously for eight hours.

According to MNA, the Porto-based institute announced plans to test the robot, called "UX-1NEO", this week at the old Urgeiriça uranium mine, located in Nelas (Viseu district), Portugal.

MNA noted that these are the first tests of the robot developed in Porto, under the European project UNEXUP, which has the capacity to navigate autonomously for eight hours at a depth of up to a thousand meters.

"The new exploration robot has improved "hardware" and "software", for better performance in terms of range and depth, as well as data acquisition, management and processing," the developers said.

INESC TEC researcher Alfredo Martins added that this is "one of the most advanced underwater robots in the world", as it integrates a new modular architecture, "high operationality" and a "wide range of sensors". The robot"s new capabilities "confer more reliability and safety to exploration missions, with lower costs", said Martins.

The robot, whose volume is close to that of a 70-centimetre diameter sphere, includes six cameras, three-dimensional (3D) sensor systems based on "laser" and acoustic mapping and image sensors.

This autonomous underwater equipment allows the exploration of sunken mines up to a thousand metres deep and obtains "relevant" information such as the structural state, allowing to know if there have been cave-ins or other problems.

According to the report, it also collects important geological information to "determine the existence of mineral resources of economic interest, which would otherwise be more difficult and dangerous to obtain or would have higher costs".

Currently in Europe there are about 30,000 closed mines, some of which are flooded, but which still contain important and exploitable mineral resources, MNA explained.

"This project will allow the introduction in the European market of a robot capable of producing geological, mineralogical and spatial information in the safest possible way, from flooded mines and other confined underwater environments", INESC TEC highlights.

Besides the Porto institute, the project has as partners the University of Miskolc and UNEXMIN GeoRobotics (Hungary), La Palma Research Center and the Polytechnic University of Madrid (Spain), Resources Computing International Ltd (United Kingdom), the University of Tampere (Finland) and the Geological Survey of Slovenia.

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