Unique robotic dog serving faithfully at LKAB

October 21, 2020
The robotic dog Spot
Robotic dog Spot is trained in LKAB’s mining environment. Photo: Boston Dynamics

Robotic dog Spot® has begun work at LKAB within the SUM project and is now being trained intensively for underground tasks. Spot is an innovative step towards an even safer LKAB.  "Spot gives us greater possibilities for inspecting damaged areas of the mine safely and efficiently," says Nikolaos Petropoulos, senior research engineer in the department of Technology and Process Development at LKAB in Kiruna.  

Boston Dynamics, an American robotics company, is behind the technology now being tested in a mining environment at LKAB. Spot®, whose body and motions resemble those of a dog, moves dynamically and with remarkable agility over the surface of the ground. Spot is also able to judge distance, climb and move through a challenging environment, thanks to the many sensors installed in its body. In addition, Spot is equipped with an advanced 360-degree camera, scanner and other sensors. 

“The robot is easily manoeuvred, has battery capacity for 90 minutes of runtime, and can use it’s vision system to recognize terrain and adapt to different environments,” explains Nikolaos Petropoulos.

For LKAB, Spot represents a great leap forward in terms of engineering and development, but this new technology is above all a step in the right direction towards a safer LKAB. Spot can enter difficult-to-access and confined areas on its own. One of many applications is to use Spot to investigate the outcome of the previous night’s blasting – something that is not physically possible until blasting gases have been evacuated.

“The robot also gives us greater possibilities for studying damaged areas of the mine safely”, says Nikolaos Petropoulos.  

Spot is a vital part of the SUM project – a unique joint project in which LKAB, ABB, Combitech, Epiroc and Sandvik are collaborating to set a new world standard for mining at great depth. 

“The future of mining starts today!” says Nikolaos Petropoulos.   

On Friday September 25th Spot began underground training in preparation for investigating the area of the Kiruna mine that was damaged as a result of the seismic event of May 18th. In other words, Spot is breaking new ground at LKAB.