High Access Localised Operations (HALO)

Research partner
University of Technology Sydney

Total Project Value (AUD)

IMCRC Funding (AUD)

Start date

1 year

Ausdrill is a leading Australian provider of drilling project management services. Its offering encompasses everything from exploration to geotechnical operations. This includes scaling the walls of open pit and underground mines to remove loose or unstable rock, a dangerous and demanding task currently performed by specialist abseilers.

In 2020, Ausdrill partnered with experts at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to explore the concept of a robotic system that could take the place of abseilers and improve the efficiency and safety of its rock scaling service.

A year later, with the support of IMCRC, the project team took the next step and harnessed robotic and virtual reality (VR) technologies to develop a proof-of concept prototype capable of scaling rock in a range of mining environments.

“We started the project with an early-stage, rudimentary prototype and ended it with an intuitive robot boasting a custom-built arm and VR assisted controls,” said Dr Gavin Paul, Senior Lecturer and Researcher at UTS’ School of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering.

“We’ve successfully demonstrated the technology across three different test sites and are now seeking additional funding to support a larger scale developed prototype.”

“Working with IMCRC gave UTS the opportunity to build a bigger, better project team including students with different skillsets who helped us explore new avenues of research. And IMCRC’s support, coupled with the program’s industry focus, strengthened the ties between UTS and Ausdrill and facilitated an open and trusting relationship.”

For Gavin, another key benefit of the project was the experience his students gained working directly with industry to solve a real-world challenge.

“My students now have an engineering project they can reference as a useful outlet for their research, something that’s incredibly important as they start to look for employment,” he said.

Raegan Rumbold, Geotechnical Area Manager at Ausdrill, who has led the project, is excited to start working with the prototype in the field.

“We are eager to mobilise the prototype into a live mining environment to conduct the trial and highlight and improvements going forward. The removal of personnel from harm’s way is the ultimate goal and I think we are on the right track with this project”, he said.

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The hard rock mining environment poses many challenges in regards to safe systems of work. The introduction of an automated rockwall scaling robot is a game changer for the protection of our people and is in line with our company principals of “Smarter Together” and “Enabling Tomorrow”.

Reagan Rumbold
Geotechnical Area Manager, Ausdrill