Due to their unique geographical conditions, mines often contend with strong winds, extreme temperatures, and dusty working conditions. Mining companies also face problems such as difficulty recruiting workers, frequent accidents, high costs, and low efficiency. Advancements in autonomous driving technology have accelerated the development of smart mining and Boonray Technology is one of the first companies to enter this field.
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The direct and indirect financial losses caused by mining accidents and other occupational hazards in China are estimated to be 25 billion yuan per year. At the intelligent mining sites that Boonray has built, the maximum production capacity per shift has reached 2500 tons in the trial operation stage, with an average daily production of 3000 tons. The depth of excavation reached by remote-controlled shovels has exceeded manual operations, not only reducing the number of personnel needed on-site, but also improving overall safety.
To meet the safety, efficiency, and environmental protection standards of open-pit mining, Boonray Technology has developed a complete intelligent solution named “Boonray Multi-Transportation” to reconstruct mining areas. “Boonray Multi-Transportation” has already been implemented at multiple sites, including in Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Sichuan, and Shanxi, covering mines of different materials such as coal, nonferrous metals, ferrous metals, and limestone.
In 2018, “Boonray Multi-Transportation” was first implemented for the Luoyang Molybdenum project. Over the next two years, Boonray continuously improved the autonomous mining project in Sandaozhuang mining area, helping it become the largest autonomous mining project at a single mine in China. Thus far, Boonray has reconfigured nearly 30 electric mining trucks with autonomous driving technology, completing more than 300 days of unmanned transportation and 60,000 trips without accidents.
The partnership with Luoyang Molybdenum has opened up opportunities for Boonray to enter the field of autonomous mining. Mines are enclosed areas, with vehicles operating at low speed along limited routes; this makes mines an ideal scenario to incorporate autonomous driving technology. Boonray plans to have 100 electrical mining trucks in 10 mines by the end of 2022.
Innovative Technology Tailored to Smart Mining Solutions
The rugged roads and complex production environment of mines act as a testing ground for autonomous driving technology. Relying on accumulated experience, Boonray has continued to develop smart logistics, building full-stack smart mining solutions. Currently, the company has nearly 100 patents, over 50 of which are invention patents , and 10 projects. Their autonomous trucks have driven over 958,000 kilometers, and Boonray’s market share ranks among the top three in the country.
Boonray’s full-stack solution has three unique advantages. First, Boonray’s iDrive autonomous driving system is purpose-built to meet the specific demands and characteristics of mines. Compared with general-purpose algorithm platforms, Boonray considers the impact of dust on the perception ability of autonomous mining trucks, as well as the needs of both ends of the mining vehicle. It is therefore an optimized solution for mining.
Second, Boonray is the first enterprise in China to use both manned and unmanned vehicle fleets within the same mining area. Its flexible vehicle dispatching system can dispatch and manage autonomous mining trucks, excavators, and other auxiliary equipment connected to the platform. The system also supports individual or mixed operation of manned and unmanned fleets through proprietary HMI equipment, allowing it to address dispatching difficulties due to the wide operation range of the mining area, frequent work location changes, and the rapid change of equipment status.
Finally, Boonray has independently developed a proprietary linear control system to contend with the complexity of autonomous driving in mining areas. The system realizes accurate digital control and has multiple redundancies built in to ensure the functional safety of mining trucks. Boonray is one of the few enterprises in the field to have developed proprietary linear control technology.
“Intelligent” Mining Trucks Made Possible with Accurate Perception
Boonray’s autonomous mining trucks are equipped with an accurate and reliable autonomous driving perception system, providing “eyes” for mining trucks to sense their external environment.
The working environment of the mines is unpredictable: a variety of conditions such as dust, fog, rain, snow, and extremely low temperature is common. The roads are unpaved and rugged with gravel. These all present a greater challenge for lidar, placing higher demands on quality and reliability.
Boonray’s autonomous mining trucks are equipped with Hesai Technology’s XT32 and QT64 sensors, enabling its iDrive system to achieve multi-sensor fusion perception. According to Yang Yang, CTO of Boonray, “Hesai’s lidar suite can withstand frigid temperatures of -40°C and the vibrations of heavy mining trucks. Its multiple returns technology can filter dust well. In addition to its products meeting the performance requirements of mining, Hesai’s after-sales service is fantastic.”
Hesai’s XT series is a highly cost-effective 360° mid-range mechanical lidar, featuring high precision and zero blind range. Compared to typical mid-range lidars, Hesai’s XT has a higher laser channel count of 32 channels, effectively doubling the resolution. It has a 120-meter detection range, enabling Boonray’s mining trucks to detect and avoid obstacles. Furthermore, through innovations of the optical transmit-receive module, the XT series has greatly reduced blind range. Objects can be effectively detected even if they directly touch the sensor’s enclosure. This true “zero blind range” adds another layer of safety redundancy for mining trucks.
XT series is equipped with Hesai’s proprietary lidar chips. The chips greatly reduce the lidar’s cost and simplify production complexity while enhancing performance and reliability. Hesai’s XT sensor has passed dozens of reliability tests and has a designed lifetime of over 30,000 hours under typical working conditions. XT32 has greatly enhanced the perception capability of Boonray’s mining trucks.
Blind spots around the vehicle can lead to collisions and serious accidents. As a lidar designed for blind spot detection, QT series plays an important role for the safe operation of autonomous mining trucks. Hesai’s QT has an ultra-wide field of view (FOV), with a vertical FOV of 104.2° (-52.1° to +52.1°) while maintaining a horizontal FOV of 360°. This covers most close range blind spots. QT series also has a high laser channel count and optimized resolution. QT64 features 1.45° vertical resolution and 0.6° horizontal resolution and has a minimum detection range of 0.1 m, allowing it to accurately perceive objects at close range.
In terms of product quality, the QT series has not only passed strict factory performance tests but also a series of reliability tests such as vibration, drop, temperature, humidity, aging, and electrical. This means that Hesai’s QT can empower Boonray’s mining trucks in a variety of harsh working conditions.
The quality assurance of Hesai lidar is a key reason why the sensors were selected for Boonray’s trucks. As Yang Yang noted, “We look forward to working with Hesai to empower the transformation of mines and mining technology of the future.”