The Underground mine LoRa (long-range) network project has been successfully launched. Dr. Binghao Li from the School of Minerals and Energy Resources Engineering is leading the project in partnership with Roobuck, Newcrest Mining Limited and Roboworks.

The project was awarded under round 11 of the Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) grant, which supports short-term collaborative research projects. The total grant awarded to the project will be $2 million with an expected project value of $5 million upon completion in December 2024. 

The team from UNSW consists of: Claude Sammut, Wenjie Zhang  (School of Computer Science and Engineering), Aruna Seneviratne (School of Electrical Engineering & Telecommunication); Professor Ismet Canbulat, Research Engineer Kai Zhao, Postdoc Xiaoyu Ai (School of Minerals And Energy Resources); Thai Loi (Legal Counsel Research) and Catherine Hector (Project Manager, Faculty Research Team). Partners from Roobuck include Henry Gong (General Manager), David Forshaw (Head of Business Engagement), Dane Zielinski-Nicolson (Research and Development Manager). The remaining team partners are Jared Millane (Project Engineer, Newcrest) and Wayne Liu (CEO Roboworks)

The team will create a LoRa (long-range) based network which will be used in underground mines. As the mining sector is heading towards automation, the need for communication networks that provide full network coverage in mines is greatly needed. Existing communication technologies do not fulfill the coverage required and are expensive to employ. LoRa is a wireless network that uses less power, less financing and could be used to reach full coverage in underground mines. LoRa network will not replace the existing network but can be used as a backup or for emergency communication and extend the coverage of wireless signal. 

Dr Binghao Li manages the MIoT & IPIN laboratory which focuses on Mine Internet of Things and Indoor Positioning Indoor Navigation research applications. “The existing technologies for underground mines are costly, difficult to deploy and may fail in an emergency due to the loss of power or damage to communication cables. The LoRa based network can be a backup and is an ideal complement for new mine IoT applications,” Dr Li said.

LoRa networks have not yet been utilised in underground mines which makes this project a brand-new area for research in regards to rescue work in mines and support new robotic automations in the mining industry.

Image caption: Members of the project, from left to right:, Wenjie Zhang (UNSW CSE), Wayne Liu (Roboworks), Claude Sammut (UNSW CSE), Henry Gong (Roobuck), Jared Millane (Newcrest), Binghao Li (UNSW MERE), Dane Zielinski-Nicolson (Roobuck), David Forshaw (Roobuck),,  Aruna Seneviratne (UNSW EE&T), Catherine Hector (UNSW Project Manager), Alexandra Goldhar (UNSW Project Officer), Kai Zhao (UNSW MERE), Xiaoyu Ai (UNSW MERE).