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Making quarry sites safer through object detection

Visibility is an important topic on a quarry site in terms of safety. Using a combination of site design and available technologies, quarrying and mining companies are constantly looking to increase visibility for operators and others on-site.

Historically, protections against collisions in the blind areas of machines on-site have included procedural barriers, eg no-go zones for light vehicles, standard parking and start-up procedures, and audible reversing alarms.

A more recent approach is to provide enhanced driver vision supplemented by an automatic detection system that has a wide field, identifies potential problems and attracts the driver?s attention to those areas where potential collisions could occur.

Based on feedback and customer needs, several years ago Cat engineers set out to determine what technologies could be developed to help further avoid slow-speed collisions and improve visibility on large mining trucks. After reviewing a number of possibilities, including RFID tagging and sonar technologies, the company determined that the use of cameras and radars would provide the best solution. The result is the Cat Integrated Object Detection System (CIODS).

The system enhances haul truck operators? awareness during the critical period when they are starting their truck and during the first several seconds of movement. The system consists of a touch screen display, short-range radar (up to seven metres), medium-range radar (up to 20m) and cameras on the front, rear and sides of the machine.

?Our goal was to take advantage of multiple technologies integrated with each other and the mining machine to provide as few inputs to the operator as possible,? says Steve Rieker, marketing supervisor in the electronic and machine systems division of Caterpillar. ?Radar and cameras were the best choice.?

Radar was considered the most robust technology to address the greatest number of scenarios because it works at night and can see through rain, dust and snow, says Steve.

?By partnering the radar with cameras, we have vision and detection functionality in one. And unlike RFID systems, our technology does not require the object being detected to be tagged ? an issue our customers told us they didn?t want to manage.?

The system was introduced at Caterpillar?s Tinaja Hills Demonstration and Learning Center in Tucson, Arizona, USA, in autumn 2009 and is available now as a retrofit system for existing Cat 785 to 797 mining trucks. The system is also available as a retrofit for the new F series large mining as well as quarrying and construction trucks, and is factory-fit standard for D and F series large mining trucks. The system is also offered for other large trucks, wheel loaders, motor graders, articulated trucks, large track-type tractors and hydraulic excavators. Under consideration are similar systems for drills, shovels and competitive trucks.

Hastings Deering, the Cat dealer for Queensland and the Northern Territory, recently initiated a project to retrofit and trial CIODS to a fleet of haul trucks and a sales loader at an Australian quarry site with a view to helping reduce the risk of work area injuries and equipment damage associated with visibility issues. This is one of several examples where the Cat dealer team and Caterpillar are working closely with the quarry industry to develop and implement technology and strategies that will improve the level of safe operation within the industry.

CIODS consists of an interactive, colour, touch screen display in the cab, four short-range radars in the front and rear of the machine, medium-range radars on all four sides, and cameras on all four sides.

At start-up and whenever a machine stops for a set period of time, the touch screen display alerts the operator when objects have entered critical areas around the machine. The radar view provides a visual indication of where the objects are relative to the machine. Objects in the front, rear or side critical zones, or the machine?s turn radius, will cause that zone on the display to blink red.

An audible alarm sounds when an object has been detected and if the operator has not acknowledged it when the machine is in gear.
The system is active through 20m of start-up travel; it is always on when the machine travels in reverse. Once the machine is safely moving, the radar system enters stand-by mode while the cameras remain active.

?Using the system does not replace the basic safety precautions that operators should follow every day,? says Steve. ?But we believe this can have a significant impact on making mine sites safer for everyone.?

Caterpillar considers object detection one of the building blocks for what it sees as the future of mining ? autonomy. That vision goes beyond haulage to bring together mining and quarrying systems to create a fully integrated, autonomous mine site, where every piece of equipment ?knows? the location and status of every other ? and where mine managers can see and control the entire site.

The CIODS is integrated with the specific machine configuration to optimise radar and camera coverage. The system has been calibrated for appropriate fields of view and range, improving situational awareness of the operator to object presence in key areas around the machine. Unlike basic camera systems, the CIODS provides operators with multiple warnings, both audible and visual, that enable them to make informed decisions when moving machines. This system alerts the operator when an object is in close proximity so they can decide if action needs to be taken to avoid it. This system monitors the immediate work area and enhances the operator?s view of other machines and objects in blind spots near the machine.

The Cat system was built for quarrying and mining customers and the rugged environments in which they operate.

The self-contained Cat system is integrated into the machine on-board system and tied into Cat datalink. This allows the machine system and electronics to pick up and feed information into the Object Detection System.

Ease of use
The system starts when the machine starts up, so no operator interaction is required. The intuitive touch-screen display can be customised in multiple languages. Operator quick-reference cards and an online tutorial make learning the system easy.

There are multiple operator display mounting locations in the head liner or instrument panel. The display is dimmable and adjusts brightness automatically.

Multiple alert levels
The Cat system provides multiple alert levels to give operators flexibility and to ensure that detected objects are indeed recognised.
The ?Caution Zone? warning is active when an object has been detected in the caution zone. The audible warning alarm is not active and the operator is not required to acknowledge this warning in order to avoid an audible alarm.

The ?Critical Zone? warning is active when an object has been detected in the critical zone. The audible warning alarm is not active; however, the operator is required to acknowledge this warning in order to avoid an audible alarm.

An audible alarm will become active in the event the operator has not acknowledged a Critical Zone warning, places the machine in gear, and attempts to move in the direction of the detected object.

The system allows the user to start with a vision system and later upgrade to the full detection system.

Cat support
The system will be sold, serviced and supported by the Cat dealer network.

Source: Caterpillar of Australia

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