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Mapping the Inaccessible with Lidar
Jun 08, 2020 | By Jane Maynard, Digital Marketing Manager

Interview with Emesent’s CEO Dr. Stefan Hrabar to discuss mapping with lidar for infrastructure, mining and forestry

A scan of a forested area created with Emesent's Hovermap mapping solution, which utilizes Velodyne's Puck LITE lidar sensor for mapping with lidar
A scan of a forested area created with Emesent’s Hovermap mapping solution, which utilizes Velodyne’s Puck LITE sensor for mapping with lidar

Whether a company is drilling, blasting or filling, mining efficiency is underpinned by safety and operational insight. The collection and analysis of data in GPS-denied environments generate safety and operational challenges in underground mining. Inspections and surveys in these inaccessible environments create hazardous conditions for personnel, exposing them to brows, confined spaces and heights.

Emesent, an Automated with Velodyne partner based in Australia, develops innovative autonomy and mapping solutions for the infrastructure, mining and forestry industries. Their Hovermap mapping solution, which uses the Velodyne Puck LITE™ sensor, can be integrated with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Hovermap allows UAVs to map and fly autonomously in challenging GPS-denied environments, such as forests and underground mines.

Emesent's Hovermap mapping solution in flight, featuring Velodyne's Puck LITE sensor
Emesent’s Hovermap mapping solution in flight, featuring Velodyne’s Puck LITE sensor

To learn more about Emesent and Hovermap, we connected with Dr. Stefan Hrabar, CEO for Emesent.

Q: What are the challenges in mapping difficult-to-access environments like mines?

Hrabar: The key challenges to mapping these areas are the difficulty in accessing them and the lack of GPS to localize the sensor.

Underground mines contain large inaccessible areas, such as stopes. These unsupported underground voids are a source of ground falls that can endanger personnel, underground infrastructure and equipment.

Emesent's Hovermap descending into a mine
Emesent’s Hovermap descending into a mine

Mining engineers and surveyors are required to regularly inspect these areas. Traditionally, they use a cavity monitoring system (CMS) scanner deployed from a boom, a process that is time-consuming, produces poor-quality, incomplete scans, and endangers personnel.

Hovermap scan of an underground area
Hovermap lidar scan of an underground area

Q: How does Hovermap help companies overcome these challenges?

Hrabar: Hovermap solves the access problem by providing autonomous drone flight, allowing a drone to navigate into these areas to map them. Hovermap uses SLAM to estimate the position and orientation of the sensor instead of GPS.

Rather than take three hours to scan a stope with a CMS, it can be achieved in 15 minutes with Hovermap. This is a significant time saving and allows for the stope to resume production quickly. Using Hovermap also ensures personnel keep a safe distance from the edge of the stope and means they are in unsupported ground for far less time.

3D scan of an underground area produced using Hovermap and the Velodyen Puck LITE lidar sensor
3D scan of an underground area produced using Hovermap and the Velodyen Puck LITE lidar sensor

Hovermap produces “shadowless” point clouds, which means scan data covers the entire stope and has a consistent spatial resolution. Mining engineers can identify geological features or conduct volumetric analyses, which is not possible with low point density CMS data. Our customers are using Hovermap to map any underground area, draw points, ore passes, and old underground workings.

Q: Why does Emesent utilize lidar sensor data to provide Hovermap’s collision avoidance and navigation capabilities rather than relying on GPS?

Hrabar: GPS is not always available, for example when indoors, underground, in downtown urban canyons or under the canopy of a forest. Using our SLAM algorithm on the lidar data allows Hovermap to reference itself to the environment even when GPS is not available. We also use the lidar data to detect the surrounding obstacles. 

Hovermap scan of the Las Vegas strip
Hovermap scan of the Las Vegas strip

Q: Why did Emesent select the Velodyne Puck LITE as Hovermap’s lidar sensor?

Hrabar: The Velodyne Puck LITE lidar is simply a sensational sensor for creating mapping solutions because of its compact size, light weight and performance. These are all critical for a drone-mounted system.

Hovermap rotates the sensor to give a 360° x 360° field-of-view, producing shadowless, high-resolution point clouds.

Hovermap in flight with Puck LITE sensor
Hovermap in flight with Puck LITE sensor

Q: Emesent has joined the Automated with Velodyne program. How do you see being part of this ecosystem advancing your business?

Hrabar: This will allow us to work closely with Velodyne, to take advantage of new sensor capabilities when they are released, provide feedback for improvements, and help to educate the market on the benefits of lidar for mapping and autonomy.

Hovermap’s integration with the Puck LITE sensor and its 360-degree capture capability are fundamental to our ability to produce high quality, accurate, georeferenced point cloud data when mapping underground mines, forests, or inaccessible infrastructure.

Velodyne is a customer-focused technology partner and Emesent is proud to be part of the Automated with Velodyne program.

About Velodyne Lidar

Velodyne provides smart, powerful lidar solutions for autonomy and driver assistance. Headquartered in San Jose, Calif., Velodyne is known worldwide for its portfolio of breakthrough lidar sensor technologies. Velodyne’s Founder, David Hall, invented real-time surround view lidar systems in 2005 as part of Velodyne Acoustics. Mr. Hall’s invention revolutionized perception and autonomy for automotive, new mobility, mapping, robotics, and security. Velodyne’s high-performance product line includes a broad range of sensing solutions, including the cost-effective Puck™, the versatile Ultra Puck™, the autonomy-advancing Alpha Prime™, the ADAS-optimized Velarray™ and the groundbreaking software for driver assistance, Vella™.

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