It looks like from the internet news that it has been a busy day in New Zealand with two robots and a third being prepped. My hat’s off to the Kiwis for aggressively pursuing this technology. I know of only one other case- the Midas Gold Mine Nevada collapse- where more than one robot was deployed. And that was one at a time (the first robot from nearby Fallon NAS was too big and heavy for that type of void, so CRASAR was called in and we brought in an iRobot packbot and Inuktun/ASR Extreme VGTV from the US Navy SPAWAR small robot pool. The packbot was too big so we used the Extreme, so only 2 robots were used.). It sounds like that more than 1 robot is, or was, active at one time at Pike River, so that’s a record.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration, under the direction of technology director Dr. Jeff Kravitz, is bringing the V2 (the Remotec Wolverine variant that is to the best of my knowledge the only mine permissible robot in the world) to New Zealand. I am currently waiting at LAX for them to arrive, as I’ve been invited to join their team. I can’t wait to “meet” the other robots (and responders). Jeff is a real unsung hero of rescue robotics, he has been involved with the most underground mine rescue robot deployments in the world. We’ve worked together since 2006, you can see him in this video about the rescue robot at the Crandall Canyon Utah mine disaster, and we are co-authors of a paper summarizing underground mine rescue robot technology and the nine deployments as of 2009.
I’m sure I speak for everyone that we’d be thrilled to arrive in New Zealand to discover that the 29 miners had been found alive and had been extricated; they remain in our prayers.