We’ve been reporting on the phenomenon that is the wonderfully agile Spot quadruped robot for a few years. Boston Dynamics developed the Spot platform and the bots quickly went viral on the internet for their ability to traverse just about any terrain. Spot is now officially available in South Africa via an authorised reseller, but it looks like they’re destined to remain underground.
Dwyka Mining is bringing the Spot Enterprise version into South Africa, specifically for the mining industry. Spot’s unique walking capabilities and near-autonomous traversal of most terrains make it the perfect tool for many underground applications.
“Spot is designed to ensure safer, more efficient and more predictable operations across different environments and requirements. We are excited about extracting value from ‘no-go’ and ‘fly low’ mining areas typical at the majority of narrow reef mining operations in Southern Africa where the use of enterprise drones are limited,” says Jamie van Schoor, Managing Director of Dwyka Mining Services and Deep Tech Solutions.
Spot the utility dog
While you may not end up with your very own Spot as a guard dog (no matter how badly you want one), these are destined to help the South African mining industry with safety implementation and data collection.
These critters come with a variety of ‘payloads’ (that sit atop Spot’s back) made up of a variety of tech, including LiDAR 3D cameras, 360-degree cameras, infrared options, and even audiometers that can aid in finding gas and compressed air leaks underground.
They can also safely traverse areas unsafe for humans, which is nice. Piloting the Spot robot isn’t too complex either, as its controls are very similar to current game controllers. It actually looks like a Switch console and is easy to figure out, according to the pilot at Spot’s debut event.
An interesting use case is that these can be used as search-and-rescue options in the case where a mine shaft collapses (an incident that happens quite frequently in South African mines). Spot can safely carry up to 14kgs of payload — so it’ll be able to get water and food to trapper miners, depending on the situation.
“This is great news for African industry and the mining sector and a first for the continent, bringing next-generation innovation and intelligent automation capabilities to local organisations, that will transform safety and remote data capture for improved mine design and planning,” van Schoor concludes.
We’re still awaiting official pricing on the Enterprise Spot but we’re expecting a hefty amount in our currency, especially considering these need to be brought into the country.
UPDATE: The Spot Enterprise unit currently retails for $120,000 (converted to R1,8 million at the time of writing) excluding the additional fittings and payloads mentioned above.