Leica Releases Locata-Enabled Satellite+Terrestrial Mining System

November 29, 2012  - By
Image: GPS World

Locata Corporation announced today that its integration partner, Leica Geosystems Mining, has begun to sell — and ship to their global mining customers — a Locata-powered positioning systems that it calls “the world’s first.”

The Leica Jps (the Jigsaw Positioning System powered by Locata) integrates GNSS and Locata’s ground-based GPS-like networks. The result is a seamless and a completely new “GPS everywhere” experience for Leica’s customers, the company said. This new capability is now in use at Newmont’s Boddington Gold Mine, northwest of Boddington, Western Australia. The mine has published an independent article describing the LocataNet and Jps systems deployed for the mine’s drill rig fleet. It reported that drill rig up-time and efficiency have skyrocketed to unprecedented levels since the Jps system was commissioned.

Locata-enabled nonstop positioning brings benefits to machine automation in mining because Locata fills in the many gaps in GPS signal availability experienced in an open-cut mine, Leica said. The Leica Jps ensures a reliable and transparent experience for users with demanding machine guidance applications because it uses all available signals, satellite-based or Locata, without interruption.

“The Locata-based Jps is therefore the world’s first system which can justly be considered as ‘a backup for GPS’,” reads a Leica Geosystems statement. “Real-world operational performance, which is being reported by Jps customers, can only be described as ‘spectacular’.”

“Since deploying the Locata-powered Jps at Newmont Boddington Gold, there has been an increase in operational machine guidance availability of almost 23 percent – from 75 percent up to 98 percent,” said Brendon Lilly, product manager, Leica Geosystems Mining. “Newmont Boddington Gold is so happy with the results that they have turned off their GPS-only solutions altogether, and now rely solely (and successfully) on Jps alone. They have already installed Jps on 11 drills and intend to equip their entire high-precision fleet.”

“The ROI we offer our clients through the Jigsaw Positioning System is extraordinary. Market trends indicate CAPEX is in decline, so the parameters mines use to justify expenditure have become far more demanding,” said Stefana Vella, global marketing manager, Leica Geosystems Mining. “The unprecedented production levels and machine control uptime that result directly from using the Locata-powered Jps very quickly justifies the purchase of the system. Furthermore, it aids the justification of expenditure on the high-precision machine guidance systems themselves, for, when operated with the Jps, the ROI increases exponentially. Even in today’s market, it isn’t a difficult decision to make.”

Many mines around the world use machine guidance systems for drills, shovels, excavators, dozers, graders and more to execute the site plan work in real-time. This tight automation dramatically improves efficiency and productivity. At the core of these machine guidance systems are GPS-style receivers that provide vital positioning information, using the satellite signals to calculate a 3D position.

Unfortunately, in most open-pit environments satellite signals become obstructed, which slows or temporarily halts production. As pits become deeper the problems become worse, drastically reducing the number of satellites the receiver can “see” to achieve GPS-style positioning. In the past, mines and other machine automation users had no choice other than to resort to much less efficient alternatives, such as manual surveying. Reduced satellite visibility therefore negated the considerable investment and operational efficiencies gained from modern machine guidance systems. The key to virtually eliminate these issues is Locata’s new “GPS-backup or replacement” capability, Leica Geosystems said.

Locata’s Locatalite device is a ground-based transmitter that generates a GPS-like signal. LocataLites deployed around the pit rim can ensure almost 100 percent positioning coverage. Locata signals “fill-in” the GPS holes with a signal that is processed by the Jps in exactly the same way that GPS signals are. Locata is the only technology in the world that can do this. By backing up their GPS-based systems, mines have an always-on positioning network that works if satellite signals are unavailable in the pit due to physical or man-made obstructions. Jps LocataLites can be permanently positioned on site or moved at will, ensuring a mine’s Jps Locata network can be set up where and when needed.

“We all rely on electricity from public sources, but in areas where outages occur companies invest in backup generators,” said Nunzio Gambale, CEO and co-founder of Locata. “It’s exactly the same scenario for mining companies, where they are dependent on GPS. Locata gives you a GPS backup ‘generator’ – a world-first capability which is clearly a game-changer for the whole industry. Before Locata became available mines simply had to suffer through a slow-down when GPS-based systems became flaky. Leica Geosystems had the vision early on to recognize the enormous benefits provided by our technology advancements. They threw their corporate weight behind intensive product development, carefully integrating Locata technology into their world-first Jigsaw mining solutions. It’s a marriage made in heaven, and Jps customers will be the ones who really reap the rewards of Leica’s outstanding first-mover effort. There won’t be any ‘GPS doesn’t work here’ excuses in the future.”

John Carr, senior technical specialist at Newmont Boddington Gold Mine, puts it this way: “Look, it’s really this simple. If Locata had not invented the technology to help fix the GPS issues in a deep pit scenario I may as well have gone back home, started breeding pit ponies and sharpened up the picks and shovels… Open Cut Mines, just like everyone else that depends heavily on satellite navigation, are already hitting the wall at the outer limits of GPS technology. With Locata, we’ve virtually eliminated everyday GNSS signal challenges. And now we also have our own backup in place in case of a more significant or longer-term failure.”

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