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Autonomous underwater robot Unexmin to receive the Technical Creativity Award of the City of Tampere

Published 26.1.2021 19.02

The City of Tampere has awarded the mechatronics research team of Tampere University with the Technical Creativity Award (EUR 4,000) of the year 2020. The team developed the mechanical structure parts and mechatronic systems of Unexmin, an entirely new kind of autonomous underwater robot. The members of the research team are Kari T. Koskinen, Jussi Aaltonen, Jouko Laitinen, Arttu Heininen, Jose Villa Escusol and Tuomas Salomaa. Additionally, the award committee gave an honourable mention (an award of EUR 1,000) to the model developed by Janne Ruokonen that enables the utilisation of data provided by forest harvesters in the development of new and efficient learning methods.

Underwater robot under the water.

The underwater robot makes it possible to map out and explore abandoned mines in a cost-efficient manner. The Unexmin robots strengthen the innovative engineering know-how of Tampere and revitalise the local submarine development tradition. According to estimates, there are up to 30,000 abandoned and flooded mines in Europe. As mines are rarely closed due to the depletion of mineral resources, large amounts of valuable minerals often remain. Additionally, many minerals that were previously worthless, such as rare earth metals, are today extremely important.

The robot is spherical in shape and 600 millimetres in diameter, which allows it to access narrow caves without the danger of getting stuck. The robot is built to withstand pressure up to a depth of 500 metres for five consecutive hours. The robot can move forwards and backwards, upwards and downwards as well as turn left and right. Unlike other small submersible robots, Unexmin robot has a solid aluminium pressure hull. The structure is extremely challenging mechanically, but it makes it possible to minimise the size of the robot compared to a traditional structure.

The work of the research team included the development of the robot’s pressure hull and other mechanical structure parts as well as the manufacture, assembly and testing of the propulsion system, ballast system and pendulum mechanism, for instance. The team also developed the robot’s battery and power management system as well as planned and tested the embedded systems for low-level control. The work was carried out within a project financed by the European Commission. Unexmin GeoRobotics, a company that operates and further develops robots, was set up as a spin-off of the project. The company is estimated to have great potential for growth.

In the method developed by Lecturer Janne Ruokonen, the obtained data has been unpacked into educational form and methods have been developed in order to decrease the time required. The data received from forest harvesters improves the productivity and profitability of work. The model can be applied to any industry where extensive data can be obtained. For example, companies have used it to create their own training model sales products.

The Technical Creativity Award ceremony was held in the virtual Technology Fast 50 event of the Tampere Smart City Week conference on 26 January 2021. The City of Tampere has awarded the Technical Creativity Award since 1981.

Further information:
University of Tampere
automation and mechanical engineering
Professor Kari T. Koskinen
tel. +358 (0)40 063 4242

D.Sc. (Tech.) Jussi Aaltonen
tel. +358 (0)40 849 0522

Tampere Vocational College TREDU
Lecturer Janne Ruokonen
tel. +358 (0)40 806 2594

Chair of the Technical Creativity Award Committee
Katja Karintaus

Tampere Smart City Week:

Text Raija Lindell