Luís Lopes – Underwater Explorer for Flooded Mines

Location: Los Llanos de Aridane, Canary Islands, Spain

What do you do? 

We are developing a new robotic system that can do autonomous exploration and mapping of flooded mines. That means the robot will move and act without human interference – we are only going to monitor and download the collected data. The use of the robot, named UX-1, will allow us to retrieve new geological, mineralogical and topographical data from flooded mines. This is important because the last available data (obtained from when the mines were operating) can be really old. Non-invasive methods will be used to explore, meaning the robot will not make any perturbation to the mining environment – we will not change the mine in any way: no need to cut rocks, no need to open new galleries, no changes in the water.

Right now, we are validating the components that the robot will employ (cameras, pH analyzer, water sampler unit, batteries, computer) and testing them in conditions similar to those of flooded mines. This will help us to understand the behavior of the technology components on this special environment. Flooded mines are made up of small galleries and wells from past-mining activities, which are flooded with waters several meters below the surface. This environment is usually dark, with “traps” such as chains, carriages or other equipment used in past activities. The waters in flooded mines can vary a lot in acidity, presence/absence of dangerous elements (such as uranium, for example), pressure and volume.

Starting soon, we will begin the construction of the first robotic prototype, thanks to the data collected from the validation and testing phase.

What can you see? 

Here you can see a plastic sphere that intends to represent the future prototype of our robot. We have used two half spheres, glued together with a plastic ring in the middle. We have then used this model to test some of the electronic components (especially computer elements) that will go into the robot, in water conditions, to understand its behaviour.

When I’m not doing science I… like to read, cycle, cook and try to learn more about everything.

You can find UNEXMIN on twitter @UNEXMIN and find more about the project at