Autonomous Belaz trucks trial 5G network

Unmanned Belaz mining machinery has been deployed at new 5G testing grounds at the Belarusian manufacturer’s Zhodino headquarters
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A Belaz-7513R unmanned mining dump truck

Belaz worked together with infrastructure operator Belarusian Cloud Technologies (beCloud) and Russian digital solutions provider VIST Group (part of Zyfra Group) to establish the infrastructure for the test area.

The set-up, combining beCloud's 5G technologies and an LTE Advanced Pro (LTE-A Pro) network, serves as a prototype of a future 5G network. LTE-A Pro is the next step in the development towards 5G, offering better data speeds, lower latency and more bandwidth. These are all important requirements for autonomous vehicles, as the systems that scan and analyse the geological surroundings should transmit the data with minimal delay.

Mikhail Duka, deputy general director for telecommunications at becloud, said: "5G is not just an accelerated version of 4G, but a serious technological leap for decades to come. Strictly speaking, 5G is not only a new set of frequencies, but an integrated platform that exploits the capabilities of wireless networks much more efficiently.

"Three years ago, beCloud was the first company in the country to launch 4G LTE Advanced. Today, through this unique partnership with Belaz Corporation, we are demonstrating the new reality that is steadily developing on the basis of 4G and will come to fruition thanks to 5G. Minimum signal delays, high bandwidth, energy efficiency and a flexible 5G technology interface will shape our immediate future in the world of technology."

The machines used for the trial, a pit dump truck and loader, have been equipped with technology that meets the technical specifications of the 3GPP (global standards body for telecommunications) 5G standard.

Using both LTE-A Pro and 5G New Radio, the new air interface/radio frequency developed for 5G, VIST technicians have been able to test unmanned vehicle control, as well as the autonomous operation of dump trucks, forming a key part of its Intelligent Mine R&D project.

Intelligent Mine, in addition to unmanned robotic dump trucks, includes cargo transport and high-precision satellite navigation technologies; these digital, autonomous solutions for open-pit pit production processes are combined with Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics technologies.

VIST also has a strategic partnership with Belaz, which has enabled the automation of its mining equipment, including a remotely controlled 130t Belaz 7513R dump truck and fully autonomous Belaz 78250 front loader.

As part of the most recent pilot project with Belaz, beCloud specialists have now managed to reduce the response time of the autonomous equipment to 10-11 milliseconds, which is less than on 4G networks but more than expected for future 5G networks. The team continues to fine-tune the equipment and optimise communication channels to achieve the best performance.

The aim of the 5G trials is to create a technological solution that will work on an industrial scale.

"IT technologies are not standing still. Yesterday we operated on the basis of 4G standards, and today we have already tested the work of a robotic pit complex in the totally new 5G standard," said Alexander Botvinnik, assistant general director for information technologies at OJSC Belaz.

"Our dump trucks are equipped with hundreds of sensors that generate terabytes of information per year, enabling us to monitor the trucks' performance anywhere on the planet.

"In the future, this will be impossible without 5G. Very soon, big data, analytics and machine-learning technologies will enable us to offer customers completely new smart services for more efficient operation of mining dump trucks, forecasting and vehicle maintenance upon demand rather than on the basis of regulations."

Based on its agreement with Belaz, beCloud will continue to test the most advances 5G technologies available at the Zhodino testing grounds, and the next stage of the trial will be the creation of an autonomous test network at an operational open-pit mine.