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Tremough student's 'robot' success

A PhD student on the University of Exeter's Tremough Campus has been putting his remarkable invention to the test at a Mexican silver mine. Camborne School of Mines student James Jobling-Purser has created a scanning robot to carry out underground mine surveys. Having successfully completed his first professional commission at the San Jose silver mine in Mexico, he is now establishing his own company, Jobling Purser RSV LLP, in Penryn.

Originally from Wexford in Ireland, James has been working on his invention on and off since 2002 when he was an undergraduate Mineral Surveying student on the Tremough Campus. For his undergraduate project he worked on a prototype for a device to carry out underground mine surveys and then continued to develop the model for his PhD thesis. Now 27, he plans to complete his PhD in the next year and then focus all of his efforts on Jobling Purser RSV LLP.

The robot was designed for use in underground mining operations to reduce the risk to the survey operator and improve efficiency in mine surveying. Combining state-of-the-art laser scanning instrumentation with wireless communications and advanced robotic technology the robot, known as the RSV, or remote surveying vehicle, makes data capture much faster and improves the range and coverage of measurements, as well as safeguarding the safety of survey personnel.

James' idea came from unlikely beginnings. He says: "We were at the CamborneSchool of Mines test mine one rainy afternoon, learning about surveying, and I made an off-the-cuff comment to my lecturer about how ridiculous it was that we didn't have machines to do this. He replied by challenging me to invent one. I'm not sure if he was serious, but six years later I am very proud to have created a machine that is more than capable of carrying out the survey we did on that rainy day, as well as fulfilling a multitude of different surveying roles within the rigors of a working mine. I think the most exciting aspect of the project has been setting up my own company here in Cornwall."

Several local companies were involved in design and manufacturing elements of the prototype, with the robot being manufactured entirely within 15 miles of the Tremough Campus. James has developed RSV with the support of 3D Laser Mapping, a company specialising in laser scanning solutions. As well as providing the laser scanning device, which forms part of the robot, 3D laser mapping have provided the project with advice and support as well as providing software to aid the development and research behind the project.

James continues: "It makes perfect sense for me to base my company in Penryn. Not only have I loved having this as my home for the past eight years, but all the highly-specialist manufacturing skills and expertise I need are here."

Dr Ian Tunbridge, Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) Executive Director said: "James' success is a powerful example of how investment in university level education can help Cornwall prosper. The facilities and expertise at the Tremough Campus, which was built as part of the initial phase of Combined Universities in Cornwall, have helped him to turn his own inspiration and sheer determination into an exciting new business with the potential to provide well-paid, highly skilled employment."

The survey in Mexico enabled Arian Silver Corporation to replace its existing mine plans with geometrically accurate 3D plans compatible with their mine development software to help them schedule and plan the next phase of development. The work took just three and a half days and covered 2.2km of tunnels. The RSV conducted more than 80 scans per day collecting an estimated 99.36 million individual data points. The raw data was then processed to create a comprehensive 3D plan of the underground mine workings. The information was in use at the client site in less than a month. Following the success of this first commission, James hopes to take his creation to mines all over the world.

"The RSV is extremely efficient, the speed of data capture is astonishing and the end results far exceed anything that can be produced by conventional surveying techniques," commented Owain Morton, Arian's Mining Engineer. "I estimate that you could employ a mine surveyor for a complete year and not get the same amount of data and accuracy of plans as delivered by the robot."

Camborne School of Mines (CSM) was founded in 1888 and became part of the University of Exeter in 1993. CSM has an international reputation for research and teaching related to the understanding and management of the Earth's natural processes, resources and the environment. Its portfolio of undergraduate, postgraduate and research degree programmes provide an excellent basis for careers, in the UK or overseas, within the Earth resources, civil engineering, environmental and energy sectors. The vast majority of CSM graduates are employed in areas related to their degree. CSM is based at the £100 million Tremough Campus, which the University of Exeter shares with University College Falmouth as part of the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) initiative. The Campus is funded mainly by the European Union (Objective One), the South West Regional Development Agency, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, with support from Cornwall County Council.

For further information please contact Sarah Hoyle, Press Officer, University of Exeter, on 01392 262062/07989 446920 or email

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) project, both Phase 1 and Phase 2, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). University of Exeter is a partner of the CUC.


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