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How BAE Systems' photonics expertise helped in mine rescue

Five years ago today, the world’s attention was focused on the successful rescue of 33 miners trapped for 69 days 2,300 feet underground at the San Jose mine in Chile
Five years ago today, the world’s attention was focused on the successful rescue of 33 miners trapped for 69 days 2,300 feet underground at the San Jose mine in Chile. As part of the urgent and complex rescue operation to save them, an I-SITE® laser scanning system featuring optical parts manufactured by BAE Systems in Australia was used to help the rescue team understand where exactly the miners were located.
 
Optical parts crafted in Adelaide by BAE Systems were an integral part of the I-SITE® laser scanning system developed by Maptek, another Adelaide-based company that designs hardware and software technology for global mining companies. The extraordinarily precise laser scan mirrors use unique diamond turning technology and are capable of operating at nanometre levels generating an array of complex aspheric and free-form shapes.
 
Diamond Turned optical components
Diamond Turned optical components, manufactured by BAE Systems Australia, for I-Sites laser scanning system
The I-SITE® laser scanning system was used to map the topographical surface above the mine to obtain geo positioning information and produce a topographic surface model of the San Jose mine. The data was combined with historical data and 2D plans to create a 3D model of the complex underground workings to help the rescue team understand where exactly the miners were trapped. This enabled the direction and orientation of the drill holes to be identified, allowing an access shaft to be built that finally helped bring the men to safety.
 
Speaking about the rescue, BAE Systems photonics technician, Stewart Williams said: “It was a very proud moment when I realised that a piece of technology I helped to create was responsible for saving lives."
 
Stewart Williams
Stewart Williams from BAE Systems manufacturing optical prisms for Maptek.
The diamond turning technology has attracted a growing commercial customer base from the aviation, resource, forensic, space research, universities and medical sectors who are discovering the advantages of having precision optical components and systems to facilitate their projects. BAE Systems continues to work with Maptek to help optimise the development of its next generation of Laser Scanners.
 
  I-SITE ® is a registered Australian trade mark of Maptek Pty Ltd. 
 
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BAE Systems Corporate Blog 16 October 2015