The global metals mining industry is faced with an existential challenge: find a radically new technological approach to mining or face an irreversible decline in profitability. The sector is in urgent need of a new technological paradigm that can reset mining economics.

For the last decade, our team has been devising an approach to mine resources on the Moon. Instead of going big, heavy, brute force and human-operated, our approach is to go small, light, highly redundant and increasingly autonomous. OffWorld’s concept of operations relies on a swarm robotics ecology that consists of several species of small bots, working collaboratively. The key to enabling this architecture is the development of a task-agnostic Machine Learning framework applicable to any number of industrial tasks. Preliminary estimates validated by a global top 5 mining company show that our Swarm Robotic Mining (SRM) has the potential to dramatically reduce the total cost of mining within 5 years.

Several years ago, the promise of this approach led a mining company to engage our team to develop the SRM system. Our goal is to get to the first commercial deployment of a two-robot configuration by end of 2019 and an end-to-end deployment by 2020-2021.

Our immediate goal is to disrupt the $90 billion mining equipment industry with a radically different technological approach and business model. To stay asset-light, we will sell our robotic fleets to our mining client as CAPEX (av. unit price of $95K with ~20% gross margin for early deployments, driving the unit price down to <$35K and 45% gross margin for full SRM) and then add value by operating these fleets for our client on “mining-as-a-service” contracts. The total sales potential to our mining client alone is expected to be ~200,000 units. The first proof-of-concept deployment of an initial two-species configuration in an underground mine is scheduled beginning of next year, commercial deployment is targeted by end of 2020. Our modular robotic platform can be adapted to perform similar tasks outside the mining sector, for urban infrastructure repair, de-blocking of sewage tunnels, underground construction and breaching buildings and barricades in urban combat situations, and, ultimately, mining and construction in space. Our machine learning robots, embodied in a ruggedized modular platform configurable to a variety of extreme environments, could become the standard robotic workforce for heavy industry on Earth, before we move offworld and take on industrial jobs in the inner Solar System.