GRT Q&A Series #53: Interview with Luca Niccolini


About the guest

A European manager, open-minded, resilient, dynamic, and enthusiastic, with professional experience in high tech Marketing, sales, and strategy. Niccolini cultivates and supports the capture efforts to shape and win new business through a balanced focus on customers’ needs, the competitive environment, and the corporation’s best interests, combining technical and creative talent. He’s an experienced multicultural communicator, engaging public speaker, and one-to-one communicator, in both internal and client-facing situations, engendering trust and respect.

Q1) A warm welcome to the GRT Q&A Series, Luca. It’s a pleasure and honor to have you. Please tell us more about you and kindly take us through ANYbotics’ journey in the past year.

 ANYbotics develops robotic inspection solutions that improve workers’ lives, increase productivity, and support more sustainable plants in the energy, chemicals, oil and gas, mining, and construction industries. We partner with customers to define business goals and how ANYbotics can contribute to solving inspection tasks based on the requirements of their environment and applications.

With solid support from the industry, ANYbotics successfully launched ANYmal (Gen. D) to the market in 2021. This was the culmination of research that started in 2009 at ETH University in Zurich by the company’s founders. ANYmal is an autonomous, legged industrial inspection robot.

Through full autonomous navigation and AI-based mobility, ANYmal performs mission-critical inspections in multi-story and complex facilities with ease. With high-resolution sensors and cutting-edge machine learning, ANYmal delivers accurate real-time intelligent inspections, uploading the data to customer systems via our ANYmal API. ANYmal is purpose-built for use in complex industrial environments. Ruggedized design, impact protection, and IP67 dust and waterproofing make it well-suited to operating on unprepared terrains and in harsh conditions.

 In March 2022, we launched ANYmal X, the world’s only Ex-proof, legged inspection robot. ANYmal X matches  ANYmal in its functionality and ability to integrate into customers’ operating systems. The challenge of packing all inspection capabilities and performance into an Ex-proof robot system was a serious undertaking, with strong cooperation with our partner and launch customer, PETRONAS.

Today ANYbotics offers two types of legged inspection robot solutions, which include the hardware, software, and payloads, and are delivered as turnkey solutions to our customers.


Left to right. ANYmal and ANYmal X performing inspection missions at industrial facilities.

Q2) Robots & mines have been a great reason for discussing the future of mining. Would you mind taking us through the state of ‘robots & mines’ and what we should expect in the next few years?

Large, remotely operating or autonomous machines have been a reality for many years. Drones are becoming very common too. Robots open immense opportunities to reshape workflows for safety, quality, and productivity. A walking robot is a cost-efficient tool that assesses underground environments thoroughly and assists engineers to safely completing comprehensive risk assessments and identifying and mitigating hazards before personnel enters an area. This can be applied to many use cases, including routine tasks like post-blast checks, daily environmental surveys, and emergency conditions, such as assessments after seismic events. On the surface, robots can assist workforces by conducting visual checks, and monitoring electrical substations, mills, kilns, and conveyors, thereby increasing the data quality and quantity, and improving brownfield operations with no need to invest in new infrastructures or fixed sensors.


ANYmal performing day-night inspection missions in rigorous conditions.

Q3) Innovation has driven automation for zero harm in mining. How is ANYbotics running with this approach in their different applications? Is zero harm in mining achievable? 

 Innovation and access to real-time data foster significant safety improvements, while simultaneously ensuring a reduction in maintenance costs and higher equipment reliability and availability. Zero harm is a fundamental goal and many operators are contributing to it by investing in innovative technology.  Autonomous robots are playing an essential role in these transition processes. ANYmal supports the demanding goals of future mining operations, contributing to the Zero Harm strategy by reducing staff presence in hazardous environments, and improving on-site inspection with AI-based analytics on mission-critical infrastructure assets.

Q4) Where in the world’s mining environment have you deployed ANYbots? What has been the feedback and how have you used that data to continue providing solutions for different mining clients? 

 VALE, the Brazilian-based global mining company, believed in our product from the outset. Initial tests performed at VALE provided valuable mining deployment information. Today VALE works with several of our robots. Collaboration with VALE assists with digital architecture enhancements and analyzing mining data for better maintenance and higher operational safety.


ANYmal at Vale’s Cauê Mine as it prepares to begin its autonomous inspection mission.

ANYmal was also used by the winning team in the DARPA SubT Challenge. This is the largest R&D project seeking novel approaches to rapidly map, navigate, and search underground environments during time-sensitive operations or disaster response scenarios. Robots had to explore, search for objects of interest, and report their location accurately within underground tunnels, infrastructure similar to a subway, and natural caves and paths with extremely confined geometries, challenging terrain, and severe visual degradation (including dense smoke). Team CERBERUS deployed four ANYmal robots and was declared the winner of the challenge. We were super excited as this reinforced robot qualities essential to mining environments, namely ANYmal’s superb navigation, mobility, and locomotion capabilities.


Q5) Mountains are for climbing they say! What are some of the challenges you have faced in the adoption of robots for mines? How have you managed to overcome these challenges? 

 Keeping people safe in the mining industry is challenging. Workers are often required to inspect narrow, dark, and dangerous spaces, not to mention duties involving hazardous materials and heavy machinery.

Setting up ANYmal begins with a walk-through. ANYbotics uses a practical balance between automated and ‘one-time human input’ approaches to teaching ANYmal exactly what and how to inspect. Mining operators simply guide ANYmal through the designated area and create a 3D digital twin route model including inspection points, terrain plotting, task sequences, and path planning. With a simple gesture, ANYmal can automatically capture an object’s data and convey the information to an operator. Operators can adjust or confirm this information via a smart device when finalizing the inspection mission set-up. After this initial set up, ANYmal will carry out the execution of its missions autonomously.


 ANYmal uses a digital twin model to simulate, plan, and commission autonomous robotic inspection missions.

Q6) Autonomous mining is evolving and it’s not so much hardware but software and interoperability. What is the outlook from ANYbotics in terms of interoperability? Can the ANYbots be integrated into the IROC of the mine? 

 Every robot provides information into larger systems for analysis, like an IROC. As an end-to-end solution, we work not only to deliver and support robots but also to assist customers in building the right network and efficiently integrating our systems into their existing architecture. The immediate availability of data is pivotal to having a holistic view of a mine’s operating environment. Using our APIs, ANYmal reliably delivers the necessary data ranges to facilitate an accurate, holistic picture of an operational environment in real time.


 ANYmal capturing and verifying digital information from industrial gauges.

Q7) In closing, how do you envisage the future of robots for mines? What human limitations are we solving by deploying robots in mines? What can we expect from ANYbotics in the future?

Robots are force multipliers: we see our solution as an extended workforce that takes workers out of harm’s way. Robots can see, smell and hear much better than humans, and help the staff to solve more complex problems. 

ANYmal is a loyal helper that can:

  • Monitor geotechnical hazards with dense point mapping to show changes and plan actions accordingly
  • Survey high-risk areas, with no need to expose personnel to potentially dangerous situations
  • Reduce commuting and inspection time to monitor equipment (conveyors, crushers, electrical substations)
  • Empower teams to do what they are best at – being creative, innovative, and inspiring problem solvers

The ever-increasing value of legged, autonomous, and intelligent robots in mining is clear and welcoming. ANYbotics looks forward to continued collaboration with customers and global technology companies while increasing safety and improving productivity through providing advanced inspection capabilities to mine and plant operators.

Recommended Links:

You can get a general overview of ANYmal Here