Tag Archive: mine mapping services

Application of UAVs in the Prospecting Process for Mining

An industry that requires large resources of manpower to operate has taken a new techno turn. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) or drones as they are known in common parlance have taken over the role of the human prospector and are proving their worth by giving faster, more accurate and cheaper data collection, accumulation and analysis methods in the field of prospecting.

Drones are unmanned flying machines that are operated by either remote control or they operate on a pre-configured flight path which has already been set for them These flying machines function as photographers wherein cameras are fitted either in their underbelly to capture images of the mining site. Potential mining sites are surveyed using these flying photographers prior to sending the miners to collect samples. A touch and feel dominated industry has welcomed remote data collection and processing with same or better results.

There are many types of drones that can be used in the mining industry and they can be chosen based on what they are going to be used for: For example, A first look at a potential site can be carried out by a fixed wing drone equipped with a camera, , a mining safety protocol enabler and an in-depth research oriented data provision are best served by rotary drones, which can access the most inaccessible places because of their ability to hover and move up and down vertically. The data and information collected by these drones has proven to be the bedrock of research and analysis that is used to assess a site’s potential for payload in terms of presence of the mineral resource for which it has been prospected. This information and analysis also forms the basis on which a go or a no-go decision is made and is also used to attract potential investors to invest in the site development for a site which has been classified as a “go” site.

Another interesting development is the integration of UAV’s with other traditional survey equipment like total stations, GNSS systems and terrestrial laser scanners. With commercial software applications developing the ability to combine data from these different sources in an intelligent and logical fashion, the utility of the drone in prospecting has gone up.

With the rapid advancement of technology in this domain we might, in the not so distant future see mines operated by remote by using a combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI – aka robots), drones etc with no human presence required.

Ensuring Mine Safety Using Drones

Safety remains to be one of top most concerns in the mining industry. Sadly, miners have succumbed time and again to the dangers that are so characteristic of the mining industry, such as: cave ins/collapses, explosive fatalities, fire breakouts, electrical fires and electrocution, falls from heights and shafts, accidents from vehicles that travel with poor visibility, lack of hazard communication process, illegal entries and of course several other respiratory and health issues as well.

The only way to combat these mining industry safety issues is to leverage automation and resort to drones. Drones are taking wings in the mining industry, and replacing several dangerous tasks that were earlier being done by miners.

During emergency situations in a minefield a drone is dispatched to the site, and live images are relayed to the security team who assesses the extent of damage and responds accordingly, rather going in person as before. Drones relentlessly watch mines and quarries 24/7 and can be programmed to watch certain strategic areas such as stockpiles and equipment areas repetitively.

Drone technology though nascent has already proven how useful they can be in assuring mining safety. As they evolve and become more integrated with mine planning they will play a stellar role in tightening safety measures in minefields.

SBL is playing a key role in the managing of safety in the Nickel mines of New Caledonia. With the help of drones, it provides the mine management with – rectified imagery with accuracy of 5cm and less, elevation (DSM/DTM, contours and spot heights) and 3D mapping data. This imagery and elevation data made available at almost real time enables the mine managers to analyse slope stability and mine pit stability, forecast possible weak spots prone to landslides or caving in and these areas are then targeted for stability precautions which  goes a long way in ensuring absolute safety of these Nickel mines.   

Drones: Cost Effective and Ideal for the Mining Industry

World over mining companies are leveraging drones for various key processes such as: site scoping, mapping, mineral exploration and investigating stockpiles to name a few. Here are some key points related to how drones are cost effective and an ideal partner for the mining industry:

Drone based data collection boosts productivity with better decision making, as surveying projects that used to take months earlier now gets completed in a matter of days. This reduction of man hours and spend on resources and infrastructure is a significant cost saver.

Using drones particularly for underground mining is a big help, as human beings do not have to be exposed to such life endangering mining operations. Additionally, drones enable real-time monitoring and surveillance which arrests illegal intrusion of mine fields.

Drones equipped with sophisticated cameras provide real time aerial footage and 3D maps of mine sites assuring accurate assessments. In fact with the help of drones, mining companies are able to collect more information of their sites than in the past.

Drones have replaced manned aircrafts which are pretty expensive and not suitable when narrow segments of the mines need to be surveyed. And drones are extremely adept at repeating any mining activity several times over with clinical precision.

Especially in the mining industry new ways of using drones are being discovered every day, and usage is bound to increase. In the years to come, we will see drones growing nurtured amply by helpful laws, evolving technologies and patronized by large mining conglomerates.