Tag Archive: uav data processing 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.

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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.   

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Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV): Impact on Small Area Surveying

Would you spend your effort in analysis of actionable data readily available? Or would you devote time and effort in the actual collection of data? Obviously the former, right?

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), referred as Drone is the Man Friday in this process of collecting crucial information that organizations rely on. Drone is the next big thing in surveying technology.

Especially in small area surveys such as mining, agriculture and military operations, UAVs are huge time savers, cost effective and have largely reduced the risk element involved in these fields. Organizations are saving money spent on resources and infrastructure while simultaneously garnering unique and powerful insights with the help of drones. UAVs are commonly used these days in communication, agriculture, remote sensing and transportation.

Some of the benefits of deploying drones in different industries are:

  • It reduces manual effort as it does not require a qualified operator
  • It is safe, easy to use and ideal for being on the move
  • It provides accurate results with little investment
  • It discharges high quality pictures through high end cameras and laser scanners
  • It assures safety as it does away with the human component
  • It can stay up in the air for long duration performing repetitive but precise tasks
  • It can function in fog, darkness and autonomously as well

From informing the farmer on where to spray fertilizers to assessing the extent of damage after a natural disaster, drones can be very handy. Still a nascent development, drones are certainly going to fly higher!

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UAV DATA PROCESSING FIELDS OF APPLICATION

UAV data processing

UAV data processing


This write-up intends to present birds eye view of fully automated and accurate mapping solutions based on ultra-light UAV imagery. We showcase interesting observations in the field of UAV mapping, the steps to analyze the accuracy of the automated processing on several datasets. The software used to process is one of the leading and evolving software in the UAV data processing domain.
The accuracy highly depends on the ground resolution (GSD) of the input imagery. When chosen appropriately this mapping solution can compete with traditional mapping solutions that capture fewer high-resolution images from airplanes and that rely on highly accurate orientation and positioning sensors on board. Due to the advancement of computing practices and processing prowess of computers and careful integration with recent computer vision techniques, the result is robust and fully automatic and can deal with inaccurate position and orientation information which are typically problematic with traditional techniques.
SBL’s geospatial team is one of the first in the region to process such images. Processing of UAV images has its own challenges. SBL used to receive post-processed UAV images along with IMU and GCPs as input. Aerial Triangulation is the first step performed. During this stage Ground Control Point (GCP) and Actual Check Point (ACP) reports has been generated. This is an iterative step till we get desired accuracy. The following will explain in brief some of the critical steps in the processing of UAV data.

  1. The software examines for matching points by analyzing all images. The software used here an improved version of the binary descriptors, which are very powerful to match image points quickly and accurately.
  2. Those matching points as well as estimated values of the image position and orientation provided by the UAV autopilot are used in a bundle block adjustment to reconstruct the exact position and orientation of the camera for every acquired image.
  3. Based on this re-establishment the matching points are corroborated and their 3D coordinates calculated. The geo-reference system is WGS84, in this case, based on GPS measurements from the UAV autopilot during the flight.
  4. Those 3D points are interpolated to form a triangulated irregular network in order to obtain a DEM. At this stage, construction of a dense 3D model increases the spatial resolution of the triangulated data.
  5. This DEM is used to project every image pixel and to calculate the geo-referenced ortho-mosaic. The ortho image will be devoid of positional and terrain displacement inaccuracies.
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    One of the major application for which UAV images used are for agriculture. UAV images are ideal for small size farms. Plant counts such as corn counting will give an idea of yield from those plants. Plant health monitoring, differentiating species of agricultural farms/plants and plantation estimation are the major task performed for agriculture. Growth stages of the farms can also be monitored using ortho images acquired through UAV process. UAV image processing is also helpful for the site selection for solar farms.
    In case of forestry, UAV images are very helpful in species identification. SBL’s interpreters have identified forest species and enabled the client to map forest land parcels. It is a tool to monitor de-forestation as well as afforestation. Golf courses are another field where UAV data sets are highly useful. Golf course features can be mapped with their actual heights through this process.
    Mining industry is the most benefitted in the usage of UAV technological advancement. As most of the mines are spread over small areas, UAV data acquiring and processing is very cost effective. Along with other data processing, SBL has got the expertise in generating contours and mining related features to very minute levels of detail.

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