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Drones In The Mining Industry: 4 Key Benefits

The Elios UAv flying through a mine

Although the mining industry has been a little slower than some others to embrace drone technology, their use is becoming more widespread. Mining represents some of the toughest environmental conditions for any kind of equipment – plus margins can be tight within an ever-tougher playing field.

This makes it completely understandable that companies continue to rely on tried and trusted methods. After all, when every dollar and minute of uptime is crucial, branching out to new concepts can be challenging to justify.

However, drones have advanced significantly over the past decade. Gone are the days of mere minutes of flying time, complex navigational skills and less-than-perfect data return. Today’s best technology brings remote operation and – in some cases – semi-autonomous models (with full autonomy no longer just a pipe dream – watch this space!).

The following are 4 key reasons to include drone technology in the equipment inventory of any mining operation.

1: Drones simplify planning and mapping

All mining operations rely on mapping and data collection. The use of drones to expedite the process is something that most planners have embraced. The technology brings speed, ease and dramatically reduced costs over cumbersome traditional methods.

They can return highly defined data, including:

  • 2-D mapping
  • 3-D mapping using LiDAR
  • Digital elevation
  • Terrain modelling

And they can do so in the toughest, hardest-to-reach terrain and even in certain adverse weather conditions.

2: Drones improve inspection and monitoring processes – and make them safer

Removing the need for human entry into dangerous environments, enclosed spaces or to work at height is a priority. Drones can lower or even remove this risk entirely. Instead of having to physically get up close to assets (either interior or exterior), inspectors can review drone data in real-time.

Cutting-edge examples, such as the agile Elios 3 are revolutionising the area of confined space inspection. As one of the few advanced drones with the advanced capabilities necessary to navigate complex interior structures, it returns data via a live HD video stream, thermal/camera sensor, LiDAR sensor and 4K camera.

Such advanced drone technology is being successfully deployed for confined space inspection. Additionally, the unique attributes make them an efficient tool to monitor tailing dams, allowing real-time visualisation of vast areas. Other common uses include the investigation of underground blast caverns that need to be assessed for stability.

Keeping workers safer in what has always been a hazardous industry is the number one benefit that advanced drone technology has brought.

3: Drones can be used for stockpile management

Monitoring volumes of aggregate is best done from the air. Drones are perfectly placed to replace traditional piloted aircraft for GNSS Surveying – the typical method used to do so.

In addition to streamlining the process, advanced data tools carried by drones mean that they don’t simply return the information. This is then analysed by specialist software that calculates the total volumes and, thus, the levels available to sell. Aerial terrain models are quickly generated, and the ease and low cost of drone tech means stockpile analysis can be carried out far more frequently.

4: Drones are great tools for logistics and planning

Exploration, route planning and the monitoring of route logistics are prime examples of where drone tech comes into its own. Advanced models are capable of rendering traditional tools obsolete. This is dramatically lowering the use of expensive equipment and analysis, such as fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters and satellite imaging. Carrying out magnetic and geophysical drone surveys hastens the process as well as being far more cost-effective.

The case for utilising drones within mining operations is overwhelmingly positive. The number one benefit is that of improved safety, closely followed by the financial benefits. When you compare the use of a piloted aircraft to that of a drone, savings as high as 90% are consistently being reported.

One of the best examples of today’s cutting-edge drone tech is the second-generation Elios 3, complemented by its Inspector 4.0 software. Combining user-friendly control, extended flying time and second-to-none data return, this is fast becoming the inspection tool of choice for mining operations around the world.

Discover how Elios 3 and other innovative drone technology can benefit your operation with a free demo. Get in contact today to arrange an appointment, or request a quote online.

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