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A Game of Centimetres: Increasing Precision in Mining With Automated Drones

It’s fair to say that basically every industry requires precision. However, some industries can be massively impacted by inaccuracies, and mining is one of them. With so much reliance on surveying and stockpile evaluation, haul road integrity and accurate drilling and blasting, inaccuracies ranging in the centimeters and even mere millimeters can take a significant toll on a mining company’s bottom line.

One of the keys to driving efficiency in mining is finding ways to increase precision in surveying, haul road maintenance and drilling and blasting without slowing operations with onerous and time-consuming inspections and tasks. That’s where automated drones come in. These industrial multitools can improve a range of mining operations, and they can do it all quickly and automatically.

Surveying with automated drones
Automated drone surveying is one of the most exciting innovations to hit mining in quite some time. This is a technology that protects the lives of human workers by keeping them from completing ground-based surveying in remote or otherwise dangerous environments, such as stockpiles prone to shifting. It’s also a technology that makes quick work of what would otherwise be time-consuming task. An automated drone can complete in hours a surveying task that would take ground-based surveyors days.

Automated drone surveying also offers mining companies an increase in accuracy for surveying as well as stockpile evaluation applications. Leading automated drones can equip themselves with photogrammetry or LIDAR sensors for leading surveying and mapping technology, using millions of points where ground-based surveyors would use hundreds. In a joint case study completed by automated drone developers Airobotics, leaders in drone surveying, and Israel Chemicals Ltd., a mining giant, stockpile evaluation completed with the Airobotics automated drone resulted in significant differences compared to ground-based surveying. The Airobotics drone used 9.5 million points compared to the ground-based surveying’s 360 points, resulting in a 127% increase in elevation accuracy and a 1.37% difference in recorded stockpile volume.

With an automated drone, mining companies also benefit from reduced expenses for surveying missions. Instead of paying ground-based surveyors or sending small aircraft into the air to complete surveying missions, mining companies simply have the one-time investment in an automated drone, with no pilot or operator fees necessary.

Haul road inspection with automated drones
Since leading automated drones can change their own sensors, these drones can function as true industrial multitools for mining companies, going seamlessly from a surveying mission to haul road inspections with just a quick automated change of a sensor and possibly a battery, depending on mission length.

To keep haul roads in optimal condition, automated drones can allow personnel to complete visual inspections as well as surveying work that measures erosion, structural integrity, overall performance and rolling resistance, all without the slowdowns or stoppages that would need to be put in place to protect employees completing ground-based inspections or surveying. An automated drone’s ease of inspection allows companies to more quickly identify and address haul road issues, allowing them to make repairs and complete maintenance work before operations can be affected or fuel and vehicle maintenance costs increase. Preventing even a 1% increase in rolling resistance can prevent significant costs from adding up for a mining company.

Blast site preparation with automated drones
As important as surveying and haul road inspection precision can be to a mining company, there is perhaps no aspect of operations that requires accuracy as much as drilling and blasting. To ensure drill hole alignment is as accurate as possible, an automated drone can capture a georeferenced image of actual drill holes and compare it to the positions laid out in the blast plan. This identifies where any improvements need to be made prior to the blast. With precise drill hole positions, a mining company will be able to achieve its optimal rock fragmentation size, thereby minimizing wear and tear on equipment and reducing loading and crushing costs that would otherwise be incurred attempting to get the proper fragmentation size, not to mention the added time that loading and crushing would take.

The precision solution
Automated industrial drones represent a game-changing innovation for exacting industries like mining. Leading automated drones are the multitools necessary for those tiny adjustments that result in big improvements to productivity, operational costs and overall profit margins. When the difference between optimal operations and time-wasting slowdowns is razor thin, you need the solution that’s going to eliminate even the slightest inaccuracies.

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Staff Writer

All articles published by Staff Writer have been contributed by all our reporters and edited and proofread by our editorial team.
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