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Drones in the Mining Industry: A Guide

Introduction

Mining is a huge industry for Australia, and plenty of larger mining companies have their own drone divisions thanks to the huge transformational shift in data capture that drones afford. Drones have become a game changer for mining operations, changing the way operations are conducted and improving business efficiencies. 

Understanding the Applications of Drones in Mining

Improved Mapping and Surveying

Drones equipped with advanced sensor technology such as LiDAR on the DJI L1 sensor, or enterprise level drones with high resolution cameras are capable of capturing centimetre precise topographic data which is then generated into highly accurate 3D models. Overlaying these models with pre-placed GCP points allows latitude and longitude to also be determined at any location on the site. Don’t know what a GCP point is, take a look at our acronym guide. Drones can rapidly collect data from large areas, reducing or eliminating the need for manually intensive ground based survey. This helps to create mapping surveys of mining sites, enabling accurate measurements, identification of geological formations, and identification of potential hazards.

Enhancing Safety and Security

Mining operations by their very nature are hazardous places, especially when explosives and moving machinery are involved. Drones can be deployed to conduct thorough inspections, monitor operations, and identify safety hazards without endangering lives. Additionally, some drones like the DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise Thermal can detect heat signatures emanating off plant to help detect potential fire risks, further enhancing site safety.

Drones in the Mining Industry
Drones in the Mining Industry
 

Efficient Stockpile Management

Monitoring stockpiles is a necessity for mining operations and being able to optimise the logistics and inventory management in mining. Drones like the DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise are able to scan stockpiles, which are then put through processing software to calculate volumes accurately, helping operations detect any anomalies or discrepancies quickly. This information leads to better planning, reduces wastage, and streamlines supply chain operations.

Environmental Impact and Sustainability

Mining operations, especially open cut mines, have substantial impact on the local environment. Drones are able to quickly capture and over time, monitor the environment by capturing data on erosion, land reclamation, and vegetation regrowth. Not only is this useful in terms of environmental obligations and implementing sustainable practises to minimise ecological damage, this data is also useful for end of life mines which are being converted back to their original environments.  

Enhanced Data Analytics and Predictive Maintenance

Drones are able to collect vast amounts of data during flight, and with flights over time, that data gets compounded and the changes in data offer increasingly interesting insights. This data, if processed through AI and ML algorithms, are able to identify patterns and changes with automatic reporting to operational teams. Coupled with other live data on the ground from other sources, mining operations may also be able to predict equipment failure and changes in the terrain.

Conclusion

Mining operations are becoming increasingly efficient, with drones empowering companies to optimise operations, improve safety, and reduce costs. From precise mapping and surveying to efficient stockpile management and enhanced data analytics, drones are the way forward for the industry. By embracing drones, even smaller mining companies can improve their productivity to compete in the huge Australian industry. 

 
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