Across the mining industry, drones are demonstrating exceptional results by enabling much greater data collection, enhancing safety and improving productivity. The popularity of drone technology across the mining industry has grown significantly in recent years. There are several examples where drones are currently being deployed across mine sites, making on-site activities a lot safer and more productive.
Drone Applications in Mining
Listed below are the key trends on how drones are being utilised or will be used across the mining industry, as identified by GlobalData.
Site safety management
Application of drones for collecting visual data particularly of difficult and volatile areas such as deep and high terrains of a mine, highwalls, crests, and inside stopes. Further, aerial data capturing from blast sites, reduces the risk of exposure on the ground to such dangers.
Tailings dam management
Utilisation of drones to measure tailings dams could eliminate the risk of manual surveying. There is no need for manual interference within the proximity of the dump when drones are around. By analysing the captured data on a digital platform, mining companies can maintain structural integrity of the tailings dam, design expansion and avoid failure.
Automatic surveying and mapping
Normally, surveying and mapping of mineral landscapes is a time-consuming process. By employing drones and a drone pilot instead of a piloted plane a mine can save around 90% of the cost per hour, and collect unlimited aerial data, including fine measurements by simultaneously capturing high end orthoimages.
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Monitoring and inspection
Mining is amongst the most unsafe industries for workers, especially those performing deep underground activities. Workers can be subjected to rock falls, extremely humid conditions, gas leaks, dust explosions or floods, amongst other hazards. Therefore, mining companies have used drones at underground mines to monitor and inspect deep underground shafts.
In addition, drones are also being employed for inspection of mining equipment, which is an expensive and time-consuming process requires a highly skilled workforce.
Haulage road optimisation
The haul road network has a significant impact on the efficiency of mining activities. To achieve safe and uniform transit, the haul road conditions must be constantly monitored. Drones can facilitate this process by collecting a large amount of aerial data, covering wider areas more precisely, which can then be used by engineers for planning, designing, construction and maintenance of haul roads.
One of the greatest challenges any mining company faces while managing stockpiles are their extreme height and area, which tends to change frequently. Drones enable mining companies to generate aerial terrain models of the inventory.
Effective management of stockpiles could yield significant benefits for mining companies such as grade maximisation by blending of ore, production backup during situation of supply disruptions, and financial reporting.
This is an edited extract from the Drones in Metals and Mining – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.