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Severalmaz, a subsidiary of Russian state-owned diamond mining firm Alrosa, is testing unmanned aerial vehicles to undertake mine surveying of land objects at Lomonosov.

Based on preliminary estimates, the company noted that the deployment of unmanned technologies, such as a quadcopter and an airplane, could provide improved survey accuracy, and increase the speed and safety of work.

The company carried out mine and geodetic surveying at the Lomonosov Mining and Processing Division using a Geoscan 401 Geodesy quadcopter and Geoscan 101 Geodesy aircraft.

“The use of drones for surveying is one of the components for building the concept of digital production at a mining enterprise.”

Covering a total area of more than 3km² and with a flight time of 2 hours 40 minutes, the test mine survey focused on the open-pit mine, dump, ore storages and other bulked land objects.

Severalmaz chief engineer Igor Ivanov said: “Right now, mining companies in our country are only testing the drone-based surveying technology. For Severalmaz, as well as for Alrosa as a whole, this is also the first experience of their use.

“We still need to do an in-depth analysis of the results, but preliminary estimates show that the use of drones for mine and geodetic surveying can be very promising.”

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In addition to demonstrating high survey accuracy, the results of mine surveying indicated that measurement errors are within acceptable limits by a large margin.

When compared to traditional laser scanning, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles reduced the time required to complete the survey, Severalmaz noted.

Alrosa Strategic Projects and Analytics Center project director Alexey Tikhonov said: “The use of drones for surveying is one of the components for building the concept of digital production at a mining enterprise.

“The resulting polygonal digital model of the open-pit mine can be used to automate the processes of calculating the volume of excavated rock mass, comparing the current state of mining operations with the mining project, planning of mining operations, and to solve some other tasks.”