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Drones are the ideal tool for 3D mapping and aerial imagery, and for this reason, they are ideally suited to a variety of applications in the mining industry. Data captured by drone makes it easy to measure stockpile volume and manage inventory, with a much greater degree of accuracy than with manual data measurement methods. The surveying capabilities of drones make terrain mapping and 3D modeling simple and efficient, providing the ability to record daily topography changes in active areas. Equipment inspection is another way drones provide a superior solution to traditional methods, with high-resolution imagery and zoom capabilities ensuring safety and efficiency.
The mining industry is being revolutionized by the aerial imagery and data made possible by drones. There is simply no method that comes close to providing this data as safely, efficiently or as accurately as mining drones. When it comes to optimizing the management of your quarry, pit or aggregate operation, accurate geospatial data is key. Automated flight planning with the right drone makes it easy to collect time-stamped, georeferenced imagery that can be transformed into a precise, accurate 3D map of your site. The digital copy of your site enables highly precise calculations of stockpile volumes with greater accuracy than any other methods available today. Time savings and accuracy are not the only advantages to aerial methods of data collection; going aerial means improved safety for survey staff, who can collect data from an off-site location. Drone data is also the ideal method of performing surveys to optimize site operations. The automated nature of flight planning means that exact flights are easily repeatable, allowing you to create maps to measure daily, weekly or monthly changes in each area. These maps can be used to record and help visualize changes over time. This data can be used to aid in site planning for traffic management, designing haul roads, and selecting sites for loading floors. Drone imagery is also useful in assessing road and floor conditions, as well as slopes, to monitor environmental and operational safety and compliance. Another extremely useful application of drone-derived digital 3D maps of a quarry or pit is in assisting geologists in planning and optimizing blast designs. They also assist in accurately controlling and documenting differences in grade across the site. These maps can be useful as well in making water management decisions, whether it be for managing tailings dams and assessing watersheds and drainage basins, to predicting the potential flow of water based on the current topography of the site.
Digital drone data makes it easy to keep all stakeholders current with site conditions, streamlining the decision making process and improving operational planning. A slightly different, but equally important role that drone imagery plays in mining operations is in inspecting equipment. Machinery and other assets can be quickly and safely inspected from the ground with images documenting the exact state and condition. Time-stamped images ensure accurate record keeping and documentation. With an up-to-date record of the condition of all equipment on site, managers are able to make well-informed, timely decisions on maintenance and repair needs.
At the entry level for mining drones, two good choices are the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise or the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual. The main difference between these two is that the dual also houses a thermal sensor enabling thermal and visual overlay imagery. This drone series boasts safe and easy flight modes and flight planning with enhanced safety features, zoom capabilities and GPS time stamping to ensure time and location accuracy. One step up from there is the Phantom 4 RTK drone. The RTK module is built into the Phantom 4 RTK, and provides real-time, centimeter-level positioning ensuring improved accuracy on image metadata. When equipped with the Zenmuse XT2, you have a powerhouse machine for high-quality visual and thermal imagery. The Matrice 200 series is sure to more than fulfill the demands of a mining drone. The Matrice 210 V2 RTK especially can deliver centimeter-level precision for inspections that require the maximum possible precision. The 210 also has the added advantage of dual downward gimbals, providing greater flexibility and more extensive data obtained with each flight. Two good options in this pairing are the XT for thermal imaging, and the Zenmuse Z30 or X4S, both of which provide top quality visual images, with powerful zoom capabilities.