Automation of drone missions for digital mining is the next, logical step in the evolution of unmanned, aerial data collection, according to a white paper commissioned by Israeli-based drone firm Airobotics,
“The automated drone system will be considered a strategic component of this future, not just simply a tactical, cost driven activity,” authors Elan Frantz and Sean Jefferys write.
“[Drone automation] furthers the efficiency of this connection by eliminating delays and operator involvement while providing seamless access to routine and real-time insights,”
Drone deployment across the industry is already booming – unmanned data flights allow mining companies to survey vast areas for lower costs, faster results and with stronger safety margins. Companies no longer have to deploy ground vehicles into rough – often inaccessible – and dangerous terrain.
“Instead of scaling unstable slopes and transporting heavy equipment, drones rapidly harvest aerial data which are then processed into 3D data files,” Frantz and Jeffreys state. “This information supports operations-critical processes such as mine planning, geotechnical analysis, financial accounting, and more.”
Frantz and Jeffreys examine three methods mining companies might use when considering drones — drone-as-a-service, in-house (manual) and automated systems.
After considering the pros and cons of each model, the authors conclude that automated drone systems will give mining companies the best and most bang for the buck especially given the need for “regular, reliable data collection in the mining environment.”
In a recent interview, Airobotics Head of Marketing Efrat Fenigson said:
“For all of the reasons mining operations are increasingly looking to deploy automated drones, the most compelling arguments driving them are not the tactical or economic ones, as persuasive as those are. Instead, automated drones are poised to become an essential strategic part of mining’s future, providing an integrated, holistic solution that bridges the gap between decision-makers and the critical data they rely on, quickly and accurately.”
Several mining companies are already digging drone adoption. Last year, Rio Tinto, one of Australia’s largest mining and metal companies, struck a gold mine of new data by deploying UAVs. Also in 2015, Japanese equipment manufacturer Komatsu announced a partnership with Skycatch, a provider of commercial drone data solutions for mining companies.