Commodities have definitely been experiencing volatile times this year and during these turbulent months, innovation plays a huge part in changing operations and cutting costs.
One example of this is from Australian mining company is BHP Billiton Ltd (BHP:ASE) who are testing sensors that can tell whether a rock is valuable or waste as it is scooped up, a major technology that could increase the grade of copper being sent to its processing plants by up to 10%.
These sensors are assembled onto drones with military-grade infrared sensors and a telescopic zoom to build real-time 3D maps.
Weighing 2.5kg and resembling a hobbyist’s model aeroplane than a stereotypical looking drone, the German-built and battery-powered UAVs have a flight time of up to 40 minutes and fly at up to 80km/h at a height of 120 metres, in addition, they can cover 80ha of the mining lease in one journey.
After a flight plan has been uploaded to a memory card, the drone(s) take flight for their rapid-fire collection of the type of volumetric measurements (this is done by taking overlapping photos which can be data crunched into a 3D model – pretty cool, eh?
Drones for Mining – Keeps employees in a job
A BHP project leader mentioned that the drones don’t need to go down to the pits, and they don’t need to integrate with the equipment down there which is good for safety, and it has productivity benefits.
What’s particularly interesting about using drones in mining, is that the mining surveyors are not out of a job. They are ground-based pilots for the mining drones (once they have obtained a remote pilot aircraft systems licence for drones).
Known as “Peg whackers” (got to love Aussie lingo!), thanks to using mines onsite, mine surveyors are gaining more respect than ever before in the industry with their drone operating skills.
One employee at the company mentioned that there is a real buzz about using this disruptive form of tech, he went on to say that As the drone technology evolves, they know that things are going to get better.
The technology has also changed the mining surveyors roles, not only are they drone pilots but they act like data managers too.
This is because with any technology comes more expectation from data, and with that expectation comes more processing. As Peter Drucker once mentioned, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
Thanks to using drones, mining surveyors’ roles has rocketed to a higher professional standing in the mining business.'Drones overall will be more impactful than I think people recognise, in positive ways to help society.' - Bill GatesClick To Tweet
This is in the right step where mining surveyors want to go, not only has using drones helped improve their skills set, using them as a whole has helped companies such as BHP Billiton both time and money.
One quote that I’ll leave you with is from Bill Gates: “Drones overall will be more impactful than I think people recognise, in positive ways to help society.”
In the media there are a lot of negative connotations associated with drones. From looking at Bill Gates’ quote and this case study on drones for mining, it clearly that shows their versatility can help and transform industries across the board