Maintaining adequate health and safety conditions during any type of mining process is crucial, as these work areas are often highly susceptible to hazardous conditions including, fire, flood explosion and even complete collapse of the mine.
While several functional mines have integrated much safer equipment and preventative measures into their daily operation, the risks of these adverse events occurring remain a chief concern of mining workers.
UAV Technology for Safety Monitoring
Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), or more commonly referred to as drones, play an important role in a wide range of industries for the maintenance of their given health and safety standards. By capturing detailed three-dimensional (3D) images or video footage from a bird’s eye view, drones are capable of reaching structures and locations that are often inaccessible or even dangerous for workers to access.
With active applications of this technology in construction and engineering projects, the usefulness of utilizing drones for mining projects is inevitable.
Economical Advantages of Mining Drones
Before any type of mining project can be initiated, mine surveying must first take place in order to provide a fully detailed outline on the project plans. Mine surveying often involves various components, some of which include a multitude of measurements, calculations and mapping of the area, that provides mining administrators with the necessary information on where to begin.
Such preliminary tasks typically require days to several weeks to complete through traditional techniques, however the implementation of drone technology can limit this process to several hours. As a result of the technology’s ability to collect data from far above the area of the mine, it completely eliminates the need of any terrestrial surveying instruments to be needed1.
By reducing the amount of work required to evaluate the mine, the production costs of the mining industry can reduce greatly and therefore reduce overall costs of the minerals being extracted.
Improving Overall Safety Within the Mine
While various preventative measures are in place to improve the safety of the underground mine, mining disasters are still a prevalent issue in this industry. The initial response to an emergency situation often involves actions taken by surface personnel to not only help in rescuing workers directly exposed to the incident.
This can be particularly challenging, as surface personnel need to be protected from the explosion while simultaneously finding a way to help those directly exposed to the incident escape from harm.
Drone technologies have the potential to greatly improve the way in which mining disaster responses are conducted. By sending a drone into the underground mine immediately after an incident occurs, surface personnel are able to get a full picture of the extent of the situation, how many workers are affected and whether any safe routes are available to enter or leave the mine.
Drones are equipped with lighting and other technologies that can penetrate through dusts and darkness all the while retaining high image quality that is beyond the naked eye of a responder.
Mining Drones of the Future
As drone technologies continue to advance, users of the mining industry are hopeful that future explorations in remote locations of the world will soon be possible through its use. The automation of these explorative projects will greatly reduce costs, as well as improve overall returns, as the exploitation of new deposits that were otherwise deemed as too dangerous or complex for human beings will now be completely accessible2.
Additionally, drones of the future could be incorporated with lasers, drills or other automatic excavation tools capable of burrowing deeply into rocks to isolate desired minerals. Applying increasingly sensitive sensors to drones during such projects will also significantly enhance their specificity to confirm the presence of new and highly sought after minerals.
- “Drones For Mining” – senseFly
- “How Robots, Drones are Transforming Mining and Mine Safety” – The Insurance Journal