Ways in which drones can help improve mine safety

As a mining engineer or manager, mine safety is, no doubt, one of your top priorities. Anyone who works in this sector can attest: this is a particularly dangerous field, with workers subject to both ongoing health hazards and the constant risk of accidents, like cave-ins, floods and explosions.

The good news is, advances in drone technology and UAV industries have the potential to make a big difference in this area. Already used in the mining profession, and many other industries, for the purposes of mapping, scanning and surveying, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are also an efficient and cost-effective way to mitigate dangers and manage risks on site. Below we take a look at how drones are currently being used to improve safety at mine sites.

Four ways drones help to improve safety in the mining industry

1. Pre-work assessment and hazard identification

Before work commences on a new mining site, it is critical that the entire area is inspected for existing or potential threats to employees’ safety. Traditionally, such inspections would be carried out by human safety experts, sometimes using helicopters to cover expansive ranges – a costly, dangerous and time-consuming method of evaluation. Drone technology, however, makes assessing a wide area quick and easy, while also improving the accuracy of the results and lowering the costs involved. UAVs can also easily access cramped, remote parts of mines that human inspectors could never reach or evaluate accurately. Similarly, drone technology can assist with real-time data collection to ensure that a particular zone is clear before blasting takes place.

2. Eliminating the need for human-led stockpile surveys

Regularly measuring the volume, height and density of stockpiles is an important part of a mine’s operations, but the task typically requires a surveyor to work on foot and climb steep slopes and other high-risk structures to get the job done. With drone technology, mines can survey stockpiles across a large site with great speed and precision without having to put human lives at risk. Customised drones can generate highly accurate aerial maps to visualise and verify stock on hand, and because this method is so swift and cost-effective, it means inspections can be carried out far more regularly than before.

3. Detecting fire hazards and gas leaks

The latest drone technology can also be used to pick up problem areas before they turn into full-scale disasters. Using aerial thermal cameras and the practice of thermography, mines can measure heat patterns and detect abnormal activity and failures in electrical systems, thereby preventing possible fires. In the same way, recent advancements in drone technology, including UAV-attached methane gas sensors, can be used to detect gas leaks in mines that could potentially lead to poisoning or explosions. Needless to say, the regular use of these applications plays an important role in maintaining safe conditions for mine workers.

4. CRISIS MANAGEMENT

If a disaster does occur, obtaining real-time information about the situation as quickly as possible can help to save lives and prevent further damage. By deploying camera-equipped drones to the site of a crisis, mining engineers and emergency personnel can survey the area, including hazardous or hard-to-reach spaces, and collect invaluable data that’ll help them plan a rescue/recovery strategy and map out safe routes to target areas. And they can do all this while improving the accuracy of inspection and reducing the costs involved in manned flight operations.

At the end of the day, drone technology is a must for mining managers and personnel looking to improve working conditions and protect their employees. At DC Geomatics, we provide cutting-edge drone services supported by the security of full accreditation, compliance and expertise for your every need.

Eager to learn more about how you can employ UAVs at your mining site? Learn more here.