This is part of the series “Drones are the Future” – a collection of posts outlining the positive impact UAVs will have on our world in the not-so-distant future.
Mining has traditionally been a dangerous occupation. The day is soon coming where fewer humans will be used in mining operations and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will conduct stockpile surveying, pit mapping, environmental scanning, spare parts transport, and oversee remote drilling.
Drones will likely make their way into daily mining faster than other industries, as mining companies often operate in remote regions where UAVs pose no threat to highly-populated areas.
Here’s a look at 5 ways that drones will change mining in the not-so-distant future:
1) Map Mining Locations
Equipped with high-definition cameras, drones will provide 3-D maps of mines for analysis that will calculate how much material has been removed. Gravel pits, quarries, landfills, and underground chambers could be mapped to within a centimeter of detail. Faster and more efficient than humans, unmanned aircraft surveys will reduce waste and help adjust production estimates.
2) Delivery of Spare Parts
They say time is money. When a mining operation stalls due to faulty equipment, profitability just drains away. Due to mining logistics, drone delivery of needed spare parts could save time by navigating remote or hard-to-get-to areas quickly. Drones will shorten supply chains and increase a company’s ability to manage important aspects of the business that are time critical in remote areas. Drones can deliver spare parts in areas where it current can take days.
3) Establish Mines in Remote Locations
Cold conditions? No humans around to do the mining? No problem. The combination of drones and robots will help create mines of the future in remote locations such as Mongolia, Greenland, or Canada that can be directed from anywhere on the globe.
As pointed out in our post about why drones are the future of Arctic research, drones are well-suited to handling cold-weather tasks that human bodies aren’t accustomed to tackling.
Or how about mines where temperatures reach 85 degrees Centigrade? Robots and drones will be handling all sorts of mining operations, giving operators a set of eyes and hands in places they otherwise couldn’t be.
4) Do Some Mining
The close cousins of drones, robots, will act as miners. Supervisors or operators will be comfortably located in centralized control rooms thousands of miles away. Robotic miners will bore holes for explosives and spray shotcrete to reinforce mine walls. Driverless trucks and trains will automate delivery of cargo to the coast. The automation of these logistics can open up development of mines previously considered too dangerous or remote.
5) Monitor Mining Operations
Drones provide a cost-effective way of exploring land, monitoring environmental impact, and scout for untapped resources. Mining companies can have 4-5 drones aloft for the cost of one helicopter, allowing faster exploration.
Monitoring of open-pit mines is also made more effective through use of UAVs. Estimating how much coal is left in a pit, for example, can save time and increase profitability.
Looks like we might soon have mines without miners. Sound like a Ray Bradbury novel? Drones and robots will mine the natural resources of our planet, more safely, quickly, efficiently, and profitably than ever before.
Additional Information and Resources
Image via flickr.com
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