Perhaps you might have thought it to be 2-5 years off, but Rio Tinto have been testing the use of drones in their WA, Qld and NSW sites to assist with monitoring and safety inspections. Efficiency and gaining operational information is driving the move says Kevan Reeve, Rio Tinto’s Aviation Manager.
The drones range from small fixed wing aircrafts made from polystyrene to six-bladed rotary wing drones that are more like small helicopters.The larger drones are used for photogrammetric mapping of Rio Tinto’s Argyle diamond mines.


Drone-based surveying is a growth market with Adelaide-based start-up DroneMetrex receiving a significant investment at the start of this year from Maptek, a major mining computer technology company.

DroneMetrex Managing Director Tom Tradowski claims their Topodrone-100 is significantly more accurate than other UAV (unmanned aviation vehicle) on the market. “We design the whole system to be the same as DGPS, with real time kinematic surveying…we’ll get elevation accuracy of 25mm” he said. Hexagon also acquired drone manufacturer Aibotix to complete their Life of Mine solution distributed by Leica Geosystems.

Matthew Oostveen, former IDC Director of Research forecasted the mines of the future to be “the seamless interconnection of a web of input and output sensors. The workforce will utilise simulated and augmented reality technology in a wearable format like we currently see within virtual reality company, Oculus Rift.”

“Mining companies need to ready themselves for the changes this technology will bring. Identifying the right strategy, equipment and time to implement will be critical for Australian operators. For this reason Resolute Equipment does extensive research into new technologies adopting those that are tried and true – that is, highly modern but supremely reliable equipment” says Shane Haley, General Manger of Resolute Equipment.

Like most industries facing digital disruption, looking for efficiency gains, cultivating innovative strategies and risking investment are all business as usual. With over half of the fortune 500 companies being either merged, acquired or replaced in the last decade by digitally savvy tech start-ups, no-one can ignore the changing business landscape.

Source: Mining Global | Robert Spence