The first Implementation of Drone as a Service in Russian Quarries
Optiplane (part of SIGMA.Novosibirsk Group of the Investment Network of the RUSNANO’s Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs) was the first company in Russia and the CIS to use drones for regular automatic monitoring of open pits at one of Russia’s largest coal mines.
The new service in Russia is based on the Drone as a Service model, which means that surveying and geodetic services no longer need to purchase non-core aircraft—all they need to do is sign an agreement for periodic monitoring of the production site. This format speeds up and improves the quality of the work. As a result, the customer will receive the finished decoded data from the Optiplane’s special Mine Surveying series of rotorcraft.
For mining companies, the use of drones allows them to move towards an “autonomous quarry”. The mining industry still uses long-running and time-consuming foot surveying. Crews of surveyors and survey technicians walk around the open pit with heavy instruments, spending days and months surveying to check and correct the progress of the work in the open pit. Work monitoring and calculation of output volumes are carried out regularly, depending on the size and volume of production in the field, from daily to monthly ones.
The quarries are already trying to implement drone technology, but the current solutions cannot satisfactorily cover the challenges and needs of the business. Two types of aircraft—planes, and quadcopters—are mainly offered to quarries. However, none of them is the optimal solution for the mining industry. The aircraft is not suited to operating in the confined space of a quarry with its difficult terrain, it requires an extended open space for take-off and landing.
The aircraft can only be flown by an experienced qualified pilot, the machine is difficult to maneuver, and it is not possible to get close to the subject for more footage detail. The quadcopter, on the other hand, is maneuverable enough, but it is not suitable for work in large fields, as it has low energy efficiency in horizontal flight and captures too small area—less than 1 sq km—in a single flyout.
The latest field solution involves the use of Optiplane rotorcraft, combining the maneuverability and range being the advantages of both types. This type of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) can take off and land on a 2x2 meter site and has a range sufficient for surveying large deposits and measuring open storage sites. Another key feature of the complete rotorcraft-based quarry solution is its fully automatic flight.
Since in the case of quarries, the same area is always shot, on autopilot, it is possible to set the boundaries and route once and have the machine do all the work itself within a couple of hours. One worker is enough to take the drone to the take-off point and launch it. For example, it takes about 2.5 hours to survey an 800-hectare quarry instead of a month of uninterrupted surveying and geodetic service.
“Previously, the quarry surveyor’s office could not survey the whole deposit because of its size. The data was updated virtually once a month as a result of continuous work by teams of surveyors and survey technicians of several people. Autonomous quarry monitoring based on the Optiplane rotorcraft comes out tens of times more efficient. Now, instead of several surveying teams working continuously every day, it takes 2-3 hours a month to survey the quarry,” said Kirill Yakovchenko, Director of Development at Optiplane Aerodynamics LLC.
However, it is also possible to increase the efficiency of the surveying service by doing an aerial survey every week. In this way, the survey technician can quickly monitor work results and adjust tasks for the miners. This, in turn, will lead to an increase in production globally. So if you want to step into the automation of surveying and geodesy, Optiplane is for you.