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SPECIAL FOCUS: DRONES


fl ying the drones. Meanwhile Steffl er managed the data processing himself, spending up to 12 hours per day on this task – over 120 days in total. T e fi nal data products Steffl er and his team produced achieved a GSD of 9.75cm, and accuracy within DRA’s requested +/- 20cm range. T e mean re-projection error was 0.179 pixels. Having successfully completed


the Molo’s UAV survey, and used its outputs to inform DRA’s feasibility study, Steffl er is now eff usive in his praise of drone technology. “T e return on our investment has been amazing. We saved ourselves hundreds of thousands of dollars by using the drones in place of airborne lidar, plus we have sub-contracted our UAVs and personnel on several other jobs.”


Blasting off Going beyond mapping applications, drones are also being used to advance blast design and quality. A leading player here is South African fi rm BME, which recently established a High-Tech Services unit to advance the application of drones in mine blasting activities. According to BME technical


director Tony Rorke, drones fi tted with high-resolution cameras and guided by computer systems using GPS survey data have proved invaluable in improving blast quality. “Our team applies a range of modern technologies such as drones to help us plan, monitor and execute blasts in ways that optimise our clients’ results. T e downstream impact can be felt in a range of benefi ts to mining productivity – such as fi ner fragmentation, higher digging rates and reduced power consumption in mine crusher circuits.” Although great strides have been made in surveying and drilling blast- holes, Rorke says that a mine’s survey plan is often not completely accurate or up-to-date – potentially reducing blast quality. “Using drones, we can generate high-quality aerial imagery of the


10 www.engineerlive.com


BME is deploying drones to improve the entire blasting process


blast site after holes have been drilled, capturing the exact GPS coordinates of each hole. T e position of each hole is surveyed and then marked so that it is easily identifi ed in the footage from the drone as it passes overhead.” T e actual blast-hole positions can


then be referenced exactly to the survey coordinates of the mine – to allow accurate measurement of the variables necessary to plan an optimal blast. “T e coordinates are exported into our blast timing design program, BlastMap III, and into our Axxis electronic detonator system – so that the appropriate fi ring sequences, timing and charge distributions can be applied to the blast, based on the exact positioning of each hole,” Rorke explains.


Rorke emphasises the benefi ts in being able to adjust the timing of a detonation in a blast-hole – as well as fi ring sequences and charge distribution – to take account of any slight divergence of a hole’s actual position compared with its place on the survey plan. “Unless we measure, we are only guessing; so better measurement – both before, during and after a blast – is the key to optimising blast results. Drones advance our measuring ability greatly when combined our other innovative in-house tools such as our blast planning software together with our electronic detonator system.” T e versatility of a drone as a vehicle for the camera also extends to valuable monitoring functions during and after the blast. What experts can take from


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