the images and graphics is a clearer understanding of what block faces look like, and whether there is any damage or potential problems resulting from the drilling. “Sampling, measuring and quantifying the fragmentation achieved by a blast is much easier when done from an aerial scale image that a drone can deliver, making the analysis much more useful in improving future blasts,” says Rorke. “T e distribution and volumes of fragment sizes are important to monitor, as these are vital to continuous improvement strategies.” After a blast, drone images from

above give a much clearer picture of where coarser and fi ner fragments are lying – and in what relative quantities. “It may even be possible to use the images as a basis for actually measuring fragment size in a more scientifi c way,” he says. “We currently take post- blast photographs but it is diffi cult

to interpret these in a way that is statistically valid.” Software now also allows the creation

of a three-dimensional surface of the blast block, by combining the aerial drone imagery and the face profi le footage from land-based cameras.

Drones and the digital mine One of the big names in mining, Hexagon, recognised the potential of drones early on and stated its objective to become a leader in this area. It is applying UAVs to solve several challenges in the industry: better blast optimisation; improved safety; faster surveying; and construction of the most comprehensive and continuous project datasets. In 2014 it bought the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) company Aibotix. Aibotix’s core product is the Aibot X6, an autonomously fl ying hexacopter, specifi cally designed for demanding


he Swiss Foundation for Mine Action and

Aurea Imaging collaborated on a mapping project with the Kyrgyzstan Ministry of Emergency Situations, using a senseFly eBee and Pix4Dmapper to estimate the volume of toxic tailings, control erosion and contamination of the environment, further relocate the tailings and take actions for remediation.

tasks in surveying, mining, and industrial inspection. Equipped with a high level of artifi cial intelligence, the UAV reaches almost any target and can independently create high-resolution images and videos. It off ers the ability to adapt varying kinds of sensors, such as hyper- and multispectral sensors, infrared and thermal sensors and sensors for other industry-specifi c missions. Data captured by the Aibot X6

commercial UAV and the software solutions of Aibotix and Hexagon allow mines to generate orthophotos, 3D models and high-density point clouds with great accuracy. T e Aibot’s ability to hover and take photos at any angle means it is ideally suited to stockpile and muck pile monitoring and analysis, plus rock mass characterisation, and plant, equipment and highwall inspections. Norwegian fi rm Asker Oppmaling tested the survey UAV Aibot X6 at

Toxic mine tailings were

released during the Soviet Union era, becoming chronic sources of heavy metal contamination and causing irreversible damage to the environment. An assessment of three lead and zinc tailing sites in Sumsar Valley was initiated, which discovered that two of the three sites needed immediate remediation. Two types of drones were used in the project. The senseFly eBee was used to fl y over the entire region at an altitude of about 175m. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC WX220 camera on-board captured the nadir images, which were used to generate the 2D and 3D results for erosion analysis.

Using drones and

Pix4Dmapper, the task of providing a 2D map and a 3D surface model was completed within a day, including preparation, fl ight and image processing time. To achieve the same outputs using other ground surveying methods, it could have taken weeks in addition to risking personnel exposure to a toxic environment. This innovative combination

of computer vision and photogrammetry enables the rapid creation of maps and surface models as well as their preservation, making monitoring an area over time much easier. ● 11

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