Three Ways Drones are Changing the Mining Industry
In the aggregates and mining industries, inaccurate and outdated survey data is a major roadblock to effectively managing inventory, making forecasts and reducing costs. With the industry poised for growth over the next few years, problematic data will hold companies back at a time when they could otherwise be looking to take advantage of lucrative opportunities.
A growing market
With the North American housing market not only recovering, but on the rise, building materials are in high demand. This implies a good forecast for the aggregates industry—growth at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of nearly three per cent in the next four years,1 in fact. But the anticipated demand means that aggregates and mining companies will need to be proactive in taking steps to maximize the opportunity.
Challenges in the mining industry
- Accuracy and confidence: Accuracy and confidence in forecast models and production levels is a strategic challenge for mining companies. When companies use traditional methods, such as manual surveys, they typically collect data infrequently, perhaps quarterly or even as little as annually. This leads to a small and dated dataset, which provides a very limited view into real-world conditions.
- Manual Methods: Manual methods usually consist of a worker or group of workers walking around a site and taking measurements. These manual surveys have been shown to account for just 75 to 85 per cent of true pile volume, and this inaccurate data also comes at great risk to the workers, who must walk around dangerous areas of the site to obtain it.
- Mixed Survey Methods: Mixed survey methods are a way for mining companies to get more accurate data by using a combination of manual, base/rover and manned aerial methods. However, these mixed methods add more complexity to the process and do not provide overall consistency when performing audits and regular inventory assessments.
Both mixed and manual survey methods are time-consuming and inefficient, making it difficult for mining companies to get a large enough—and recent enough—sample for informed decision-making. In addition to taking a lot of time to perform, these types of survey systems often require specialized training, taking workers away from other crucial tasks.
Taken together, all of this discourages mining companies from performing surveys more frequently, which only exacerbates the problem of outdated and untrustworthy data.
Technology as a strategic solution
To address these strategic challenges, mining companies need to look at smarter methods of gathering accurate inventory data. This will require companies to become strategic and proactive about problem solving, putting solutions in place to prevent issues before they happen, instead of trying to clean up afterward. It’s imperative for mining companies to innovate and understand how technology will change the way they do business.2
“That’s the nature of our business—always trying to find the cutting-edge, to lower our cost at all times, and we want to do it in a safe manner,” says Murray Kline, Vice President of Operations at APAC Central.
Unmanned aerial systems, commonly called drones, are one example of a digital solution that mining companies can embrace to address strategic challenges head-on. Drones allow for more frequent and more accurate data collection, with much less manpower and risk. They are well-suited to the dynamic demands of the mining industry and will help business managers make well-informed decisions.
HOW DRONES ARE CHANGING THE MINING INDUSTRY
One: Survey with confidence; more reliably and more often
Drones have been proven to measure inventory with an accuracy between 97 and 99 per cent of true volume; significantly better than the accuracy of manual methods.3 This provides companies with access to data that is more accurate and reliable.
Drone programs will also allow companies to collect data much more frequently than traditional methods. A single employee can operate drone technology and scan an entire 150-acre site in just 30 minutes. Drone systems are also easy to scale across an entire organization.
Business leaders won’t be limited by having updated inventory numbers just a few times a year. They will get a much wider view, allowing them to identify patterns and trends. As a result, they will have a much clearer understanding of inventory levels so they can make forecasts and decisions with confidence.
Two: Gain strategic control for informed decisions
With the accurate, thorough surveys that drones enable, project managers will have confidence in their data, making them able to better protect company assets and make intelligent decisions. With rock-solid data at their disposal, they can plan more efficiently and reduce costs without veering off schedule.
With the accuracy that drone surveys deliver, site managers will never have to worry about unreliable forecasts. Instead, they can budget appropriately, developing realistic and efficient project schedules, and deliver to those deadlines. Drones enable knowledge of inventory in real-time, helping cut down on material degradation and save costs in labour and wasted materials.
Technology always encourages speed and efficiency, and that’s certainly true for drones. With drones, companies will get full inventory data within hours of a survey flight. With faster data collection, business leaders can be sure they’ll meet deadlines and streamline planning processes.
Three: Reduce risk
As reliable as drone surveys are, they also require far less risk as compared to traditional methods. Inherently, on-site foot traffic will be reduced, as workers won’t have to walk high-risk sites to take a survey. And drones enable better site planning, so traffic routes and emergency egress routes can be efficiently mapped out.
With drone data, companies can also identify hazardous areas in advance and prevent accidents. This reduces liabilities, cutting down on insurance premiums and litigation risk, and creating a much safer work environment for every employee.
Conclusion: Low Risk, high reward
Early adopters of drone technology are already seeing groundbreaking results. They’ve been able to streamline their survey processes with frequent, accurate data collection.
“This is a tool that as a global aggregates business, we definitely see as scalable and applicable in many countries and regions. It allows us to harmonize and standardize on practices and processes worldwide,” says Neil Wells, Head of Land and Minerals, Heidelberg Cement.
Mining companies using drones are gaining a more complete picture of their inventory with more accurate forecasting, helping them maximize profits while minimizing risk to their employees—and their budgets.
- Kespry Report: 3 Ways Drones Make Aggregates and Mining Companies More Profitable
About this Author
Kespry is the only aerial intelligence solution that takes you from information capture on your aggregates site to finished data and insights you can use in the office. The system is designed to make it easy for anyone in your team to use. The Kespry Drone flies autonomously. There are no joysticks or piloting skills needed. Both data transfer and processing are automatic. Using your data in the online Kespry Cloud is simple. And you have powerful reporting to guide better decision-making and efficiency. The best part? There are no usage costs beyond your flat-rate subscription, so you can fly as often as want. Predictable costs, unlimited data capture and more accurate information on which to run your business. That’s the power of Kespry.