Here's how the mining industry is using drones

Drones flying

How the mining industry is using drones to make production more safe and efficient.

They are revolutionising the way we do things in all kinds of industries. From shooting films and delivering packages, to completing large equipment inspections and monitoring farms.

We tend to call them drones, but to those in the know they’re often referred to as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs.

It’s no surprise that the mining industry, with all its focus on innovation, has been among the first to jump into the brave new world of UAVs and put them through their paces right across operations.

From mapping and surveying as part of the exploration process to monitoring stockpiles and ensuring good environmental management and mine rehabilitation processes, the use of UAVs has taken a very short time to proliferate throughout the industry.

Where a team sent into the scrub on foot to do a survey of a mining lease might take a week to complete the job, a UAV can scan the same area in a matter of hours.

Similarly, using a UAV to scout a mining lease and collect data on flora and fauna in the area, or keep track of mine operations and equipment, can save significant amounts of time and has the added bonus of keeping workers out of harm’s way.

What’s the effect of drones on jobs?

Companies such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto have been using the technology for exactly these purposes for a while now, and there are a number of service companies in the industry using UAVs on behalf of miners.

That’s not to say that the use of UAVs is necessarily costing jobs, however.

UAV pilots are reportedly earning as much, if not more, than commercial airline pilots, according to an article on WA Today.

It also remains true that surveyors and analysts are needed to interpret and present the huge amount of data collected by UAVs.

In fact, companies are beginning to appear which are dedicated to organising and storing this data in ‘the cloud’ so that miners can cherrypick the information they need.

It’s safe to say that, with the increasing uptake of automation and innovative technologies in the sector, the information age has taken deep root in the mining industry and the traditional roles as we know them are quickly changing to keep pace.

Don’t be disheartened though. Do your homework and talk to other professionals, and there’s no reason you can’t stay ahead of the curve.