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  • Melissa Wijnberg

Remote mine LiDAR surveys via the internet (drone-in-a-box)


Drone over a mine site

3DroneMapping has been working hard to provide its clients, particularly in the mining sector, a solution for rapid, high frequency LiDAR surveys at remote sites. It was noticed particularly during COVID-19, that travel to and from difficult to reach sites for skilled personnel like surveyors and pilots became a challenge. As periodical surveys like stockpile report timelines are fixed, there became a great danger of delaying the data capture and end reporting due to travel restrictions or issues of cargo clearance complications. For this reason, 3DroneMapping decided to work on a remote survey solution for repeated fixed locations.

For the past 2 years, 3DroneMapping's R&D division has been working with its partners in East Africa to demonstrate the financial feasibility of medical cargo deliveries via a drone platform. The study was based on a "hub and spoke" design where a central base coordinated the routings, monitored flights and liaised with ground staff at remote sites like clinics and hospitals, up to 115km away.

As radio communication with the base station and the drone were impossible due to terrain and distance, a internet based link was designed to control and command operations. This proved highly effective and it was realized that the control link was now in fact limitless as the aircraft could be controlled from anywhere in the world.

From the lessons learnt in East Africa, the team quickly modified the communications link to work for survey specific drones and LiDAR payloads. A package was designed with a CCTV camera and a weather station that would allow operators to remotely undertake surveys from anywhere in the world. All that was required locally was a brief training for mine staff on drone setup, battery charging and data upload.

In practical numbers, surveys could be undertaken as rapidly as possible. The only limitation would be data transfer and processing time. Previously, such surveys required cargo transfer, site mobilization, data capture, demobilization and equipment repatriation. Not only is there a dramatic reduction in turnaround times, but the costs are more than halved when undertaken remotely via the internet.

Such high intensity surveys can be useful for volumetric surveys, site condition monitoring, level reports and general construction.


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