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During a recent demo, an autonomous drone was deployed to map tunnels as small as 3×3 meters, yielding accurate 3D renderings without sending miners into a potentially unsafe environment.
Japanese UAV company Terra Drone’s South African division, which provides UAS solutions to mining, oil and gas sectors, is partnering with a mining company to get a better look at sites from above. Sibanye-Stillwater is the largest producer of gold in South Africa as well as one of the 10 largest in the world. The company has been slammed with criticism following the deaths of 24 miners in 2018. Deploying drones is expected to result in safer working conditions.
Terra Drone COO Teppei Seki said: “We are delighted to implement such a demonstration with Sibanye-Stillwater … especially now [that] Terra Drone South Africa [is] dedicated to underground mining. We will focus on volume calculations by [providing] 3D survey-inspection data for ore paths and vertical shafts … This collaboration is going to be a giant step toward [improvements in] underground mining, which is expected to be expanded [across the African market].”
According to, “A recent case study performed with mining inspection experts WS Data 3D in Chile demonstrates just what mining companies have to gain with drone technology. Mining companies save huge amounts immediately by using drones for inspections … These environments are so hazardous for workers that operations need to be shut down in order for inspections to be performed, at a high cost to the mine.”
Other automated drone solutions include Airobotics’ drone solution, which is an autonomous drone that streamlines operations, increases efficiency and offers immediate, easy access to the required data. All without loading and transporting the drone, having to wait for the survey, or being dependent on a service provider, according to the company website.
Microdrones UAVs are also active in the global mining industry. Less expensive than the helicopters traditionally used by the industry to gain an aerial perspective, drones are providing mining companies with mapping abilities that provide better results and drastically improved flexibility for a fraction of the cost.