Images from above: new drone tech in mining

California’s Kespry is devoted to bringing sophisticated drones into the mining and aggregates world in order to generate data from work areas.

Equipment companies are increasingly utilizing top visual data-compiling equipment to not only get a sight of where they might choose to perform a project, but also to help dictate budgets, supply demands and time constraints.

These imaging technologies also yield more than standard two-dimensional picture fare. They often generate complex, three-dimensional land portraits with specific terrain imaging functions.

Case-in-point: California’s Kespry, a company devoted to bringing sophisticated drones into the mining and aggregates world in order to generate data from work areas.

“There’s so much you can do with drone imaging now,” says environmental manager Brian Biggerstaff of CSA Materials, a Kespry drone user. “Clients can identify topography and landscape forms, while also providing analytics to companies on the fly.”

With the aid of Kespry business development director Adam Rice, Biggerstaff points to CSA’s work at the Turner Quarry in St. Angelo, Texas where Kespry drones have been utilized to great effect.

Drone data without danger

In the past, aggregate development was both cumbersome and dangerous. Experienced teams of engineers and labourers were deployed to examine worksites, putting themselves at risk of working amidst deep depressions and dangerous work equipment. Drones now eliminate much of those safety concerns while delivering quick visuals.

“When you deploy drones equipped with these new cameras, you get mapping of acres of land and photos of the whole area’s topography,” Biggerstaff said during a webinar.  “These photos can be bussed to PDF, then shared with all company departments. They can see the site, the tonnage of what they might want to mine, and get a scope of what they want to have for proper job completion. You don’t need a topographic mapping crew anymore.”

As well, the images drones generate may be manipulated to show more intricate data of a given site.

Associated algorithm

“Now we have three dimensional renderings that get sent right to an operator’s iPad that has the drone platform installed on it,” Biggerstaff said. “Viewers can get thermal renderings with colourized gradients of elevation, so an aggregate company can see the size of the stockpiles that are created with a blast. They can also see blast visuals with angles on the ground, marked with digital blue points on the graphic, that show all elevation pile heights. It’s with these specific pictures and the associated algorithm that can convert to give tonnage information to companies and all of their data compiling departments.”

While much of the public still views drones as leisure-oriented machines, Biggerstaff makes light of how capable they’ve become for serious professional applications.

“The drones, like the ones Kespry makes, are ‘intelligent’. They can detect wind speeds that affect their operation, and are pretty robust in flight. They can withstand a lot while their cameras deliver the data that is needed.”