Australias Biggest Mining Companies Are Using Drones
Some of the largest mining companies are making good use of commercial drones. With mines, railways and ports sprawling out hundreds of miles, commercial drone use is increasing to inspect equipment, measure stockpiles & give new perspective to different projects at hand. The large use of commercial drones will go under a microscope when mining companies and aviation regulators meet.
Greg Lilleyman, innovation executive of Rio Tinto's technology
Greg Lilleyman said that his company had already started using commercial drones to monitor and measure various aspects of its iron ore and coal businesses in Western Australia and Queensland respectively.
"Information will be the single biggest differentiating factor between the mining operations of the past and those in the future, and drones can produce a wealth of information to allow us to make better decisions," he said.
When fitted with video or thermal image cameras, these commercial drones can help mining companies to inspect machinery and other equipment in a much faster and cheaper way than by using helicopters.
"We're already using drones to monitor our sites and inspect equipment, tasks that have traditionally presented safety risks for our people, taken up time and disrupted our operations," said Mr Lilleyman
But it's not as simple as companies just buying a drone and immediately using it on their business.
Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority requires drone operators to have an "operator's certificate". A huge demand for such certificates has seen wait times as much as 10 months.
Lilleyman also mentioned that drones would only be as good as the operators behind them.
"Anyone can buy a drone and they're easy to operate, but the trick is having the best operators using them. We are always thinking outside the box to imagine how they could be integrated into our mining operations to make complex tasks safer, quicker and cheaper as well as working with regulators to meet their requirements," he said.