The mining drone use

Hélicéo appears in the « A view from the air » file of the April 2018 edition of Mining Magazine.


The evolution of UAVs in the mining industry

The mining drone development has greatly influenced the vast geomatics world. Since a few years, it is used more and more in the mining industry. Indeed, it represents a real return on investment compared to traditional methods. First, the mining drone brings a gain in productivity. It is ten times faster than the traditional method. Then, it allows an accuracy of 2 cm and guarantees the operators safety. They no longer have to climb on the stocks of aggregates or approach the edges of the cliffs in the mines. Therefore, there are three major gains in quarry world that explain the UAVs popularity: exceptional productivity, accuracy and operator safety.

mining drone The VTOL aircraft FoxyPro tested at 4000 m altitude in Peru by the Hélicéo team.


The mining drone capabilities

Since its creation, Hélicéo has been able to make several thousand flights, particularly in France and today in America. The range of products offered by the company covers a wide variety of surfaces.
First, there are various possibilities. Overall, there are three sizes of mining sites in Europe: small (less than 10 hectares), medium (between 10 and 50 hectares) and large (between 100 and 500 hectares). Therefore, Hélicéo’s customers are asked to make stock measurements in this area. For this type of mission, multirotor drones are particularly popular.

In contrast, the company also operates in much larger quarries, particularly in South America (up to 13,000 hectares). This requires a flying drone faster and with more autonomy. It is the advantage of the vertical take-off and landing plane that can scan 300 ha in a single flight. There are different constraints because the relief of the continent involves to fly at altitudes of quarries between 3500 and 5000 m. Hélicéo aircraft can fly at these altitudes thanks to an adapted motorization to less dense air.
Finally, the landing is currently a real problem in quarries. Indeed, the environment is very mineral which prohibits a conventional landing plane and which necessarily implies a vertical landing.

The future of mining

UAVS innovation is advancing very quickly. Very attentive to the embedded energy development that will become solar and to hydrogen batteries, the company wants to push the limits of its products autonomy. Its R & D center is very active and still works on new projects. The company has just launched its SuperFox6 LiDAR drone which brings a very important advantage to operators in the mineral environment. Indeed, lasergrammetry allows to improve the precision and to eliminate the length of photogrammetry post-treatments which took until now several days.

The professional drone regulation

Since 2012, French law very strongly regulates the drone use. A regulatory safety perimeter must be established during a drone flight for the civilians safety and pilots must acquire a ULM Theoretical Patent. The United States applies approximately the same rules but still allows more freedom on the flights nature. One of the main rules adopted concerns the sight line: the pilot must be able to see the drone with the naked eye. Overall, we can see that more and more countries are currently regulating the drones use. All global airline regulations are listed by country on the web.