Coal Age

MAY 2019

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May 2019 31 material handling continued ber of UAV-related enterprises catering to resource and infrastructure industry customers. How many of these fledg- ling companies will survive the rough air of the turbulent UAV services mar- ketplace remains to be seen, but even major OEMs like Hitachi, Komatsu and Caterpillar are spending money to establish a foothold in the sector, implementing drone-based hardware, software and services to add another dimension to their connected-worksite scenarios. Dominant players in the sector continue to offer and expand a variety of solutions that include drone models designed for professional and "prosumer" users, tailored drone map- ping and surveying software packages, and even fully automated drone opera- tion, service and data analysis. Among the most recent develop- ments, Propeller Aero, a cloud-based drone analytics company, is partner- ing with drone builder DJI to create the Propeller PPK Solution based on DJI's new Phantom 4 RTK drone. Pro- peller also announced the startup of a partnership with Komatsu America in August, starting with a focus on con- struction-site management, but with the mining industry in mind as well. Propeller said its PPK Solution is a fully integrated software and hard- ware system that reliably provides photogrammetric model outputs in geodetic, projected or local coordinate systems. It provides accuracy of 3 cm from independent checkpoints across small and large survey areas (check- points up to 1 km from GCPs). To cap- ture surveys of this accuracy, all that is needed is one "smart" control point on the ground, over a known point if working in local coordinates. Propel- ler claims its PPK Solution has been shown to reduce the time required to complete a drone survey by 70% com- pared with a traditional workflow us- ing multiple GCPs across a worksite. DJI launched the Phantom 4 RTK quadcopter in mid-October, featur- ing an RTK module integrated direct- ly into the drone, providing real-time, centimeter-level positioning data for improved absolute accuracy on image metadata. Non-RTK drones require multiple ground-control points per square kilometer, which take sever- al hours to place. The DJI Phantom 4 RTK has a centimeter-accurate RTK navigation-positioning system and a high-performance imaging system, and potentially reduces the number of GCPs needed to zero. Sitting just beneath the RTK receiver on the drone is a redundant GNSS module to main- tain flight stability in signal-poor areas. DJI said the RTK module can pro- vide positioning accuracy of 1 cm+1 ppm (horizontal), 1.5 cm+1 ppm (ver- tical), and the Phantom 4 RTK can produce the 5-cm absolute horizontal accuracy of photogrammetric models. In late October, Kespry, another drone-based solution provider, and DJI announced they also are partner- ing to offer the DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone as part of Kespry's stockpile measure- ment solution for mining companies. The company claimed adding this solution will enable miners to stan- dardize and capture stockpile data across all their sites in the Kespry platform, while continuing to use the Kespry 2 drone platform to support mine and site planning operations. George Mathew, Kespry CEO and chairman, said, "Our goal with the ad- dition of the Mavic 2 Pro to our solu- tion is to respond to our customers wishing to use the Kespry aerial intel- ligence platform across all mine sites to standardize how stockpile data is generated." Companies that choose to conduct their drone operations in-house can benefit from the advantages offered by this type of setup, but they also face the effort and expense of training per- sonnel, staying current on drone tech- nology and regulations, and main- taining the equipment. For producers interested in adopting drone-based activities but don't want the atten- dant hassles of in-house operation, Airobotics offers what may be an at- tractive solution — a fully automated, industrial level, multipurpose drone platform comprising a high-capaci- ty drone, an automated base station and cloud-based software. The system doesn't require a pilot for operation. The drone automatically launch- es from a freestanding base station (Airbase), and flies preprogrammed or on-demand missions to collect aerial data. Once a mission is com- plete, the drone returns to the Air- base, where a robotic arm replaces its battery and payload before deploying the next mission. Israel-based Airobotics said the system is currently being used by sev- eral mining companies, including ICL, South32's Worsley Alumina operations in Western Australia, and the Minera Centinela copper mine, owned 70% by Antofagasta Minerals, and 30% by Marubeni Corp., in northern Chile. Airobotics' drone software, ac- cording to the company, is both a complete operating system and an open platform. Third parties can build and customize the payloads, along with software apps to support and manage new types of missions. The company uses SimActive's Cor- relator 3D suite for photogramme- try-based volume calculations. This article was adapted from an arti- cle that first appeared in the December 2018 edition of Engineering & Mining Journal (E&MJ). Airobotics' fully automated drone system stores and services the drone in a self- contained enclosure called the Airbase. A human pilot or attendant is not required to conduct flight missions.

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