Coal Age

OCT-NOV 2017

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32 www.coalage.com October/November 2017 stockpiles continued stockpile volumetrics space after honing its solution in a different sector. "We cut our teeth with land surveyors," Daniel Katz, cofounder, said. "That is who we know best and who we have worked with the most." For both miners and land surveyors, the deliverable in demand is similar, he said. "The thing about land surveyors is they live and die by accuracy," Katz added. Affordable accuracy is one of the prima- ry selling points of the company's end-to- end solution. "Our system is considerably less expensive than most other alterna- tives," Katz said. "We really focus on what is going to get you the best bang for the buck, not on the coolest, shiniest tech fix." The solution includes the training, technology and insurance. Intangibles in- clude post-implementation process opti- mization, Katz said. Training starts with a remote-learning prep course for the FAA certification. "We took the FAAs 600-page study guide and reduced that down to about a three-hour online cram course," Katz said. "Our cli- ents have about a 95% pass rate after going through our cram course." Next is on-site pilot training. "It starts off in the office as we are going through a lot more of the theory and introducing the equipment," Katz said. "Then we go out to the field. We put the aircraft in the air. We go through a whole bunch of drills." Though most flights will be controlled by autopilot, users are trained in how to deal with potential emergency situations. "There are real life things that can hap- pen that you need to know your people are confident in being able to deal with and address," he said. For example, if "a low-flying emergency helicopter comes flying over the mine unannounced, they need to be able to take that drone out of autopilot and get out of the way complete- ly, confidently and calmly." The solution includes the drone and its gear, photo processing services and on- line software. The backbone of the solution is the drone, a quadcopter. "We've tested pretty much every drone under the sun and settled on the system we have known to be most ef- fective and the most reliable," Katz said. Flights typically follow a prespecified route. "You can set your flight plan one time and then you hit go," Katz said. "The drone takes off and it is completely autonomous." Typically, a flight spans roughly a min- ute per acre. Afterward, the data is upload- ed to the company's portal, where it is con- verted by technicians into a model, which can then be mined for more information. The model is accessible within a day. The time spent on getting "the answers they need from the portal, such as volumes, is also about 10 minutes," Katz said. "We hear things from potential clients like 'this seems too good to be true,' which is one of the barriers we run into." The model presents volumetrics data "to within 98% to 99% accuracy," Katz said. From the portal, the user can export reports. Once initial results have been attained, the company provides post-training pro- cess optimization guidance. "What you need to have are clear and well-defined operating procedures such that every time your people go out to operate this piece of technology they know exactly what they are trying to get and how to go about get- ting it," Katz said. "We turn the dials a little bit to make sure it plugs into each individ- ual company as best as possible." As part of the solution, Aerotas pro- vides an insurance policy from Transport Risk Management. "In terms of insurance, you are going to have liability and what is called hull insurance, which is covering your aircraft and valuable goods," Katz said. Also included in the solution is sup- port "for basically everything under the sun," Katz said. "We have provided you with the complete system, so we support you on every part of it. "You have a question about insurance, you come to us. You push a button and something doesn't seem right, you call us. You want to get an airspace authorization with the FAA, you call us." DroneMapper DroneMapper offers an affordable solu- tion designed to enable continuous stock- pile monitoring at any sized operation, Pierre Stoermer, CEO, said. The compa- ny's main offering is photogrammetric software. "Either we process imagery for the client or the client licenses our Win- dows-based application(s) for their own use," he said. "We also offer end-to-end training on drone and camera selection, use of aftermarket applications for auton- omous, high-quality imagery collections, imagery processing and extraction of val- ue-added info using GIS software." Unlike many of its competitors, DroneMapper has already broken into the coal space. For the last five years, Arch Coal used DroneMapper to process drone-cap- tured images and data from its West Elk site. Arch also tapped the company to demo drone-based solutions at Thunder Basin, in northeast Wyoming. "They are in- terested in volumetrics, but they are really interested in safety and measurements of toes and crests, and to get measurements of slopes to determine if a slope is danger- ous for cave-in," Stoermer said. The demo went well, he said. "Arch Coal has provided positive feedback." DroneMapper is finalizing a white pa- per that will reveal how drone-based stock- pile volumetrics solutions cut costs com- pared to traditional methods and facilitate continuous monitoring, Stoermer said. Toward both ends, multiple reports can be generated within a workday, empowering the miner with near-time actionable data, he said. To get there, the miner can pur- chase a perpetual license for the software ($2,000), run its own flights and handle its own data. "With a drone overflight, and if they did the processing themselves, they could eliminate the latency of sending im- ages to us," he said. "They could utilize our software process right after they collect the data and yield results within two to four hours or maybe less." The company offers training, which usually runs two days. It also offers ex- clusive online tutorials and hassle-free support, Stoermer said. "Our greatest dif- ferentiator is that you can speak with a hu- man nearly anytime for support and there is no smoke and mirrors communicated." Pix4D In hindsight, the spreadsheets will likely reveal the impetus behind the switch to drone-based volumetrics solutions is the bottom line. Having accurate actionable information on hand timely can help improve safety, streamline workflow and optimize operations, and provide fod- der for solid planning. But what all that translates to for the board and investors is money saved. For example, Great River Energy uses a Phantom drone and Pix4D photogram- metric processing software to arrive at

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