Death from above
NOT everyone happy about drones on mine sites.
Wednesday 23 November 2016
The roll-out of military grade drone technology to aerially map, survey and record mining operations from above is regarded by many as the biggest cost and technology breakthrough in mine planning for at least two decades.
However, it appears the technology faces some unforeseen challenges, with a Western Australian based Gold Miner telling the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy Open Pit Operators' Conference that local Wedge Tailed Eagles have attacked and destroyed nine drones, at a value of more than $100,000.
Remarkable as the technology is, Rick Steven from the St Ives Gold Mine near Kambalda, says the carbon fibre 1-metre wingspan of the Trimble UX5 drones are no match for the highly evolved Wedge-Tailed Eagles.
“At more than twice the size, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle is the natural enemy of the UAV,” he said.
"People couldn't believe I was able to get such a good photo of an eagle airborne, but I didn't, another eagle took that photo.
"I was flying the tailings dam out at St Ive's, and I was getting attacked by two eagles simultaneously.
"I was trying to fly my UAV away from them and all of a sudden, at a high point, the eagle came down and sunk both its claws into the inside of the control box of the UX5.
"It turned the UX5 sideways and took a photo of the other eagle as it was coming in for an attack.
"I think that's the first recorded eagle selfie in history.
"That [wedge-tailed eagle] is my single biggest problem in the environment where I work with the UX5 , and I am onto my 12th UAV.”
Survey teams across the Bowen Basin are now routinely using drones or UAV's to improve the speed, cost and accuracy of their aerial data, while QGC has started using drones to undertake well site inspections - which is understood to be a world first.
QGC uses the drones to survey a variety of things that help indicate whether a well is operating as expected, including the integrity of the gas well structure and whether there has been any ground subsidence nearby.
“After successful trials in 2015, QGC’s Woleebee Creek operations will be the first to have a dedicated Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) site,” QGC said earlier in the year.
“The use of RPAS has substantial benefits for landholders because the drones can inspect well sites from about 1,500 feet above ground, instead of operators having to physically enter a property."To date, Shift Miner is not aware of persistent issues with Eagles in Central Queensland, despite being home to a large population of the bird.