It's a Bird, it's a Plane, it's a Major Innovation: How Drones are Impacting the Mining, Energy and Agriculture Industries

Bethany Taylor
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Industries are constantly evolving, benefiting from dozens of little innovations every year. That’s not what this is about, though, because the small innovations tend not to be all that exciting. Automated drones, though? They’re a huge innovation for industries all over the world, saving major time and money, and reducing the life-threatening risks faced by human employees.

Advantages of Automation

Any type of drone represents an innovative step for any organization employing them. However, automated drones—drones that require no human intervention for launching, flying, landing and even maintenance—eliminate the huge cost, response time delays and potential human error associated with requiring a pilot.

Leading automated drones are also designed to be robust enough to withstand even the most hazardous weather conditions and industrial sites, eliminating the need for human employees to perform tasks in these hazards and also eliminating repairs and associated downtime. The most advanced automated drones can also automatically swap payloads, greatly increasing the number of the drone’s possible applications.

Altogether, these key components of automation are what transform drones from being the toy-grade unmanned aerial vehicles better suited for the consumer market to being the industrial grade multi tool necessary for truly improving business processes and impacting the bottom line.

  â€‹Small innovations are important as well, but once in a great while a major development occurs and the results are nothing short of exciting   

Here’s a look at how mining, energy and agriculture are benefiting in particular:

Many Uses in Mining

The mining industry has never been a stranger to adopting automation. As automated industrial drone manufacturer Airobotics notes, mining has been quick to capitalize on the different uses of industrial drones.

Similar to a number of additional industries, automated drones in mining take on the tasks that would otherwise endanger human employees. This includes inspecting blast sites, completing surveying and mapping, and evaluating stockpiles.

Not only does this account for an increase in safety but it also provides an increase in accuracy. In a case study by Israel Chemicals Limited, an automated drone provided stockpile evaluation using 9.5 million points compared with traditional stockpile evaluation’s 360 points, resulting in a 127 percent increase in elevation accuracy and a 1.37 percent difference in reported stockpile volume. These calculations are completed easily thanks to automated drones’ powerful data gathering and processing capabilities, which allow mining companies—as well as companies in other industries—to gather tremendous amounts of raw data and transform it into actionable insights without the huge number of manpower hours this processing would otherwise require.

According to the Israel Chemicals Limited case study, automated drones are able to complete stockpile measurements in one day, compared to the several days required for traditional stockpile measurements. An added bonus is that site operations do not need to be halted for drones to complete evaluations, unlike when human surveyors are completing their measurements and operations in the area need to be stopped for safety reasons. Furthermore, automated drones are also used to inspect machinery at mining sites to identify maintenance needs, and to monitor traffic flow, among other business operations.

Superior Inspections in Energy

Oil and gas companies have a huge amount of critical infrastructure, such as oil rigs and offshore platforms. Not only are these sites essential for business, but problems at these sites can pose major risks for the environment as well as human and animal life. Hence the need for frequent and detailed inspections.

By using automated drones for these inspections, oil and gas companies can stop sending employees into potentially hazardous situations in order to gather necessary information on the state of these sites. Additionally, with how sophisticated an automated drones’ high-resolution imagery, sensor information and accompanying data analytics programs are, automated drones can actually detect issues that would go unnoticed by the human eye. According to at least one drone start-up, automating energy site inspections can save a company upwards of 80 percent compared to traditional inspections.

As stated in the Drones for Energy Industry Report, between 2017 and 2025 drones in the energy sector are expected to reach a cumulative market value of 4.47 billion dollars.

Covering Vast Distances in Agriculture

One of the most important aspects of agriculture has always been crop monitoring, and two of the biggest challenges in agriculture have always been the size of the fields and unpredictable weather conditions. Enter automated drones.

At the start of the crop cycle, automated drones can create precise 3D maps for soil analysis to help plan seed planting. Further into the crop cycle, automated drones provide time-series animations to illustrate the growth of a crop as well as production inefficiencies, making superior crop management not only possible but much easier. Other applications of automated drones in agriculture can include planting, crop spraying and improving irrigation processes.

Automated, Always Available and Ultra-reliable

Mining, energy and agriculture are just three of the industries that are currently being revolutionized by the advent of automated drones. The ability of these drones to fly both scheduled, preplanned missions as well as on-demand or emergency missions in the harshest conditions without human intervention makes automated drones a valuable innovation in industries ranging from security and policing to construction, transportation, telecommunications and protecting critical infrastructure.

Small innovations are important as well, but once in a great while a major development occurs and the results are nothing short of exciting.

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