When drones are mentioned, the images of tiny toy planes zipping around in the air are usually what people think of first.
Truth is, they are demonstrating their usefulness to the mining industry, mapping and surveying underground.
Goldcorp has been using one purpose-built drone to help them re-map a mine near Timmins and so far, it is proving to be both fun and critical in collecting data.
SafeSight Exploration of North Bay is working at the Newmont Goldcorp Hoyle Pond mine in Timmins to map out the entire mine, including every drift, raise and stope, using a drone equipped with LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging).
The drone was presented during a talk by Goldcorp Porcupine Gold Mines' chief surveyor, Dave Poulin, and SafeSight president Mike Campigotto at the second annual Beyond Digital Transformation conference, held in Sudbury on Feb. 6 and hosted by Partners in Achieving Change Excellence (PACE).
"We don't know how many of you get to fly a drone around at work, but we do, and it's a lot of fun," said Dave Poulin, chief surveyor at Goldcorp, in his presentation.
He added every level of management needs to understand what they are doing and everyone wants to get involved. Little ideas, like using drones, will come back to help the company if staff are engaged and working together.
The drone is being used to provide 3-D mapping accurate to one-sixteenth of an inch.
In remarks to Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal, Poulin said the idea of using the drone was to provide a new, fast and accurate way of providing an up-to-date version of the mine map that not only showed the layout of every drift, but also recorded whether there are protruding rock outcrops in the tunnel walls, the sort of thing that might cause a problem for remotely operated trucks or scoops. Low-hanging ventilation and cables would also be recorded.
Poulin said it allowed areas of the mine to be mapped without sending a survey team into an area of dangerous ground conditions or poor ventilation. The LiDAR survey records 600,000 points a second as the drone moves through a drift.
The system also allows the mine to remotely investigate any ground failures or unsafe areas of the mine so as to help speed up remediation.
SafeSight's Campigotto explained the drone is mosdy a stock model that can be bought commercially. The company custom 3-D printed the undermount for the camera, along with a few other internal proprietary parts.
He admitted the process had a few setbacks. The...