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Autonomous exploration: the potential for drones in the mining industry

  • 5 days ago

Of all the buzzwords in the mining industry, “drones” and “automation” are among the most prevalent, and with good reason. The latter has seen extensive interest from actors across the mining industry, with Australia in particular emerging as an epicentre of autonomous technology and research, while the potential for mapping and information-gathering of the former is an attractive proposition for miners who are forced to search farther afield for mineral deposits to meet the world’s insatiable appetite for commodities.

Indeed, the mining industry may be reaching a tipping point where these technologies are moving from shiny new ideas to established and well-embedded components of the sector, especially within the field of exploration. With many of the world’s untapped and unidentified mineral deposits difficult to reach on foot, or simply isolated from human settlements and development, the prospect of an independent drone conducting mineral surveys far from human oversight is appealing.

Yet technological and human challenges remain, with the drones themselves an imperfect solution, and the prospect of replacing human workers with intelligent machines one that could set a dangerous precedent for the future of mining. Can these obstacles be overcome, and the exploration potential of drones ever be realised?


Drones for the present, drones for the future

The benefits of drones in the exploration industry are obvious, as they offer a means to take photographs from great heights, and in relatively remote locations, that can capture a great swath of the environment. Yet their benefits go beyond mere photography, with the process of orthoimagery offering a much more sophisticated snapshot of an environment.

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