The full capability of drone technology is now being fully harnessed by the quarrying and mining industries. Not only does this technology facilitate more accurate and precise surveys – from localised surveys, such as face profiling, to full quarry 3D mapping – but it also heightens safety, improves community relations, and contributes to the creation of a fully ‘Digital Quarry’.
Here at EPC-UK drones are fast becoming an integral component of our blast surveying provision. As an element of our EPC Metrics offering, which also comprises fixed remote monitoring, equipment servicing and calibration, and consultancy services, drone technology is playing a pivotal role in helping us bring next generation technology to customer quarries.
Delivering the technology of tomorrow, today
Drone technology offers greater accuracy and faster, real time data collection when compared to a traditional surveying approach, such as lasers. In conjunction with photogrammetric techniques coupled with a photo overlay, our engineers are able to create highly accurate models which illustrate blast faces in incredible detail. The information gathered by the drones can then be fed directly into Expertir, our highly advanced drilling and blasting software package, turning the data into meticulous 3D models.
The Drone Team
Demonstrating the importance of, and our commitment to, our Drone Team, we have announced the appointment of a new Drone Manager. This role, which belongs to Sam Skinner, will ensure the safe running of day-to-day drone operations, as well as ensuring compliance with all UK legal requirements, developing the Drone Pilot team, and ensuring customer expectations are exceeded.
A graduate of Camborne School of Mines, Sam is an experienced EPC-UK Explosives Engineer. His extensive technical experience and intimate knowledge of EPC Metrics and the role drone technology plays within that service, has led to his selection as Drone Manager.
“EPC Metrics is a huge growth area for EPC-UK and it is fast becoming a core service offering for our customers. The use of drone technology is at the heart of this service and I am very much looking forward to working with the EPC-UK drone team in my new role as Drone Manager, to develop and enhance our EPC Metrics proposition,” explains Sam.
We now have a team of 23 fully trained Drone Pilots operating across the UK. All pilots have been assessed on three critical elements – a theory exam, a practical flight assessment and risk awareness – by a CAA approved external training and assessment provider. The comprehensive course also included numerous practical simulations to ensure pilots have the skills required to adapt to any situation. In addition, each pilot must have at least two hours flight time, obtained in the last three months, to ensure they have the expertise and knowledge to operate our fleet of drones.
On-site safety is a key focus in any advancement of our drilling and blasting activities and we are constantly developing new techniques to allow us to deliver a safer service to our customers. Drones are an important element in this development.
With traditional surveying methods, there are myriad restrictions with regards to where equipment can be placed. This also often involves operators working directly within the quarrying environment where they can encounter heavy machinery and other hazards. However, the use of drones can help eliminate a number of these risks by positioning the operator outside the area of danger.
“Ensuring the safety of our engineers and operators, as well as our customers, is of paramount importance to us and it is the main consideration at the centre of every operation we perform,” explains Sam. “This is why we are always striving to improve safety for everyone involved in the blasting process and drones are helping us to achieve another level of protection.”
Looking up to the future
“EPC-UK is constantly looking to expand its drone offering and we have an ongoing strategy to train more pilots and invest in more equipment over the coming years,” concludes Sam.
“Using technology and integrated systems, such as drones and EPC Metrics, is quite a big shift for the industry and our customers, but we’re confident that it will soon become the norm. The use of drone technology at EPC-UK is fast becoming standard practice and we are already working with a number of customers who use drones exclusively for all of their surveying activities.
“Drones, alongside other technologies, are helping us move towards a completely digital environment, allowing for greater transparency and providing the most comprehensive, integrated and remote drilling and blasting service possible.”