We’ve detailed how the ROI of UAVs will be explored in specific detail across the 2022 Commercial UAV Expo conference program and have also outlined where attendees can better understand FAA regulation and what it means to operate a drone BVLOS. Such insights are based on the way in which operators and organizations are actually using and leveraging the technology but there’s one session where these practical implications will be especially prominent.

During the Improving Internal Inspections with Lidar Drones session, stakeholders from the biggest agriculture company in the world and some of the biggest energy companies in the United States will come together to explore what it has meant for them to do inspection tasks in ways that are faster, cheaper and/or safer thanks to their use of drone technology. Drones can improve the work that needs to be done inside dangerous, hard-to-reach places, but how will panel participants like Scott Ferguson from Freeport-McMoRan Inc. explain these details to attendees in a way that can help them drive action items?

Feeport-McMoRan (FCX) is a leading international mining company. The company regularly utilizes drones for their open pit mines to provide survey deliverables but also deploys them to capture video for blasts. Using drones underground is a new application for FCX but there’s a specific reason that they wanted to fully explore how the technology could make sense in this setting. 

“We’re looking to reduce personnel exposure in underground settings,” said Ferguson. “Drones are going to create better QA/QC deliverables and allow us to get to areas we couldn’t otherwise access but the real value to the organization and to our team is about taking people out of harm’s way.” 

While FCX has rigorous safety and health practices that define their underground operations, the unpredictability of the environments they’re working in means that the risk associated with a given task or area isn’t ever completely known. Such insights can be better understood thanks to the assets that can be created from a combination of computer vision and LiDAR mapping assets that tools like the Elios 3 are enabling. 

“The real-time 3D mapping has been huge for us,” Ferguson mentioned. “Thanks to the detail and real-time availability of that data, we can make ‘go’ or ‘no-go” decisions right on the spot, saving time and providing our team with a much better sense of what they’re getting into. The alternative is a delay or a situation where our team doesn’t have as much info as we know we can provide them with, which makes our expanded use of drones something we’re focused on.”

Using drones that build real-time 3D maps by leveraging SLAM technology, teams can make decisions that better define an established workflow or process. Innovators like Ferguson are providing highly accurate locational awareness for their teams thanks to the real-time 3D view that their drone provides.  

The details associated with how these efficiencies were created are essential to understand, which is why they’ll be explored in full detail during the session. How did his team start their adoption process? What has it mean to quantify the value of improved safety? How is the team considering scale? These are insights that Ferguson will talk through from the perspective of how the technology makes sense for FCX. 

Exactly how these same types of solutions make sense for other teams, in other industries, or for other applications all depends on the specifics. However, those are specifics that conference attendees can be prepared to better understand thanks to the insights he’s set to share.

“Anyone looking to take their next step with the technology needs to have firm goals around how it’s going to make a difference,” Ferguson said. “For underground specifically, there’s a lot you can do but if you start talking about going further than a mile you get into power limitations which turns it into a different conversation. Sensors and payloads can be swapped, which means it’s not so much about capability as it is about the parameters you need to have in place with drones that are based on what you’re trying to achieve. There is no silver bullet solution, which means you have to stay current with the options and possibilities that are right in front of you.”

Join the global drone community at Commercial UAV Expo!

Commercial UAV Expo is the definitive global event for professionals integrating or operating commercial UAS. With top-notch education, thousands of attendees, and more exhibitors than any other commercial drone event, it’s the best opportunity of the year for anyone who needs to keep up with commercial UAS technology, trends, and developments. The 2022 event currently boasts more than 300 media and association supporters from six continents. 

Registration is now open -  click here to register today.

Click here to learn more about the Improving Internal Inspections with Drones session