Aeryon Labs is using their Aeryon SkyRanger to evaluate lifespan of mining waste sites. The company has recently run a project to demonstrate that aerial imagery can be collected at a lower cost with a sUAS, than with a manned helicopter.

Founded in 2007, Aeryon Labs is a Canadian controlled private company and a small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) provider, with headquarters in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

The project, for which the company created a case study published on their website, consisted of using the small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) SkyRanger to fly over a Tailings Pond and a Slag Heap, while collecting imagery of both, for analysis of its lifespan.

A tailings pond and a slag heap are both used for storing waste from the mining extraction process, the latter only for that which can't be easily separated. The objective of this process was to use the collected aerial imagery to compare the current footprint to previously collected data.

For the tailings pond, the comparison would help determine how quickly the footprint has changed over time and how close the pond is to reaching its maximum capacity. This information would also be used to plan when to increase the size of the dam or area of the pond.

In regards of the slag heap, the footprint is compared to a previously created orthomosaic map to determine how to optimize the future placement of extracted materials and estimate the rate of expansion since data was last collected. The output of the collected imagery will also be used to predict when longer term expansion (and large expenses) will be needed to further develop the site.

This allows the mine to expand only when necessary, avoiding unnecessary expenses. In order to reduce the risk to the natural environment and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, they must also ensure any expansion occurs before the current site is too full.

“This project was a great way for the mining company to trial how best to use UAS technology at the site”, commented Carley Hopkins, Product Manager, Aeryon Labs. “To consistently collect highly accurate data, without disrupting normal activities, will help with planning and overall efficiency of the mine’s operations.”

SkyRanger is able to offer numerous features and advantages to users which include the following:

  • Every flight plan is saved, repeated as many times as you want without high additional costs, ensuring consistent data over time.
  • Flying/Controlling a sUAS is a lot easier, even in extreme environmental conditions.
  • Vertical Take-off and landing helps with hard-to-reach areas
  • Automated safety checks and sensors continually monitor the status of the aircraft, including wind speed, system temperature, and battery life
  • Normal mining operations can occur and a helicopter crew is not required

As expected, SkyRanger proved to be a better solution than a manned helicopter (download the complete case study).  In fact, as field-testing demonstrates, drones, big and small, are setting the standard for immediate aerial intelligence gathering by anyone, anywhere, anytime, for a wide range of military, public safety and commercial applications. They are more affordable and offer less risks to operators.