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Drones are changing Mining Sector in Oman

Updated: Jun 20, 2021

The invention of drones is considered a vital tool in various industries. From saving lives to disaster management relief operations and more, they have proved extremely helpful. The quantum of data collected by drones is far more accurate and comprehensive, which helps companies draw the root analysis of the situation and make better plans.

The mining industry is labor-intensive and critical when it comes to labor safety. The processes need accurate and comprehensive security solutions for administering the safety of labor and keeping off pilferage. Smart drone solutions have created the relevant buzz in the mining industry due to their easy surveillance, accurate data, root analysis, and site inspection. Let's have a detailed perspective on how drones are reshaping mining processes in Oman.

Monitoring high-risk environments through drones in Oman

Mining processes include large industrial equipment that needs to be operated for long hours. This can prove to be extremely dangerous for mining workers, and there is a constant fear of mishaps at mining sites. Stopping mining operations is also not a feasible solution for companies as it can cause them thousands of dollars. Drones have proved helpful in monitoring these high-risk environments as they can provide critical data of operational efficiency and also minimize risks to the laborers at the same time. The various benefits of deploying drones in the mining industry are:

  • Creating millions of measurement points in the form of 3D mapping, thus generating comprehensive, high-quality data for companies.

  • Less-labor intensive operations in covering larger areas, thus helping in streamline operations.

  • Automated flight planning options provide for seamless processing by eliminating basic human error.

Stockpile Measurement

Stockpile Volume Measurements with Drones

With the help of high-resolution digital cameras, highly accurate surveys of stockpiles are possible with the help of drones. These cameras are geometrically calibrated to perform measurements and are based on the principle of photogrammetry. In this image processing, terrain heights are extracted from a series of overlapping images. This method of measurement is superior in comparison to traditional methods on the following grounds:

  • Safety: As it excludes the human element, thus eliminating life risk.

  • Rapidness: Covering an area up to 3-4sqkm in one day of survey is possible.

  • Accuracy: Accuracies of up to 3-5 cm are obtained

  • Completeness: Due to an output of 100 measurements per square meter, accurate results are possible to generate.

Also, the results can be generated in a number of ways. From a report indicating the volume of the stockpile to digital maps or paper to 3D models of the stockpiles, every output is possible. It only consumes half a day to process the survey results and create a report, thus making the process effectively efficient compared to the traditional measurement system.

Drone surveillance site equipment
Drone Surveillance Inside Mines

Drone monitoring and inspection in Oman

Drones produce accurate site models through aerial imaging, helping mine managers effectively design and manage site operations while collaborating with teams. They help in assessing the materials that need to be extracted or moved across as per legal standards.

Road Elevation In Mining Area

Monitoring haul road

Aerial views from drones help in assessing and monitoring haul roads effectively. Drones provide valuable data in terms of length, slope, and turning angles of the road. This data can be optimized for haul fleet in terms of fuel-cost cutting within the listed planning and regulatory requirements. They ensure if the roads are designed to meet current legal standards.

Water level simulation using drone techniology
Simulations of Floods Impact In Mining Using Drones Output

Monitoring water and sediment flow

Operational disruption can occur if the water and sediment flow isn't monitored appropriately. Drones help in mitigating that error through digital elevation maps produced by drone imaging. Creating a visual record of the site is practically possible through drones. The records created can be monitored through progress reports on a weekly and monthly basis and also helps in carrying out regulatory audits.

mine blasting simulation using drone
Blasting Simulation To Avoid Error On Ground

Monitoring the pre and post blasting scenario

3D construction and surface models can be created easily through drones that help in providing a more comprehensive input into the blasting sites. These models help analyze the areas that are to be drilled and helps in calculating the volume of debris to be extracted post blasting. This, in turn, helps in calculating the number of trucks needed at the site. An error-free and detailed model helps in proper planning for future blasts, evaluating the cost of explosives, the time required on-site and drilling.

Crisis Management through hazard identification and mitigation

Mining sites can be hazardous. Therefore, high-resolution imaging from drones helps create a road map for the workers whose life could be in danger otherwise. Drones help in inspecting difficult-to-access or high-traffic areas of the site, thus prioritizing workers' safety.

Tailing Dams

Dust particles of mining activities and tailing have a significant impact on the neighboring environment of mining areas. Drones help mitigate the accidents due to tailing dams by analyzing the changes in spatial and temporal surface and moisture content in mine tailings. The data received from drones help regulators to record the state of tailing dams over time.

Orthomosaic Used For Site Exploration

Mining Exploration through Drones

Mining exploration could be a tedious task if done through traditionally manned aviation methods and involves a considerable expenditure cost. On the other hand, Drones can yield high-resolution images and DSM maps, thus supporting mining exploration projects by tapping areas that are impossible to be covered on foot. Also, it might take land surveyors days to collect vital data that drones can collect in a few hours.


Output mapping through drones

The geospatial data collected by drones through photogrammetry helps the software create high-resolution images of the mining sites. Some of the leading mapping software used in mining industries are:

Map created using drones in Oman
Orthomosaic Map

Orthomosaic Maps

Orthomosaic is a map created by drone image processing to obtain high-resolution images of the Earth's surface. Each picture is ortho-rectified to create a consistent size. This map is an exact reference of the ground surface that can be used to determine accurate distances. Here file formats are created in extensions including, geoTIFF (.tiff), .jpg, .png, Google tiles (.kml, .html).

3d point cloud created images taken from drone
3D Point Cloud

Point Cloud

Point clouds are databases that represent objects or areas. These points represent the geometric coordinates of X, Y, and Z with respect to the surface. They relate a vast number of single spatial measurements of the database that can then represent a whole. File formats are created in extensions including, .las, .laz, .ply, .xyz

Digital Elevation Model (DEM) created by drones
Digital Elevation Model (DEM)

Digital Elevation Model (DEM)

The Digital Elevation Model (DEM) is the software depiction of the surface elevation, taking into account ground reference detail. It is also used as a reference to any digital representation of a topographical surface. DEMs are used to calculate elevation at any point, slope, and aspect. Here file formats are created in extension GeoTiff (.tif).

3d model of Oman mountain
3D Textured Model

3D textured Mesh

3D textured maps highlight the edges, walls, vertices, and textures of areas captured by drone imaging. This helps analyze the otherwise unmanageable areas such as pits and slopes in a quarrying or mining site. File formats are created in extensions including, .ply, .fbx, .dxf, .obj, .pdf.


Overall, deploying drones in the mining industry is a great way to boost the industry's potential as it helps reduce valuable man-hours in labor-intensive and critical tasks. Drones are becoming standard tools in the mining industry. Drone technology is far efficient and cost-efficient in comparison to traditional monitoring methods. Drone monitoring can help understand haul road, water and sediment flow, pre and post-blasting scenarios, hazard identification and mitigation, and mining exploration.

High-quality, detailed outputs can be created for an in-depth analysis of the topography through software including Orthomosaic Maps, Point Cloud, Digital Elevation Model (DEM), and 3D Textured Mesh. Even though there are challenges involved in deploying drones, especially in underground mining and quarrying sites, drone technology is still far superior, accurate, and efficient to traditional monitoring methods. To face the environmental obstacles in underground mine environments, encased drones can be a revolutionary solution.

#Dronemapping #Dronesurvey #Dronesformining #Volumetricsurvey

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