Remote working: How to better cope with COVID using drones

By Kyle Routledge, Roberto Squillaci & Julio Eller

2 min read

Innovative applications of drones during COVID-19

Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), or drones, have become a valuable and widely used tool for monitoring and inspection applications across mining and industrial sites. The restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated use of drone technology and, working with our clients, we have taken advantage of the speed, safety, and accessibility that drones provide to help implement physical distancing measures.

Benefits from a distance

From a safety perspective, drones offer an alternative to helicopters that enable personnel to maintain a level of physical distance that would otherwise be impossible in the close quarters of a helicopter cabin. Controlling the drone from a distance, teams can inspect or survey areas that would be hazardous to enter on foot, such as cliff lines or wetland areas. For applications such as environmental permitting, wildlife surveys can be conducted by drone with two-person pilot/spotter teams, significantly reducing the number of hours traditionally needed on site.

These reduced levels of effort can lead to major cost savings for clients. Drones can take as little as one-third the time to complete a ground survey compared to conventional methods, saving tens of thousands of dollars on projects that require multiple surveys and challenging access conditions.

Drones also present opportunities for new and ingenious solutions to accelerate projects. Equipped with high resolution cameras, imagery can be stitched together to produce 3D ortho imagery, while drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras can identify heat sources where visual spectrum cameras cannot. Aerial measurement can determine the volume and area of earthworks or stockpiles without the risks involved in a ground survey.

Getting results with drones

To enable clients to better visualize their projects, we combine drone footage with 3D CAD models to convey how a site will look once fully developed. This is a very useful tool for communicating with stakeholders including investors, the public, consultants.

Watch our Carrapateena Copper-Gold Project video to see this first hand.

In the environmental permitting space, we have used drone mounted cameras to count flamingos during wildlife surveys in Argentina. This approach combines imagery from drones with supervised classification image analysis methods to automatically recognize animals and speed up the counting process. Thermal imaging cameras have also been used to monitor bat populations in sensitive areas near project developments.

Drone imagery of flamingos in Argentina during a wildlife counting project conducted by Ausenco

With more than 20 consultants around the world professionally qualified to both operate drones and interpret the data they collect, our team is here to help you carry out the following:

  • Remote visual inspections
  • Surveys, mapping and modeling
  • 3D renderings and visualizations
  • Operational & maintenance monitoring
  • Environmental investigations and monitoring

To find out more, please contact: Kyle Routledge, Roberto Squillaci or Julio Eller.