Drones in the mining industry, Droneua - Ferrexpo

October 02, 2023
Дрони у добувній промисловості, DroneUA — Ferrexpo
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The world's largest mining companies invest enormous resources in finding technology solutions to improve efficiency, improve safety and optimize their processes.

Drones are becoming an integral tool in this transformation, replacing the classical approach in collecting information, while significantly reducing time and manpower required. In Ukraine, the first systematic example of the introduction of unmanned technologies in the mining industry was the experience of cooperation between DroneUA and Ferrexpo.

DroneUA began cooperation with the largest Swiss company in Ukraine - Ferrexpo. As part of the project, the first systematic implementation of unmanned technologies was carried out at a mining enterprise in Ukraine.

Ferrexpo, a Swiss company with assets in Ukraine, is the largest mining enterprise in our country with three mining and processing plants and total income of $1.197 billion for 2017.

Be the first
Ferrexpo is a leader in its segment, and the first mining company in Ukraine that decided to comprehensively implement unmanned technologies at the enterprise. “This is not only the supply of equipment or personnel training - we are talking about the systematic implementation of unmanned technologies into the business processes of the enterprise, from the formation of new job descriptions to the integration of the project into the company’s information environment,” says Tatyana Kondratenko, head of geodesy projects at DroneUA.

As part of the project, in addition to the selection and delivery of the necessary equipment, a methodology for performing work on the quarry territory from drones was developed, and comprehensive training was carried out for the employees of the mining and processing plant in performing surveys and processing the received data.

The main task in the implementation of the project was the formation of a standard for the implementation of UAVs in a mining industry enterprise.

For DroneUA, this is not the first experience of fully introducing UAVs into industry. The company has implemented hundreds of cases in other industries, but in the mining industry, the DroneUA-Ferrexpo case became the first example of systemic implementation.

Goals of introducing unmanned technologies in an enterprise
“Today, the use of UAVs in quarries is a well-established practice among industry leaders, which eliminates the use of human resources when performing work in the most dangerous places and is a more accurate tool for collecting critical information,” says Alexander Tubaltsev, chief miner of the Eristovsky GOK of Ferrexpo. .

The main task at the enterprise that needs to be solved with the help of UAVs is to minimize the actions of personnel in the industrial zone during the continuous operation of large equipment. For example, stopping all working equipment during quarry work for up to 30 minutes is a loss of tens of thousands of dollars. It is not always possible to pause production processes and it is necessary to quickly solve the problem that has arisen.

“Of course, it is difficult to completely eliminate the human factor, but thanks to innovation, all the most labor-intensive and dangerous tasks can be entrusted to drones,” explains DroneUA co-founder Fevzi Ametov

Project stages
The solution to optimizing work using a UAV will completely eliminate the risks that arise in such cases, and will also allow you to survey a larger volume in a short time. Preparation and execution of work within the project was carried out in several stages:

1. Selecting equipment that can work stably in an enterprise

The main difficulties in operating equipment on the territory of a mining and processing plant (GOK) are:

  • the presence of magnetic anomalies, which affects the compass of most drones and, accordingly, it becomes impossible to fly in automatic mode, which carries certain risks;
  • the need to operate equipment in a dusty environment;
  • stability in strong winds;
  • possibility of working at sub-zero temperatures, because production does not stop during the winter season.

The Matrice 210 RTK series drone meets all these conditions. At the same time, there was no confirmed practice in the world of using such equipment at a depth of more than 400 meters. DroneUA became the first company to conduct successful tests of flights in manual and fully automatic modes on the territory of the Poltava Mining and Processing Plant, from the deepest level -410m. The work that was carried out on the territory of the Eristovsky GOK, the deepest mark of which is 170 m, was also completed.

A separate advantage is worth noting the presence of a directional camera on the Matrice 210 RTK, thanks to which it is possible to control the proximity of the quadcopter to the sides of the quarry.

2. Development of methods for safe work performance

At mining enterprises, special attention is paid to the safety of work, and for good reason, because work is carried out in conditions of increased danger. The use of drone technology must harmoniously fit into existing safety regulations and provide for new rules and instructions for the use of this type of equipment.

Suggested security measures:

  • During testing, take-off sites were selected and tested, which will subsequently be used as the only ones permitted for this type of work.
  • To avoid the need to reduce height in the deepest parts of the quarry, the use of a lens with a long focal length was recommended.

3. Comparison of traditional and drone footage

Two types of sites were selected for comparison of the accuracy of data obtained by traditional methods of surveying and based on photogrammetric processing of data obtained from drones. This stage is extremely important, because It is here that a decision is made on whether the obtained data types and accuracy are suitable for further work. The effectiveness of the work is assessed, and, accordingly, the feasibility of introducing the technology.

4. Conducting training for UAV operators

An equally important stage. The use of UAVs during surveying work is a complex and responsible process, despite the ease and simplicity of controlling the drone itself. Therefore, a lot of time was spent preparing and learning how to pilot a drone. The company's employees were trained in the rules of training and safety during flights, familiarized with drone flight techniques and the main factors influencing the operation of the drone during flight.

5. Training on processing received data

Receive data from drone — that's only half the job. The next stage — data processing. DroneUA has its own data center; in addition, the company’s employees have been certified to use the Pix4d software product. Today Pix4d — The leader in drone data processing software on the global market. Special attention was paid to the formats of exported files and their further use in the software.

6. Development of safety documentation when working with drones

Documentation of safety rules for operation deserves a separate place among other stages in the comprehensive implementation of drone technology in an enterprise, because Mining enterprises are objects with an increased level of risks to the life and work of workers. The DroneUA team has developed the concept of a document on Labor Safety, the presence of which is mandatory in every enterprise, and means the legalization and established rules for the use of UAV technologies in the enterprise. What could be the basis of a document for other companies in the mining industry in Ukraine.

Example of work at the Eristovsky quarry

Project objectives

  • Filming a quarry from a drone in automatic mode
  • Comparing the accuracy of different shooting methods: traditional shooting methods vs drone shooting
  • Recommendations and shooting methodology
  • Integration of data into existing software products, export

Accuracy assessment

When assessing the accuracy of the results obtained using control points (4 pcs.), the root mean square error was:

X-axis error: 0.02m

Y-axis error: 0.03m.

Z axis error: 0.06m

When compared with the traditional survey method, the absolute height deviations between the surface obtained from drone photographs and marks obtained using an RTK rover were compared. The number of points for which the comparison was made was 959, the results of this comparison are displayed in the histogram below.

Types of exported data:

As a result of data processing in the Pix4d program, it is possible to obtain 2D and 3D files that can be imported into third-party software for further work.

  1. Orthophotomap (Geotiff)
  2. Point Cloud (LAS)
  3. Elevation grid (XYZ)
  4. Raster surface model (GeoTiff)
  5. Structural lines (dxf), etc.

3D MESH of the Eristovsky quarry

The second site where the work was carried out — ore warehouse

Object characteristics:

Project objectives

  • Warehouse photography in automatic mode
  • Comparison of different shooting methods
  • Recommendations and shooting methodology
  • Integration of data into existing software products, export

Work results

The result was a surface that was imported into the software that is currently used to calculate volumes (Surpac, AutoCAD Civil 3d, K-mine). The level of detail of the resulting surface, namely obtaining the coordinates of points even in hard-to-reach areas, greatly simplifies the process of obtaining data and makes it possible to obtain a more detailed surface model for calculating volumes.

DroneUA solved problems

  • People safety (exclusion of personnel from the industrial zone);
  • Ensured uninterrupted operation of quarry equipment;
  • Optimized production processes
    (fewer people — larger shooting area);
  • Increased measurement speed;
  • Improved the quality of shooting (volumetric, millions of measurement points);
  • Automated the shooting process (route navigation);
  • We created documentation and minimized the influence of the human factor.

“Mine surveying of a warehouse, which occupies a large area and has unequal filling in area and height, with the help of a UAV will be performed 90% faster and safer than by a person who would have to walk around the entire territory of the warehouse on foot with a survey instrument and measure not only the area, but also the different heights of the material in the warehouse” — notes Alexander Tubaltsev.

This project is Ferrexpo and DroneUA — This is the first system integration of UAVs at mining enterprises in Ukraine and a reference case for the entire market.

Information about project participants

Ferrexpo— the company specializes in the production and export of iron ore pellets. It is the largest exporter of pellets in the CIS. The company's main asset is located in Ukraine – OJSC "Poltava Mining and Processing Plant" (JSC "PGOK"). The headquarters is located in Switzerland. The main consumers of the products are companies from Austria, Serbia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany and other European countries, as well as China, India, Japan and other countries of the Asia-Pacific region.

DroneUA — leading integrator of unmanned technologies on the Ukrainian market. The company operates in the fields of energy and oil and gas industries, as well as in the fields of geodesy and topography. The main areas of work of Drone.UA are the development and implementation of industry solutions based on drone technology, the provision of services using UAVs, as well as the processing of data obtained using drones. Drone.UA technologies are used on more than 3.1 million hectares of cultivated areas in Ukraine.

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DroneUA is an international system integrator of unmanned solutions and robotics.

On the market of Ukraine and Eastern Europe, the DroneUA group of companies is the largest importer and distributor of leading drone manufacturers in the world and represents technological solutions from the brands XAG, EcoFlow, Pix4D, Parrot, Chasing, DroneDeploy, AgroCares and others.

The group of companies has its own engineering, production and service divisions, as well as an open data processing center. Technological solutions presented by DroneUA are used on more than 4 million hectares of cultivated areas of Ukraine. According to the results of the 2021 and 2022 agricultural seasons, more than 2.2 million hectares were protected with drone sprayers from DroneUA.

DroneUA is among the top three most innovative businesses in the agricultural sector of Ukraine according to FORBES and among the twenty most innovative enterprises of Ukraine.

The group of companies continues to expand the list of technological brands that it presents on the Ukrainian market, and is active in agriculture, the oil and gas industry, as well as in the fields of energy, geodesy and topography.

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