What you missed at Commercial UAV Expo

By |  November 12, 2018
Ainstein’s UAV Long Range Radar Altimeter is one of many examples of drone-related technology that can be applied within the aggregate industry. Photo: Zach Mentz

Dozens of exhibitors displayed their latest drone technologies at this year’s Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas. Photo: Zach Mentz

The fourth annual Commercial UAV Expo at the Westgate Resort in Las Vegas featured dozens of exhibitors displaying their latest technologies and keynote presentations over three days.

While the event featured drones that are applicable in a wide range of industries, including emergency response, civil infrastructure and agriculture, the mining and aggregate industry had its share of representation, as well.

A mining and aggregate presentation on the final day of the show was hosted by Will Tompkinson of Insightful Dimensions and featured a panel including David Boardman of Stockpile Reports; Andrew Carey of Rio Tinto Kennecott/Utah Copper; and Todd Domney and Callum Walter of Sumac Geomatics. The presentation covered the various benefits of drone usage in the aggregate industry, including site mapping and surveying, inventory management and how to analyze the data provided by drones.

Boardman predicted back in 2013 that “every square centimeter of an operation will be modeled accurately in 3-D every second of every day.” He revisited that prediction during this year’s presentation, reiterating his belief that this is still the case.

“Drones have sparked imagination and educated us about possibilities,” Boardman says.

Carey, speaking on the use of drones in the aggregate industry, noted the benefits of implementing this technology.

Ainstein’s UAV Long Range Radar Altimeter is one of many examples of drone-related technology that can be applied within the aggregate industry. Photo: Zach Mentz

Ainstein’s UAV Long Range Radar Altimeter is one of many examples of drone-related technology that can be applied within the aggregate industry. Photo: Zach Mentz

“Just the safety improvements alone are enough to justify this technology,” Carey says.

One benefit of drone usage in the aggregate industry is in site mapping. Drones take hundreds or even thousands of photos while flying a pre-designed flight plan, stitching together all of the photos to make one concise image of your site.

However, there are challenges to processing large-scale imagery of a site. Even in the technologically-advanced world we live in, large data sets – think 5,000 photos – can take as long as a week to process.

The speaker panel suggested a few key tips to manage these data processing issues, such as improving uploads and storage by shooting the appropriate resolution for the job; leveraging known camera positions to accelerate imagery matching; utilizing the appropriate number of views per pixel; and leveraging high-precision GPS, advanced processing techniques and ground control.

Based on the aggregate industry representation seen at Commercial UAV Expo, along with what we’ve heard from industry producers and manufacturers alike, the transition to drones in aggregate sites is already underway and will continue to grow in the coming years.


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