The game of drones: Innovating mining inspections through drone application

With safety the driving factor, ALS continue to integrate inspection approaches that improve safety without tradeoffs to the inspection itself – whether that be from a productivity, quality or financial perspective.

In modern inspection applications, unmanned aerial systems are no longer considered novelty – having found practical utilisation across inspections within the mining sector.

Drones, as they are most frequently referred to, offer compelling benefits, landing them in prime position to pioneer the future of visual inspections and beyond.

Looking asset-specific, draglines – the most powerful piece of machinery in the mining sphere, have been subject to ALS’s trial drone inspections as a means of replacing traditional approaches.

The ALS team have been specifically looking at the validity of implementing drones as the preferred pre-shutdown visual inspection method where possible.

Narrowing in on the boom and tub of the dragline, whilst inspection of these areas is critical, they poise considerable and challenging safety concerns.

For the boom, safety concerns surround the restricted views from walkways, integrity of the walkway itself and the working from heights hazards when inspecting from man baskets.

For the tub, the confined space entry requirement raises a host of safety concerns – from the ergonomically difficult work environments to the rescue challenges and suffocation risks.

Across both, personnel are operating in hazardous working environments where safety becomes easily compromised.

In response to these safety concerns, and simultaneously in efforts to streamline inspection timeframes, ALS has been implementing drones as the inspection of choice for these two traditionally problematic dragline areas.

With drones available for both internal and external inspection, confined spaces and hostile environments no longer require personnel entry as the first point of inspection.

The pre-shutdown inspection approach uses drones to provide the critical insight in the tub and booms’ condition, and allows for increasingly accurate scheduling of repairs and maintenance work – well before an inspector even touches the dragline.

ALS Industrial chief remote pilot Tristan Davison noted that “RPAS (Drones) offer a unique perspective in asset inspection. When utilised appropriately, they can gain access to inspect areas that were previously inaccessible, dangerous, or costly to inspect”.

Drones, along with our other advanced inspections approaches, are driving our Mining East team forward – with safety priorities for ALS and inspection priorities for clients aligning through drone application.

“We are at a point now where big data is helping optimise inspection programs. Drones can be a platform for this technology. Improved safety in some of the world’s tougher working environments is where ALS can be a real-world partner in asset management and inspection” shared ALS industrial contracts manager for the Mining East team, Scott Ramsey.

The modern mining world is leaning further into the benefits of big data and more broadly, advanced technology such as automation.

With these shifts, the mining sector is on the cusp of the next wave of efficiency where we will experience faster and better-informed decision-making at all levels, and drones sit within the technology propelling the sector forward.

In a competitive market, every effort to improve margins using advanced and intelligent approaches is necessary, and drones are among the technologies reshaping the mining landscape and supporting this advancement.

Discover more about our drone inspection services here: https://www.alsglobal.com/en-au/services-and-products/asset-integrity-and-reliability/advanced-ndt/drone-inspections

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