Rio Tinto increases use of drones

The ever-changing face of technology has seen the use of drones become commonplace in a number of areas of the mining industry.

Yesterday Rio Tinto aviation specialist Kevan Reeve spoke at the Perth SGS Symposium on the company’s use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in operations. 

In the past year Rio Tinto has planned and tested the use of drones for environmental and heritage surveys, inspections of equipment such as conveyors, pit wall inspections, gathering aerial imagery, thermal imaging, and geotechnical inspections.

Technology and Innovation Executive Greg Lilleyman said the company saw immense potential for drones to help extend the advantage Rio Tinto holds through the innovative use of technology, which can help to improve the safety and productivity of their operations.

 “Information will be the single biggest differentiating factor between the mining operations of the past and those in the future, and drones can produce a wealth of information to allow us to make better decisions,” Lillyman said.

“Anyone can buy a drone and they’re easy to operate, but the trick is having the best minds working out what you do with them.

“We’re constantly thinking outside the box to imagine how they can be integrated into our mining operations to make complex tasks safer, quicker and cheaper, as well as working with regulators to meet their requirements.”

Lillyman said Rio Tinto was already using drones to monitor sites and inspect equipment, in order to minimise tasks safety risks to employees, as well as time and disruptions to operations.

“Other innovative uses we are finding include tasks like monitoring remote turtle nesting sites and spraying weeds as part of our environmental programs.

“Some of the future uses we can already see include monitoring geo-technical issues in difficult to access areas and inspecting vast stretches of infrastructure like power and rail lines, and we’re sure there will be many more.”

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