This past September, David Lloyd, mine planning engineer at APAC-Central (Oldcastle), delivered the webinar, “Using Drone Data for Mine Planning,” discussing how his company utilizes drone data for mine planning.
In his role at APAC-Central, Lloyd is responsible for mine planning, reserve exploration, reserve mapping, site surveying and mapping for more than 20 quarries across a trio of states — Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
Lloyd and moderator Adam Rice, director of Business Development at Kespry, began the webinar by looking at his background and experience; coming to APAC-Central as its first mine planning engineer about seven years ago, when the company was formed with the merger of several different companies under the APAC flag but operating independently.
“It was a bit of a tricky situation in that we had all of these locations that were under their own management style and their own systems and methodology, and suddenly everyone had to play together now,” he said. “We’ve been improving on it ever since then.”
Over the past two years, Lloyd has been one of the most active Kespry pilots, achieving more than 500 flights and 18,000 acres in that time.
“We started the Model 1 system and we got a lot of good results with that so when the Model 2’s and 2S systems came out, we had enough going on to get a second drone and train out more pilots,” Lloyd said. “We have five people licensed to operate two different drone systems, so they see a lot of use. At least one goes up every week, usually both, and it’s not unusual for us to do 15 or 20 flights in a given week.”
The two drones are utilized for both inventory and mine planning, as well as general one-off projects as well.
While mine planning has often been thought of as a nebulous concept, being able to look at some clear and clarified applications and ways to drive drone technology to the mine planning process is important for APAC-Central’s program.
“It was obvious early on that we weren’t going to be able to build a one-size-fits-all solution as far as mine planning goes,” Lloyd said. “It led to this idea of building a structure that we could then tailor to every site and give them the maps and tools they need to do their job in a way they are comfortable with.”
That led to the company’s concept of a “Model Theory,” where a robust model is constructed and any crews on the ground could use it to do their jobs, and it can be applied to any situation as long as they do a good job building that model.
“Drones have been a huge help for that, in allowing us to get that surface data and other pieces of data very quickly and consistently,” Lloyd said. “It used to take three to five people involved in an operation to get decent survey data, and it would often take hours and hours. Now it’s one person and 30 minutes.”
To get the models built and updated, and applied to the 20-30 operations the company has going at any given time, APAC-Central recently started a quarterly meeting method, where every quarter a regional meeting is held so the core group can discuss the mine plan — where it’s at, what’s completed and what’s left to do.
“The next question is what is missing and where do we need to go with it,” Lloyd said. “We may have a really good production plan, but the stripping plan isn’t up to snuff as far as following along with that, or maybe they both are solid but haven’t been updated recently.”
Once that is decided, it all comes back to the data and understanding what still needs to be achieved and what type of drone model is going to work best for each situation.
The Kespry Cloud is used pretty extensively in these meetings.
Ground control vs. PPK
By using PPK (post-processed kinematics) over ground control, Lloyd said it improves the efficiency and is a huge time saver.
With PPK, raw data at both the base station and the drone experience is recorded, and then the data is uploaded to a Kespry Cloud and it can quickly be processed. This helps eliminate the need for things like a real-time link to get the data from the ground station to the drone.
“Ground control is just inherently going to have some fluctuation in it, where as the PPK system we have base points we fly from every single time, so flight after flight just lines up nicely for us, which is really helpful,” Lloyd said.
When APAC-Central first started utilizing a drone, Lloyd noted he never envisioned using them for picking up geological data but, they managed to do that somehow.
As an example, he talked about an abandoned pit that’s been in disuse for some time, mostly flooded, with no road down to it. At one of the meetings the company had, they explored whether it was worth it to go down there, drain the water, and open it back up.
“This particular location, the geography is fairly complex” he said. To get the data they needed, traditionally they would bring in a crew, drill some holes in the ground, and it would have easily taken two weeks and cost around $10,000.
“We came up with idea to fly the high wall with the drone and create core data by looking at the high wall,” Lloyd said. “Because our flights are on the same plain grid, we can generate real world coordinates, much like you would get from core data.”
By using the drone in this situation, it only took a couple of hours and was far, far less money.
At the conclusion of the webinar, Lloyd took some time to answer questions and further revealed some important uses of the drone data for mine planning, talking about communication, software, drone accuracy and the ways he is leveraging support.
In one of the most important questions, Lloyd talked about how the company’s mine planning program has changed since he first started working with it and what it does for APAC-Central.
“It’s allowed for us to get more rapid and consistent data acquisition. We’re quite not there yet, but we’re in the process of getting quarterly updates across 25-30 operations, and that was not a feasible idea with prior technology,” he said. “To get this level of data in such a time frame, it’s really helped with that. It’s also shortened our time frame and turnaround as far as data acquisition goes and being able to keep these things updating constantly, being more useful as a result.”
To listen to the entire webinar, visit http://click.kespry.com/mineplanningwebinar.