Rio Tinto Kennecott produces minerals that are essential to modern technology – copper is found in just about every piece of technology you own – but more and more, technology is becoming essential to mining.
The mining industry has been following Rio Tinto for the past few years to see how the leading global mining company will incorporate drone technology into its operations. At the Bingham Canyon Mine, Kennecott now has 30 FAA-certified drone pilots running four to five flights per day.
The safety benefits of drone technology in mining seem obvious. Through drones, employees can access locations that were previously unreachable due to safety concerns. Drones allow employees to monitor safety conditions and potential hazards from a safe distance. But drones also represent a changing tide in the mining industry, leading to a future where mining is much more technological than in past decades.
Drones collect large volumes of high-quality data for exploring, surveying and 3D mapping. Drone technology processes maps and data much more quickly than traditional methods, allowing for almost instant analysis. The technology can connect in real time with other mining operations technology, allowing employees to make decisions more quickly and with better information than in the past.
Ultimately, it’s the Kennecott pilot and crew behind the drone who add value to the mining process, not the drone itself. Andrew Carey, Kennecott’s director of drone operations, explains, “Drones are simply another tool now available to our employees making their jobs safer while collecting data in a more efficient and complete manner.”