Leveraging drone technology for mining exploration and development

By on March 13, 2018

By Marcelle P. Villegas

Drone technology is a rising trend that was made popular by enthusiasts of travel photography or filmmaking and is even used by hobbyists of drones racing. The technology of drone applications has evolved beyond hobby or aerial filmmaking.

The use of drones for surveying or land inspection is another application where the technology is further harnessed that will benefit mine sites and exploration projects.

This topic was discussed during the Philippine Mining and Exploration Association (PMEA)’s Monthly Membership Meeting last November 2017 in Manila Elks Club, Makati.

AERO 360 Solutions sponsored the event and one of the speakers for the meeting was Mark Vincent B. Villaflor, CEO and President of AERO 360 Solutions.

He founded a company that is a pioneer in the use of drone technology for industries like mining, energy, construction and real estate.

AERO 360 Solutions specializes in providing integrated solutions for surveying and inspections of terrain using state-of-the-art Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), or drones.

“By far, we are only one of three certified engineering companies by Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines,” according to Villaflor. “All of our drones are certified and the pilots as well.”

Villaflor is a CAAP RPAS licensed pilot.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) provides the certification and approval for one to fly and operate a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), like the drone.

In the Philippines, a drone pilot who wants to operate a commercial UAV must pass the Knowledge Test on the Philippine Aviation Regulations, complete a training course conducted by the UAV manufacturer and have at least five hours of experience in operating UAVs outside controller airspace.

The discussion touched many important points and reminders about drone technology.

First, a drone is a flying object that can cause accidents once it goes out of control. Therefore, for the assurance of safety, flying a drone requires skill and expertise.

Operating drones are also costly and risky. Costly in the sense that it is expensive and for technical applications that uses sensors and others, it will require a software for the data gathering and data transfer.

Regarding safety, “The question at hand is not whether it will fall from the sky, but rather when it will crash.” This factor refers to careful planning, anticipation and fully charging batteries before flight.

Wind, weather and light are also critical factors to check before flying a drone.

Now, how are drones useful in the mining industry? “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” This is a quote by Peter Drucker which best describes the services of AERO 360 Solutions.

Villaflor shared in his talk how his company started and his motivation in using drone technology for industries like in mining.

“My background was in oil services, so I am really exposed into a lot of hazardous activities, and I understand and can relate with the struggles of employees and organisations in ensuring safety in the workplace together with the health and environmental issues. So, for me, I have consulted over 200 organisations here in the Philippines and abroad.

“If there is an avenue or tool that I can use to see immediately the changes or the impact of what I do then I’d go for that. And that was the time in 2013 when drones were not yet mainstream here in the Philippines that I decided to jump on and embark on this investment. From there, we had a lot of developments on how we can really use this for a lot of industrial work, particularly mining in this case.

“That is why for us, it is not just about the robotics. It is also about the lives that we impact. Just imagine the engineers that we put on those fields, the vegetated area, non-habitable area, high-risk environment that are detrimental to their livelihood. So, for me, having an alternative like drones give us an advantage.”

AERO 360 Solutions offers integrated drone solutions for data acquisition, data processing and data management. They design and manufacture their own drones depending on the needs for a surveying operation.

Such drones can do mineral survey on land, equipped with full HD/4K cameras, Lidar Sensor, thermal sensor/camera, crop sensing devices, and other specialised sensors and cameras.

Using their technology, they provide accurate data that are essential for risk assessments or project studies related with cost control, safety, environmental and productivity issues.

AERO 360 Solutions also specialises in Geographic Information System (GIS), Mapping, Lidar, Thermography, Robotics, Industrial Safety Instrumentation, Remote Sensing Applications and more.

They have Risk Management Consulting experience in over 46 industries in the Philippines and overseas.

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