Applications of Drones in Mining

Drones have proven themselves in the mining industry as an efficient replacement for ground based survey methods. They go beyond surveying, allowing for aerial photo and video capture for a wide variety of uses.

Illustration credit: Airobotics

Stockpile Management

Reconciliation of ore and waste movement is a difficult task at most mine sites. Ground based survey techniques require surveyors to climb over and around stockpiles while being subject to weather and dust hazards.

Aerial surveying with drones completely removes the person from the work place and allows the surveying to take place without interrupting the mining process. Aerial surveys can take place on a regular schedule, allowing for accurate updates on the mining company’s valuable asset.

Drilling & Blasting

Accounting for around a third of a mine’s operating costs the drilling and blasting process is ripe for the application of drone technology.

Data captured from drones allows the bench to be surveyed and photographed prior to the commencement of drilling. Prior to loading explosives, geo-referenced images of the drill pattern allow engineers to confirm that drill holes are in the correct location. Post blast images and video facilitate the analysis of rock fragmentation.

Loading & Hauling

The load and haul process in mining is improved through aerial surveying techniques.  Applications include:

  • Measuring volumes excavated at the shovel/excavator face
  • Monitoring bench elevations
  • Creating digital terrain models of haul road networks.


By acquiring regular aerial survey data the mining operation can ensure environmental compliance to local regulations. Land use can be monitored and any encroachment on company property quickly detected.


Previously inspections had to be carried out by people in often hazardous conditions. By using drones to capture video and images, regular inspections can be carried out safely and cheaply.  Mining companies are required to inspect:

  • Tailings dams
  • Conveyor belts
  • Bridges
  • Roads
  • Towers

Significant cost savings will be achieved with uninterrupted operation of the equipment and safety is improved through no human contact with the asset.