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5 ways drones will enhance safety and productivity at mines

Five ways drones will enhance safety and productivity at mines

As we shift to more sustainable energy sources all eyes are on the mining sector to deliver. The transition to a net zero economy has created huge demand for critical materials, such as lithium and cobalt which are essential in the production of electric cars and renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines. Even as mines ramp up production levels however, companies must look at their own ESG (environmental, social and governance) data, with a focus on reducing emissions, further enhancing worker safety and protecting the environment in which they operate.

The trend towards Industry 4.0 digitalization offers mining companies new opportunities to fully automate equipment and vehicles and gain access to operational data and analytics to achieve their goals. One use case that will allow them to keep pace with demand while also complying with new regulations is the connected drone.

The growing adoption of drones for mining

 In recent years drones have become popular at mines, adding significant value to operations. Because of this increasing popularity, global commercial drone revenue within the mining and quarry industry is expected to almost double in coming years, going from US$ 1.1 billion generated in 2022 to almost US$2.2 billion by 2030.    

Here’s five reasons why:

  1. Greater visibility reduces risks to your workers: A drone gives you a bird’s eye view, offering a perspective not possible from ground level. You can efficiently monitor vast mines in real-time using multiple drones, and benefit from images and 1)    video feeds from areas where it would be too risky for your workers to go.

  2. Gain access to more data over time to show ESG progress: Use drones to monitor impact during blasting to remain within acceptable limits and understand changes in waste piles and tailings. Drones equipped with thermal feeds, videos and sensors can quickly measure temperature, water or air quality, reducing the risk and time required for manual inspections. Use data to model changes over time, simplify ESG reporting and identify potential issues, allowing command and control to make informed decisions.

  3. Manage resources more efficiently: Calculating volumes of mining materials in stockpiles around the pit manually can be challenging, time-consuming and costly. Send out drones to rapidly conduct volumetric monitoring and analyze data over time to reduce waste.

  4. Leverage preventative maintenance for greater productivity: Use drones to inspect mining infrastructure, including stockpiles, tailings, dams and conveyor belts, as well as tracks used by your autonomous vehicles and monitor deterioration or damage to identify where maintenance is required and avoid costly repairs/impact on productivity.

  5. Augment search efforts to reach team members: Find workers faster in a medical emergency when every second counts.  

Private wireless is the enabler

To benefit from drones as well as other Industry 4.0 use cases, mining companies must have robust, reliable wireless network connectivity in place. This will allow them to connect industrial IoT sensors, machinery and vehicles with the greatest flexibility. While some currently use Wi-Fi connectivity, these access points have limited capabilities, becoming less reliable as more assets are connected and data traffic rises.

In the dynamic mine, equipment must be constantly connected to the network to ensure safety and productivity. And that’s where private 4.9G/LTE or 5G networks come in. Highly modular, simple to install, maintain and scale, private wireless meets the requirements of even the most ambitious digital mining applications.

Nokia’s approach to enterprise digitalization is to offer one platform that combines reliable 4.9G/LTE and 5G private wireless connectivity, together with on-premises Industrial edge computing (MXIE), certified ruggedized Industrial devices and a catalog of ecosystem neutral applications. Offered as a service, mining companies can prepare for industry digitalization and evolve at their own pace as their needs dictate.

Why Nokia Drone Networks

Pre-integrated and tested within the Nokia one platform for digitalization, using private 4.9G/LTE or 5G for robust, reliable low latency connectivity and MXIE Industrial Edge processing for data governance, Nokia Drone Networks allows you to leverage automation to enhance safety and productivity within your mining operations.

How will Nokia Drone Networks work for your mining operations?

  • Nokia Drone Networks is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) solution built in a modular design that is end-to-end CE-certified across the drone, docking station, ground control station, dual gimbal camera with HD - and thermal sensor. This opens the door to higher category flight permissions such as beyond line-of-sight flights for greater awareness. Dual modem and eSIM connectivity allow multiple network connections for compliance with the system redundancy requirements of some aviation regulatory bodies.

  • Real-time kinetic positioning improves situational awareness for enhanced safety and security of your workforce and assets across your mine.

  • Customize your use cases and integrate third-party applications: Change out the payload to equip drones with searchlights or loudspeakers in search and rescue missions, use a LiDAR scanner for volumetric monitoring of your stockpiles or use sensors to detect smoke, motion, radiation and more. You can even develop your own payload by utilizing the Nokia payload development kit.

  • Unique hardware architecture, integrated software innovations and 4G/LTE and 5G connectivity allow you to steer drones remotely from your ground control center. Schedule flights 24/7 over pre-defined routes or send drones on one-off reconnaissance missions and benefit from over 50 minutes flight time across 40 km or more.

  • The docking station covers the drone and the payload from external hazards. It allows 24/7 fully remote drone operations and charging. The docking station charges the drone, allowing the drone to repeatedly take off to conduct autonomous missions and return to be charged, for example in remote locations.   

  • Take advantage of open API (application programming interface) to integrate Nokia Drone Networks solution into your incident management system and instantly begin collecting real-time video feeds, thermal imaging, and other crucial data to better manage your operations.

  • All elements of the solution, drone, payloads and the docking station are designed to withstand dusty, harsh mine environments, with IP54 rating.

Nokia drone with YellowScan LiDAR

Nokia drone with YellowScan LiDAR 

We showed the benefits of Nokia Drone Networks over 4.9G/LTE and 5G private wireless in Canada working with research and development organization, X.O, using drones for perimeter patrols and gas leak detection at a remote mine spanning several kilometers and for gathering data on infrastructure data for maintenance activities at a hydro-electric plant.

Discover how you could use Nokia Drone Networks within the Nokia one platform for digitalization to achieve productivity, safety and environmental goals by visiting us at the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC), booth P45, at the ICC Sydney, Australia, from October 31 – November 2023. 


Petra Vakiala

About Petra Vakiala

Petra is a professional marketer at Nokia, currently concentrating on solutions for enterprise customers in segments like public safety, smart cities and mining. She holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Stockholm and is based in Espoo, Finland. During her spare time, you can find her recharging her batteries at the family cottage located on an island called Kemiönsaari in the South-West of Finland.

Tweet me at @petravakiala

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