Benefits in a nutshell
The Elios 3 provided access to new areas of the site that had been previously inaccessible - all without putting personnel at risk .
Fast deployment with the Elios 3 meant the team could complete the inspection within a day and share the results with the client.
When the inspection team ran into unexpected challenges inside the culvert, they were able to quickly adapt to the situation and find a solution with the drone.
The Elios 3 gathered data that was used for a comprehensive visual inspection of the culvert and shared with engineers to evaluate the asset's structural integrity.
Introduction: Drone surveying in mining
Mines around the world must follow strict safety protocols to protect their employees on their sites, be it an open-pit site or an underground excavation. Mine safety begins with the proper inspection and maintenance of the equipment in use.
Culverts in mines act as a conduit for liquids, moving water from one side of a road or area to the other. They can serve the dual purpose of drainage as well as structural support. If a culvert gives way, it can cause subsidence or even a landslide depending on its location. Thus, culvert maintenance is an important task.
As culverts are underground, they can be difficult to inspect. Some only have one access point before they meet further pipe infrastructure, making a traditional or manual inspection difficult. Inspectors are turning to the Elios 3 as a tool for accessing dangerous and complex culverts. It provides a safer data collection method than sending someone inside and the confined-space drone can move freely through the asset whether there is stagnant water or not, which can be an obstacle to floating inspection apparatus or crawlers.
Customer Needs: Culvert inspection with the Elios 3
Azure Integrity is an industrial drone service provider based in Adelaide, Australia. As previous users of the Elios 2, Azure Integrity bought the Elios 3 this year and their team is currently using it on multiple sites across the region to inspect major assets ranging from mining equipment to the interiors of railway infrastructure.
The Azure Integrity team visited a major open-cut mining site in Queensland to conduct a culvert inspection. It had never been analyzed before using drones, but the mine owners wanted to enhance on-site safety as recent mining accidents have increased global awareness about the necessity of culvert maintenance.
The culvert being inspected was 80 meters long, with a height of 3.5 meters and a width of 1.5 meters (262, 11, and 5 feet respectively). An energy breaker on the upstream side meant the space at one end would be too small to be accessed by a person wearing breathing apparatus and could not support crawlers due to water build up. The water level was also unknown, which prevented the use of a floating visual inspection. For these reasons, the Elios 3 was the perfect solution to this challenging mine inspection site.
This project served as a proof of concept for Azure Integrity's services for the mine owners in addition to being a successful culvert inspection. The desired output was a visual inspection of the culvert that would be achieved using the Elios 3's cameras.
Solution: Adapting drone inspection workflows with the Elios 3
Once on-site, the Azure Integrity team quickly deployed the Elios 3 and started their flight. They were moving over stagnant water inside the culvert without issue and moving quickly.
An unexpected challenge met the team 50 meters (164 feet) into the culvert: the Elios 3 was suddenly challenged by a family of bats. Despite the efforts of the pilot to guide the bats to the exit, the bats did not want to leave the dark space in daylight. Thanks to the flexibility of working with the Elios 3, the Azure Integrity team immediately had the solution: they could come back and complete the inspection at night when the bats would be out hunting and the culvert would be free of inhabitants. The Elios 3 has a lighting system that shines at 16,000 lumens - more than enough to get a clear visual image in underground locations and thus a flight at night is no problem. The drone pilot could then complete the visual inspection of the culvert from 50 meters to the final 30 meters (98 feet) of the total 80-meter space.
The asset inspection was completed using Flyability’s companion software, Inspector 4. An engineer then viewed the results of the flight on this visual inspection software to evaluate the structural integrity of the culvert and allowed them to plan any maintenance that could be required.
Conclusion: The success of drone service providers in mining
Azure Integrity provided the ideal results for their client and was able to adapt to the demands of the site thanks to Elios 3 being a mobile and flexible tool. This is just one of several benefits of using indoor drones for mining operations: deployment can begin in minutes, making it easy to change plans and reduce downtime on a site.
On this open-cut mine in Queensland, Azure Integrity was able to access a new area of the site, improving safety for individual inspection personnel by using a drone while also helping the overall site safety be improved. The client was happy with the results, and the bats were able to return undisturbed to their home after the culvert inspection.
This workflow has proven the merit of drone mine inspections on this site, as well as the quality of results gathered by Azure Integrity’s pilots. Moving forwards, they can continue to assist mine owners and other industrial site operators to improve safety, save time, and adapt to the individual needs of their work.