Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.
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14 unmanned systems inside December 2016/January 2017 AIR MINING With a drone, Allen has a bird's eye view of the entire site, so when a contractor tries to tell him part of the project is complete when it isn't, all he has to do is pull up an image or video from the drone to show the contractor he knows that isn't true. That changes the re- lationship immediately and keeps contractors honest. UAS are also invaluable during incidents, Allen said. The ability to get a picture from above helps keep workers safe as they try to figure out what happened and how they can prevent it from happening again. "After a storm or natural event they can as- sess the damage and control it," said Matteo Triacca, business development and product manager at senseFly. "They can send in a drone instead of personnel after an incident to assess and make strategic decisions on how to intervene." UAS, for example, can map where water is the highest during a f lood as well as as- sist w ith recover y ef for ts during natural disasters, Insitu Pacific Managing Director A ndrew Duggan said. A nd when injuries happen, information from a UAS can help personnel get a direct view of the scene so they can quickly provide resources and res- cue the victim. Oversight and Reclamation The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, a government organization charged with overseeing coal mining opera- tions and reclaiming abandoned coal mining sites, started looking into how drones could help them with their work back in 2011, Su- pervisory Program Specialist Natalie Carter said. They didn't know much about the tech- nology back then, but started proof of con- cept tests to see how UAS could help save them time and money while also limiting the amount of walking employees had to do on what's often rough terrain. The team has used the RQ-11 Raven from AeroVironment and the Honeywell RQ-16 T-Hawk to assist with their oversight work, to observe poten- tial problems with reclamation and to iden- tify evidence of underground mine fires. "We're view ing the information in real time and looking for potential problem ar- eas," Carter said. "We're using infrared and thermal cameras to identify water on the mine site, whether it's supposed to be there or not. We're able to derive from that data, through the infrared camera, vegetation health, whether it's stressed or healthy, and then we get an idea of the vegetation cover- age, which is useful. We're also able to deter- mine the surface configuration of mine sites to see if they're being put back the way they were planned to be put back." When mining companies write a mining plan and the state approves the permit, they have to explain how they're going to reclaim the site—which is very detailed work. This organization makes sure that original plan is adhered to, Carter said, which usually requires personnel to walk the mines. The mines she works with in West Virginia can be anywhere from 300 acres to multiple complexes with 10,000 acres, and this work could take one or more days to complete. With a UAS they can cover about 200 acres an hour or 9 to 12 per- mits in three days. Photos courtesy of Insitu Pacific and senseFly "THE ROBOTIC MINE of the future is really the path. There will still be some people working but a lot of the systems that gather the data for site planning will be automatic." Andrew Duggan, managing director, Insitu Pacific The ScanEagle UAS from Insitu Pacific flies over a mining site.