New Acland miners take to the skies

23 September 2016

There’s some new kids on the block at New Acland Mine in the form of two brand new Aerial Survey Drones and they are changing the face of mining operations.

These feather light drones may not be as impressive as New Acland’s 398 tonne mining trucks (loaded) but they have dramatically improved the mine’s aerial surveying capacity.

New Acland Surveyor Martin Leggat is one of three drone pilots and said the drones take hundreds of photos from the air that are used to create 3D models of the mining pits.

“Before introducing the drones, we would survey the mining pits about every three months using light aircraft,” he said.

“Now, the drones allow us to survey once a month and offer a significant reduction in costs and time, because they can fly during conditions when most light aircraft can’t.

“When it’s cloudy, the drones can fly low enough to get beneath the cloud cover and continue to photograph the mining pits.”

Drone specialists, V-Tol Aerospace, have partnered with the mine to deliver the new program which takes place in Controlled Airspace, and is subject to strict Army flight restrictions.

“To enhance our ability to fly responsibly and safely inside Controlled Airspace, we’re currently trialling an innovative 4G Internet connection on our drones,” Mr Leggat said.

“The Internet connection allows us to share our exact location and height with other aircraft in the area and with the nearby Oakey Army Aviation Centre.

“We believe this is a first for the industry and following positive feedback from the Army base we’re looking to develop it even further.”

New Acland Mine is no stranger to innovation as the proud operators of the Wirtgen surface miner, a machine usually reserved for iron ore mines and pulling up bitumen, and a first for the Australian coal industry.

The mine is also currently trialling a new diesel/natural gas hybrid mining truck with ambitions of reducing emissions and running costs.