How Photogrammetry Will Transform the Mining and Metals Industry

Digitization and the Internet of Things (IoT) are growing trends within the metal and mining industry. These changes will impact the way the industry interacts with employees, communities, government and the environment. The development of technology as it relates to mining enables automation, new methods of exploration, reduction of manual labor and compounded innovation.

New capabilities across the entire lifecycle of mining, ore processing and metals production are challenging traditional business models. Research conducted by MaRS Market Insights found that 80 percent of mining companies are planning to invest in the IoT in the near future and expect a 24 percent increase in operating margin by creating new business processes.

Photogrammetry is the science of using photographs to take measurements used for mapping, drawing or a 3D model of a real-world object or landscape. There are two types of photogrammetry:

  • Aerial

In aerial photogrammetry, the camera is mounted on aircraft, drones or UAVs. Multiple overlapping photographs are taken as the craft follows a pre-determined flight path. These are processed using automated desktop systems.

  • Terrestrial and Close-Range

In terrestrial photogrammetry, the camera is located on the ground, held by the photographer or mounted on a tripod or pole. Usually this method is used for non-topographic tasks, such as drawings, 3D models, measurements or point clouds. In the mining industry, this type of photogrammetry is also known as Image-Based Modeling.

Photogrammetry is a game-changer in the mining and metals industry. In the future, look to photogrammetry to elevate operational efficiency through automation and real-time planning, optimize mining operations and enhance asset lifecycle management, among other advancements.

Here’s how it will have a positive impact on the industry.

  1. Survey methods

Photogrammetry is able to generate precise volume calculations, create contour lines and conduct quality assessments. It gives direct access to 2D and 3D models generated through automatic data collection. It can be used to calculate stockpile volumes and ensure that systems track and report the right quantity and values of material. This enables mining operations to build steeper slopes, displace less rock and dirt and optimize stacking and reclaiming. This leads to improved inventory reporting, higher efficiency in the supply chain and better forecasting of minerals for sale.

  1. Blasting operations safety

Using photogrammetry to process images, generate point clouds, 3D models and orthomosaics for the entire blasting area and improves productivity, safety and environmental impact. Blasting operations affect many other aspects of the mining site, including loading, transport, crushing and milling operations. Photogrammetry can help reduce misfires as well as reduce potential hazards to workers and the public by reducing toxic fumes produced by denotating explosives in surface mining and construction operations.

  1. Environmental monitoring

Photogrammetry produces better quality 2D and 3D surface models that can be used to provide high-resolution images that can assist in decision making. Photogrammetry generates reliable point clouds and digital surface models that can be used to monitor and assess remediation efforts as well as assess drainage and contamination. Simulations can be performed to help predict erosion, contamination, landslides and earthquakes.

  1. Geofencing

Photogrammetry uses drones and other devices to acquire visual information converted into geo-referenced 3D models. These allow a manager to provide adequate oversight to prevent assets, devices, workers and equipment from coming into unintended contact with hazards. The files created can be used to create a geographical virtual fence around the dangerous areas of the site and smart-evacuators can be used to create an off-limits area. This is made possible by the use of the geo-referenced surface model and GPS coordinates.

The use of photogrammetry, drone mapping and 3D modeling solutions will help mining and metal operations achieve excellence through competitive differentiation. Digital technologies are already transforming the mining and metals industry, making operations safer, more efficient and improving the bottom line of the organization.

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