KAZ Minerals operate a large operation at Aktogay in eastern Kazakhstan, with an open-pit mine and on-site concentrator - Aktogay Open-Pit Mine
From this autumn KAZ Minerals surveyors have begun to use a Q-200 Surveyor Pro UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) in Kazakhstan. The UAS (also known as a "drone") greatly improves the efficiency of geodetic work, makes the results more accurate and increases the efficiency of developing the site.
The essence of the UAS at first glance is simple: traversing the sky above the survey site along a neatly planned flight-path, the UAS takes numerous sensor images along with accurate location data for each image. Previously, surveying of this sort would require a lot of effort and resources on the ground - today this is many times faster.
Esengeldy Bijanov, Senior Surveyor for KAZ Minerals at the Aktogay mine site
"Surveying services have remained in their current form for decades. Technology developments are continuously being placed in the hands of ordinary surveyors, we are no exception. Originally working one way, we have moved on to electronic tachometers and then with another step into GPS technology. And today begins our work with drones. Very quickly the UAS can obtain very detailed images. Usually, if a company needs aerial imagery a plane is employed, but this is very expensive and cannot always be used for this reason."
"Surveying in Aktogay today is mainly a photographic career. The work of the surveyor forms the basis for all further work in developing the mineral resources. Spatial geometric measurements are taken of the earth's surface, which are then used to develop and display the plans, maps and profiles required for mining and exploration"
How often do you collect imagery ?
“Daily. To create the planning framework in which each location is shown on the plan, with further work performed by our engineers, planners and geologists. We also perform daily inspection surveys of the ore collected from the mining operations. To this end we have a team of experts trained, 8 at this stage - all fully trained to be able to fly and manage the UAS.”
Who performed the initial training ?
“Fully qualified trainers from the UK, direct from the manufacturer of the Q-200 system. The first teams have been trained and now, if necessary we can receive further technical support remotely from the UK.”
Who spearheaded the initiative to buy a UAS for this service ?
"The idea came from our chief surveyor, Gavin Cheshire. He is constantly looking for ways to introduce new technologies and new solutions, which can be used at different sites in a range of countries. A number of drone systems were evaluated and compared, before settling on the Q-200 Surveyor"
Drones are a fairly young technology, but they are already available widely - from military use to toy units for teenagers. The UAS you use was created specifically for industrial operations ?
“Yes, this is a special Q-200 Surveyor UAS from QuestUAV. The company was founded in 2008 by the CEO, Nigel King - himself a former military pilot and Air Force instructor. They have developed different models, introducing models for civilian purposes - for example agriculture and large area surveying.”
Operation is probably different to a standard copter ?
“Yes, training is not simple, it is very detailed and takes days. The UAS is not just a gadget with a remote - there is a laptop-based station with special control programmes installed on it. Flight trajectory and all flight data is displayed and so on. Another important moment is launch - everything needs to be timed, observed and adjusted for - wind speed, direction, hand position, etc.”
How have your colleagues found the training ?
“The theory is supported by the practice. Already there is noticeable progress.”
And you learned how to operate it ? I would think that at first all hands would shake at the thought that you could cause these expensive devices to fall ?
“Yes (laughs), but in that case repairs and spare parts can be ordered again, for delivery directly from the manufacturer in England.”
Briefly tell us about the characteristics of the drone.
“Speed - about 1 km per minute. Maximum range - 55-60 km. One flight can last up to an hour. This is important on large areas and for areas that are difficult to organise flights around. For example, a panel of heap leaching (leach pit) - when they initially have their ore load laid you could get inside to start surveying, but today everything is acidic and direct ground access is severely limited.”
What will be the next technological leap, I wonder ? What do you see next ?
“I don't know, it will most certainly be possible to do everything without leaving the office. Prepare and pre-program everything, the aircraft itself will still fly and collect the data, process the results and here you are.”
Esengeldy Bijanov was interviewed by Almas Sadykov
The Q-200 Surveyor Pro was selected after comprehensive research by KAZ Minerals, not least due to it's wide operating temperature range (-30oC to +40oC) - it is a supremely capable mapping airframe with a modular, swappable sensor pod system - Q-Pod.
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