We seek to use the new multitude of lightweight, inexpensive, and yet capable computation and data collection devices collectively known as the Internet-of-Things (IoT) to rapidly bring data out of a mine and make that data available for high-impact analyses.
Specifically, in 2017 we will use network-controlled autonomous quadcopters to photograph every nook and cranny of an underground mine, daily, and aggregate the resulting data in a cloud-based application providing a 3D view of the mine and allowing general analyses for use in planning and operations.
What’s in a name?
Mining Exploration Technologies. Mining-EX. Mine-X. MinEx. MiNEXT. Minex (my-necks).
It’s a weird name, and we’ll admit it’s a tribute to Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). We’ll also answer a few questions:
Mining is a capital intensive business, with significant analytical resources put into optimizing the use of operational assets. Because of this intense focus on the the operational efficiency of capital assets, the right environment exists to aggressively price a solution provided it can demonstrate significant benefits. To wit:
Cost is no issue. If it works of course!
The mining industry has also been historically eager to embrace new technologies. Because raw materials is a commodity business, whatever can be harnessed to move more high-quality ore out of the ground will be harnessed.
Finally, the mining industry is is currently undergoing a seismic shift towards data-centric operations. Whether it’s self-driving haul-trucks, teleoperated machinery, or predictive maintenance via statistical diagnostics, software is currently eating the mining industry.
In the mining industry, exploration means finding out what is underground. This is usually done by drilling test holes, not using robotic aircraft.
Outside the mining industry, exploration means finding new, never before seen places. But we will be discovering places that hundreds of miners during thousands of shifts have walked through.
We don’t think using aircraft underground or discovering places everyone has already been are contradictions at all. The underground environment changes constantly, what is the the exact clearance between the floor and the hanging ductwork at location X right now? With the ground littered with dangerous obstacles ranging from pipes and cables to stopes and shafts, aircraft are uniquely suited to hover above it all.
We’ll admit it: what we propose to do isn’t new. We aren’t doing science, where the answers are unknown and all you have are guesses that need testing. There is no basic research that needs to be done. We aren’t doing engineering, where the first prototype needs full verification. Everything we need to achieve our mission is available off-the-shelf or can be downloaded from GitHub. We aren’t even combining commercially available tools in a new way. There are plenty of drone companies offering autonomous data collection via drone, and computational analysis on the cloud.
What IS new is the right combination of tools, tailored to the unique demands of the mission, by the right team. In short, our technology. Our mission is to build the technology to allowing the immediate measurement, visualization, and analysis of the underground environment – all from your desk.