Remote sensing techniques – the distanced procurement of information about objects or areas with indirect contact sensors – can improve the speed, accuracy and cost effectiveness of surveying for construction in mining, says University of Pretoria Department of Engineering and Technology Management senior lecturer Schalk Grobbelaar.
Remote sensing techniques help to ensure effective production during the important phases of construction. Throughout the construction process, this technique can ensure that fewer mistakes are made, which consequently reduces costs and construction time.
“It is especially useful in brownfield projects that do not have accurate ‘as-built drawings’ of existing infrastructure,” highlights Grobbelaar.
From a safety perspective, the biggest potential is surveying difficult-to-reach or hazardous locations, which “can improve the safety of mines by identifying structural weaknesses in places that are unsafe or inaccessible to humans”.
Moreover, remote sensing techniques will help to enhance construction in mining in four key processes – slope management, structural inspections, topographical inspections and volume measurement.
Further, topographical inspections can be performed regularly using remote sensing techniques. The resource can, therefore, be accurately quantified, owing to regular measurements. These could improve the accuracy of planning and reconciliation, says Grobbelaar.
Additionally, volume measurement, predominantly used for planning and controlling purposes, can be quantified accurately and compared to the original plan.
While remote sensing technology is still in the early adoption phase, its development is growing fast, with Grobbelaar emphasising that using remote sensing techniques “has become relatively cheap and the interface is moderately simple to use, which makes it accessible to most companies”.
Meanwhile, future prospects and the industry outlook point towards photogrammetry becoming the most popular remote sensing technique.
Photogrammetry records, measures and interprets photographic or electromagnetic imagery to discern reliable information about the environment and physical objects.
Its ease of use and low cost will likely result in its growth in popularity; it is also very useful to have a photo history of the area being mined, says Grobbelaar.
Photogrammetry can be enhanced through technological improvements. The latest advancment in this remote sensing technology is its integration with machine-learning artificial intelligence.
Historically, the data gathered using remote sensing had to be interpreted by humans; however, this is changing, notes Grobbelaar, as machine learning is being developed to automatically interpret the data gathered using remote sensing techniques.
Grobbelaar believes that the integration of remote sensing techniques with machine learning will progressively increase.
“It will improve productivity, as well as safety and the environmental impact when used during construction in mining.”