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Drones for Surveying, Security & Inspection in Mining Projects

24th August 2022

     

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The ins and outs of acquiring and operating a drone

RPAS Consulting is committed to using the extensive know-how it has honed to help organisations in the mining and related sectors navigate through the maze of requirements needed to own and maintain drones for various applications. The company’s speciality is the provision of bespoke drone solutions to clients in diverse fields in South Africa and the region. 

Thanks to breakthroughs in research and development, the scope of fields where drones can be deployed is broadening. Noticeably, some of the areas where it has had a groundbreaking impact include, but are not exclusive to, surveying, security and inspection in mining, oil, gas, and power generation projects. 

While there is an increasing appreciation for the relevance of drones in contemporary industry, understandably, some organisations are put off by the intensity of the paperwork involved. Concerned that organisations could miss out, RPAS Consulting pronounces that it is dedicated to helping mining companies thoroughly understand the complexity of requirements needed to obtain and maintain its own Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Operating Certificate (ROC), and to weigh it sensibly against other potentially more cost effective operational and business model options. 

Operational since 2015, South Africa-based RPAS Consulting has accumulated significant experience in the provision of bespoke drone solutions to multiple clientele in South Africa and the region. RPAS Consulting MD Bertus Greef says that his organisation is keen to impart invaluable knowledge to prospective drone owners. Specifically, he highlights three vital areas: the host of fields where drones can add value; legislation governing ownership; and the steps to make an informed choice in obtaining and maintaining a drone ROC. 

Where Drones can add value 

There are a host of areas where drones can add value to mining operations. Some of the most common ones are: 

  • Geomagnetic surveying for mineral/resource deposits
  • Safer surveying practices with denser datasets mean quicker and more accurate data
  • Airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) scans
  • Progress reports and digital twins
  • Blasting reports and fragmentation analysis
  • Engineering inspections at height
  • Security surveillance patrols and asset protection
  • Tailing dams’ health
  • Thermal inspections on equipment and infrastructure.

Unsurprisingly, with so many benefits, the drone has become a tool of choice in any competitive mining operation.

Legislation

Greeff notes, however, that potential drone owners in the mining sector must be thoroughly acquainted with legislation that defines the terms of ownership and maintenance in South Africa.

“Just as in any country in the world, Drones – also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) – are governed by strict aviation legislation in South Africa. However, this should not be looked at as an unnecessary bureaucratic burden. It is very necessary, since drones share airspace with manned aviation, and could very well result in loss of life if not conducted responsibly.,“ he says.

South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) CAR Part 101 defines the legalities of operating drones in South Africa. Specifically, for any commercial operation, several certifications need to be in place, the most important being an ROC. A ROC is an active certification, not just a once-off exercise. It requires various post holders such as accountable manager, person responsible for flight operations, person responsible for aircraft, aviation safety manager, quality manager, safety and security manager and RPAS maintenance technician/s. The ROC systems are audited by the SACAA regularly, and the license needs to be renewed every 12 months. The cost of compliance can add up and could very well result in being grounded if all the systems are not properly maintained.

The South African Police Services, in conjunction with the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of South Africa, has recently implemented a specific set of CAS Crime Codes to facilitate the criminal prosecution of transgressors of SACAA Part 101, which has serious implications for any manager in case of non-compliance.

Turnkey Services vs Own Operations

"In the end, the decision to implement drones as part of any mine’s workflow is not an “if”, but rather a “how and when” decision,“ Greeff asserts. “At some point, a purchase has to be made. The big question is just how to go about it in a way that makes the most financial and operational sense.“

He emphasises that it is important for an organisation to make an informed decision on a drone ownership package suitable for its requirements.

“If you are a smaller operation, with only two or three pilots, obtaining your ROC could prove an intensive and time-consuming exercise. For specialist applications such as geomagnetical surveys or LIDAR modelling, outsourcing to a key specialist could still be your best option. For general day-to-day surveying and security type applications, it could be rewarding to talk to us about an alternative cost-effective solution working with our ROC,“ he concludes.

Sidebar 

Services and Solutions

RPAS Consulting was one of the first companies to comply with SACAA Part 101 and obtain a ROC. In business since 2015, the company can provide clients with several turnkey solutions to make their lives easier and be legally compliant.

RPAS Consulting has in-house service capabilities such as LIDAR, surveying processing capabilities, thermographic reporting, and specialised security services, among others. Its robust ROC has the following specific SACAA permissions in place:

  • Multirotor and fixed-wing ratings
  • Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS)
  • Night flying
  • Controlled airspace
  • Prohibited airspace
  • Restricted airspace
  • Up to 1 000 ft AGL
  • Operating closer than 10 km to airports
  • Operating over roads, infrastructure, and people
  • Operating in inclement weather conditions

 

Feel free to visit our website or contact us for further details.

+27 82 455 7526

bertus@rpas.co.za

www.rpas.co.za

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