Airobotics revealed last week it had signed up BHP as its first customer in North America following the launch of its new Scottsdale, Arizona headquarters. Efrat Fenigson, VP of Marketing of Airobotics, provided IM with some insight into how the world’s biggest miner by market capitalisation is using the company’s autonomous Optimus drone.
IM: On what operation is BHP using one of Airobotics’ automated drones?
EF: Airobotics’ automated drones are currently deployed by BHP in Arizona, San Manuel in a closed mine site.
Airobotics has one brand of drone – Optimus. Optimus doesn’t work as a standalone drone, it is part of a solution created entirely in-house. Airobotics automated drone solution is comprised of four major components:
- Optimus – an autonomous, large, high capacity drone;
- Airbase – a completely automated base station which houses the Optimus drone, and a robotic arm that handles the swapping of batteries and payloads;
- Airobotics software – integrated, dynamic software that enables users to control and manage missions with one click and analyse data in a user-friendly dashboard;
- Data insights – highly accurate and repeatable missions deliver actionable business insights to customers, using LiDAR, photogrammetry, video and thermal imaging.
IM: For what purpose is BHP using Airobotics drones?
EF: BHP is using the Airobotics solution to achieve real-time aerial insight, aimed at reducing risk and improving efficiency, performing inspections and delivering orthophotos and 3D models.
IM: Why was an automated drone preferred over other drone options?
EF: Standard piloted drone services are expensive, inaccurate and not always available. Our drone platform is fully automated from end-to-end, and we are the first commercial drone in the world to be certified to fly without a human operator in Israel, and currently in the process in the US.
Our unique capabilities include:
- Multiple payloads and battery swapping – Airobotics’ system has the unique capability of swapping its own batteries and payloads, using a robotic arm. This allows for a diversity of payloads and mission types;
- Fully automated platform – Airobotics’ platform is able to automatically self-launch, fly as well as land, time after time, accurately. By taking the drone pilot and operator out of the equation, Airobotics enables safety assurances for enterprises;
- Industrial grade, durable and weather resistant platform – The Airbase is completely sealed, waterproof, durable, and corrosion resistant. More than that, the Airbase is made from a rugged, industrial grade exterior. Optimus drones can fly in rain and wind of up to 20 knots with gusts of 30 knots.
- Coverage and speed – Airobotics drones can cover up to a 5 km radius around the Airbase, at a speed of 10 m/s for up to 40 minutes.
BHP’s in-situ copper leaching operations at San Manuel, Arizona, was shut down in 2001. It ceased underground mining at San Manuel in August 1999 due to a sustained period of low copper prices, but was producing some 100,000 t/y of copper prior to this.