Tag Archives: Emesent

Emesent’s Hovermap aids ore pass decision making at Petra’s Finsch diamond mine

Highly accurate point cloud data sets from a Hovermap scan have allowed Petra Diamonds’ Finsch mine engineers to “see” the condition of ore passes for the first time and avoid an estimated five months and R5 million ($350,000) in remediation, Emesent says.

Finsch, in South Africa’s Northern Cape, uses ore passes and underground silos to transfer ore between levels or to redirect ore for load and haul to the surface. Blockages, hang-ups, overbreak or scaling can impact the structural integrity and result in extended downtime and significant remediation costs. Accurate imagery enables mine engineers to gauge the integrity of ore passes and plan timely and cost-effective remediation programs, according to Emesent.

Historically, however, scanning and mapping inaccessible shafts and voids has been a challenge for Petra.

The company’s management sought a means of obtaining accurate visualisations of underground voids, quickly and cost effectively, without endangering the safety of Petra personnel or contractors, Emesent says.

Petra management trialled the Hovermap multiple data capture methods with Emesent partner, Dwyka Mining Services, contracted to carry out multiple scans of an indoor stockpile, ore passes and vertical shafts, and a series of access tunnels and ramps.

Hovermap is a drone autonomy and LiDAR mapping payload. It uses the LiDAR data and advanced algorithms on-board, in real time, to provide reliable and accurate localisation and navigation without the need for GPS.

Dwyka spent a day on-site conducting a series of scans using Hovermap mounted to vehicles, a DJI drone, or lowered in a protective cage. Dwyka delivered point cloud data sets for Petra’s survey team to geo-reference and analyse, within 24 hours. It also provided visualisations of the ore passes, enabling the mine engineers to ‘see’ the condition of orepasses for the first time, Emesent said.

Alex Holder, Group Planning and Projects Lead at Petra Diamonds, explained: “We lowered Hovermap down ore passes, flew the drone into draw points and even scanned our shaft and ramps by fixing the scanner to one of our vehicles. The visualisation delivered exceeded all our expectations. The data captured in one ore pass saved us significant time and effort by confirming it was irreparable. That saved us millions.”

Using Hovermap led to an immediate decision to abandon plans to expend resources remediating a compromised ore shaft. This decision saved Petra an estimated five months and R5 million.

Heinrich Westermann, Mining Engineer at Petra Diamonds, said: “The ability to power and switch the Hovermap payload between the various applications meant that we were able to scan a considerable amount of the mine in one shift. Generally, this was either impossible and, if it were possible, it would take weeks to collect those datasets and months to see the final visuals.”

The data collected by Hovermap has become the basis of a data library for the site. It is augmented regularly and used to inform operational decision making by Petra’s mine planning and survey teams, according to Emesent.

Petra intends to deploy Hovermap scanning technology to map inaccessible locations at its other sites across Africa, Emesent says.

Emesent builds mining connections as Hovermap autonomy takes off

Having recently helped DJI’s M300 drone fly autonomously underground (through its Hovermap Autonomy Level 2 (AL2) solution) and signed an agreement with Deswik to provide surveyors and planners with more accurate data from inaccessible areas, Emesent has been on a roll of late. IM put some questions to CEO, Dr Stefan Hrabar, to find out more.

IM: First off, if no communications infrastructure is in place at an underground mine, how do Emesent’s drones stream a 3D map of the environment back to the operator’s tablet?

SH: Hovermap is smartly designed to operate beyond the communication range of the operator. The operator does not always need to see a live map since Hovermap is navigating by itself. The user can place a waypoint beyond the current limits of the map, and beyond line of sight and communication range. Hovermap self-navigates towards the waypoint, avoiding obstacles and building the map as it goes. Once it reaches the waypoint (or if the waypoint is impossible to reach), it automatically returns back to the operator. The map data is stored onboard Hovermap and when it returns back to within Wi-Fi range the new map data is uploaded to the tablet. The operator can then see the new areas that were mapped and place a new waypoint in or beyond that map, sending the drone back out again to explore further.

IM: What results have you so far received from using AL2 for Hovermap at mine sites? Were the results PYBAR got from trials at Dargues and Woodlawn in line with your expectations?

SH: Last year’s trials at Dargues and Woodlawn showcased some great outcomes for the PYBAR team, including the ability for Hovermap to capture valuable data using Autonomy Level 1 (AL1). The team saw great potential in the technology, leading to the purchase of two systems for their use. Earlier this year, AL2 flights were conducted at Dargues during the final pre-release testing phase. Even the first stope at Dargues that was mapped using AL2 highlighted the benefit of the system over traditional CMS (cavity monitoring systems). A large area of overbreak was identified in the Hovermap scan. The same stope had been mapped with a CMS, but this area was not visible from the CMS scan location so the overbreak was not identified.

A number of mines have been using AL2 to map their stopes and other areas beyond line-of-sight. With AL2, they can send Hovermap into places that previously would have been inaccessible, enabling them to obtain critical data in real time without risking the machine or personnel.

The AL2-based stope scans have been more detailed and complete (lack of shadowing) than ever before. A beyond line-of-sight flight down an ore pass was also conducted recently, with Hovermap guiding the drone down 120 m and returning safely to produce a very detailed scan.

The high level of autonomy provided by AL2 also allows remote operation of the drone. We recently completed a trans-continental demo, with a customer in South Africa operating a drone in Australia using our AL2 technology and standard remote collaboration tools. The remote operator in South Africa was able to use their laptop to experiment with the technology from the other side of the world, sending Hovermap exploring down a tunnel.

This is a taste of what’s to come, with drones underground being operated from the surface or from remote operation centres thousands of kilometers away. This will remove the need for skilled personnel on site, and reduce the time spent underground.

IM: What had been holding you back from achieving AL2 with drones/payloads? Is it the on-board computing power needed to that has been the issue?

SH: Flying underground where there is no GPS, the space is tight and there are hazards such as mesh, wires, dripping water and dust is very challenging. We overcame many of these with AL1, which makes it safe and easy for a pilot to operate the drone within line-of-sight (Hovermap provides collision avoidance, position hold and velocity control). AL1 has been deployed for 18 months with many customers around the world, clocking up thousands of hours of use. This helped to improve the robustness and reliability of the core flight capabilities.

Emesent CEO, Dr Stefan Hrabar

AL2 builds on this mission-proved base capability to provide additional features. AL2 allows the system to fly beyond line-of-sight and beyond commination range. This means it’s on its own with no help from the operator and needs to deal with any situation it comes across. There are many edge cases that need to be considered, addressed and thoroughly tested. A significant amount of effort was put into these areas to ensure Hovermap with AL2 is extremely robust in these challenging environments. For example, the drone downwash can kick up dust, blinding the LiDAR sensor. We’ve implemented a way to deal with this, to bring the drone home safely. Other considerations are returning in a safe and efficient way when the battery is running low, or what to do if waypoints cannot be reached.

IM: How do you anticipate your partnership with Deswik impacting the mine planning and survey process? Do you see this reducing the amount of time needed to carry out this work, as well as potentially cutting the costs associated with it? Have you already carried out work at mine sites that has proven these benefits?

SH: Our commitment is to help mining companies increase safety and production while reducing costs and downtime. We do this by providing surveyors and planners with more accurate data from inaccessible areas, allowing them to derive new insights. Our partnership with Deswik means we’re able to provide a more comprehensive end-to-end solution to the industry.

We see this as a very natural partnership that will improve the overall customer experience. Hovermap excels at capturing rich 3D data in all parts of the mine (whether drone based, hand-held, lowered down a shaft on a cable or vehicle mounted). Once the data is captured and converted to 3D, customers need to visualise and interrogate the data to derive insights. This is where Deswik and other mining software vendors come into play. They have powerful software tools for planning, survey, drill and blast, geotechnical mapping and a host of other applications. We’re partnering with these vendors to ensure seamless integration between Hovermap data and their tools. We’re working with them to build automated workflows to import, geo-reference, clean and trim the data, and convert it into formats that are suitable for various tasks.

Surveyors at Evolution Mining’s Mungari operation have been using this new process in Deswik. Previously they needed a third software tool to perform part of the workflow manually before importing to Dewik.CAD. The intermediate steps have been eliminated and others have been automated, reducing the time from more than 30 minutes per scan to five minutes per scan.

IM: Since really starting to catch on in the mining sector in the last five years, drones have gone from carrying out simple open-pit surveys and surveillance to drill and blasting reconciliation platforms to reconnaissance solutions carrying out some of the riskiest tasks in underground mining. In the next decade, how do you see them further evolving? What new tasks could drones carry out to improve safety, cut costs or increase productivity?

SH: Emesent’s vision is to drive forward the development of ‘Sentient Digital Twins’ of industrial sites to future-proof the world’s major industries, from mining to energy and construction. These industries will be able to move to more automated decision-making using high-quality, autonomously collected data across their sites and tapping into thousands of data points to make split-second decisions about potential dangers, opportunities and efficiencies using a centralised decision-making platform.

We see our Hovermap technology being a key enabler for this future. Drones and other autonomous systems will become an integral part of the mine of the future. Drones will be permanently stationed underground and operated remotely, ready for routine data collection flights or to be deployed as needed after an incident.

Hovermap is already addressing some of the biggest challenges in mining — including safety and operational downtime. It improves critical safety to mines, keeping workers away from hazardous environments while providing better data to inform safety related decisions such as the level of ground support needed. This then feeds into better efficiency by helping mines to more accurately calculate risks and opportunities, aid decision making and predict situations.

Hovermap can significantly reduce downtime after an incident. For example, it was used to assess the level of damage in LKAB’s Kiruna mine after a seismic event. More than 30 scans were captured covering 1.2 km of underground drives that were not safe to access due to fall of ground. In another case, one of our customers saved around A$20 million ($14.6 million) after an incident, as they could use Hovermap to quickly capture the data necessary to make a critical decision.

IM: In terms of R&D, what future payload developments are you investing in currently that may have applications in mining?

SH: We’ll keep adapting our Hovermap design to suit new LiDAR improvements as they are released. More importantly, we’ll improve the autonomy capabilities so that even more challenging areas can be mapped with ease. We’re also adding additional sensors such as cameras, as these provide additional insights not visible in the LiDAR data. Our colourisation solution is an add-on module for Hovermap, which uses GoPro video to add colour to the LiDAR scans. This allows the identification of geological and other features.

Emesent achieves ‘industry first’ flight with DJI drone

Emesent has allowed DJI’s M300 drone to fly autonomously underground in what it believes to be a world first for the platform.

The flights took place on August 4 at the Round Oak Minerals-owned Mt Colin copper mine in Cloncurry, Queensland, and were followed by similarly successful flights at another underground mine in north Queensland on August 13, Emesent said.

Emesent’s Hovermap LiDAR mapping and autonomy payload was used to add advanced autonomy to the newly launched DJI Matrice 300 RTK (M300). Coupling Hovermap with the M300 allows users to let the drone fly autonomously and safely into GPS-denied or inaccessible environments, such as densely packed warehouses, the undersides of bridges and in underground mines, Emesent says.

Mt Colin Mine Surveyor, Ashley Tibbles, said the Emesent technology would enable Round Oak to safely access complex locations quickly, and to a high degree of detail.

“Quality data has always been integral to safety and productivity in the underground mining sector,” Tibbles said. “The Hovermap provides an unparalleled platform to deliver this.”

Hovermap uses the LiDAR data and advanced algorithms on-board, in real time, to provide reliable and accurate localisation and navigation without the need for GPS, Emesent says.

Emesent CEO, Dr Stefan Hrabar, said the success of the underground flights with the Hovermap-enabled M300 will open up new possibilities for underground mines.

“The M300 is an excellent match for carrying Hovermap underground because of its flight endurance, IP rating, and ability to carry additional sensors such as cameras,” he said. “This will allow valuable data capture further into inaccessible areas of the mines.”

Dr Hrabar added: “Robust underground flight technology can significantly extend the capability of industrial drones and will deliver real benefits to the mining, construction and emergency response sectors.

“We’re looking forward to partnering with customers to help them derive competitive advantage from this breakthrough technology.”

Getac helps Emesent tackle mining’s underground mapping challenge

Getac’s V110 fully rugged convertible notebook has helped drone autonomy and mapping developer, Emesent, on its mission to provide mining customers with an all-inclusive solution to map unchartered territories in underground mines, the Taiwan-based company says.

Launched in November 2018, Emesent was on the lookout for a device able to withstand extreme mine conditions and to complement its Hovermap smart mobile scanning unit and drone, Getac explained.

“The harsh working conditions presented in underground mining meant that the device had to be rugged enough to withstand extreme environments, and be compact enough to be easily carried around,” it said.

This is where the Getac V110 convertible came in.

The rugged device can be used as a drone control platform thanks to several features, the company says.

“It can easily transform between a display notebook and a tablet computer, depending on where or when it is used,” it said.

“Additionally, its weight of 2.1 kg and dimension of 39 mm, makes it compact and lightweight enough for users to carry around without much effort.

“The V110 is also made from high quality magnesium alloy, with an advanced rugged polymer in areas of less impact and rubberised absorption polymer at the main points of contact, making it drop-resistant. The fully rugged convertible features a hot-swappable dual battery design, allowing for uninterrupted battery life. In addition to the key features, Getac’s V110 comes with a full-size waterproof membrane keyboard and red backlight, allowing users to type accurately even in the dimmest conditions. The device also features flash storage and responsive graphics, making it an excellent convertible notebook.”

With Getac’s V110, Emesent was able to provide mining companies with a rugged device that could complement its product operating in challenging environments, Getac said.

Dr Stefan Hrabar, CEO and Co-Founder of Emesent, said: “Safety and operational hazards at workplaces are important factors for mining companies, and we want to supply them with a comprehensive solution that not only enables them to operate but also improves efficiency without hassle.

“Harsh conditions in mining meant that we needed a device that was rugged enough and able to complement our smart mobile scanning unit. That is why we selected the Getac V110. Its ability to convert from laptop to tablet provides users the flexibility of both options. We also appreciate its hot-swappable dual-battery feature that enables users to process the LiDAR data underground regardless of whether they have access to power.”

Emesent’s Hovermap to provide Deswik with complete underground mine picture

Emesent has partnered with leading software developer Deswik to, it says, enable mining companies to incorporate high-quality data captured in inaccessible locations into their mine plans and surveys.

Emesent is a leader in drone autonomy, LiDAR mapping, and data analytics. Founded in 2018 through a spin out of CSIRO, Emesent has since built a reputation for delivering high-quality data capture in the mining, infrastructure, survey and mapping industries, it said.

The company’s Hovermap is a drone autonomy and LiDAR mapping payload. It uses the LiDAR data and advanced algorithms on-board, in real time, to provide reliable and accurate localisation and navigation without the need for GPS.

“This feature makes it ideally suited to map hazardous or underground environments where traditional data capture methods are difficult and dangerous,” the company said.

Deswik, meanwhile, is a global consulting and technology company delivering efficiency-focused solutions to all sectors within the mining industry. Its mine planning and management platforms are used in over 500 mine operations around the world.

The two organisations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to integrate their solutions to provide a more comprehensive solution to the resources sector, Emesent said.

In the first instance, a co-designed, semi-automated workflow has been created to import Hovermap data into Deswik’s design and solids modelling platform, Deswik.CAD. This workflow enables users to translate the Hovermap data within minutes, creating usable surfaces, solids and point clouds for as-built surveys, volume reporting and design updates, Emesent said.

“The data from Emesent’s Hovermap scanner can be imported into Deswik and visualised using any of the attributes that have been captured in the scan,” Stephen Rowles, Deswik Survey Product Manager, said. “The scan can be filtered, modified, and clipped to suit the user’s requirements before being processed in one or more of the dedicated functions for point clouds.”

Emesent CEO, Dr Stefan Hrabar, said the two companies were committed to working together to help mining companies increase the value of their models, by providing surveyors and planners with more accurate data from inaccessible areas.

“We’re excited about collaborating with another market-leading technology vendor in the resources sector,” Dr Hrabar said. “Integrating our respective solutions will assist customers to boost productivity and improve outputs.”

Deswik Partner Manager, Patrick Doig, said recent global events had piqued customer interest in technologies that allowed technical teams to collect high-quality data without the need to be physically present on site.

A partnership between Deswik and Emesent empowers their mutual and future customers to simplify processes, gain additional efficiencies and make value add decisions to their operations, Doig added.

Emesent takes drone autonomy to another level with AL2

Emesent says it has announced a major breakthrough in the journey to fully autonomous drone flight systems, with the launch of Autonomy Level 2 (AL2) for Hovermap, the world’s first plug-and-play payload for industrial drones that provides autonomous beyond line of sight, GPS-denied flight.

Building on Emesent’s Hovermap simultaneous localisation and mapping autonomous (SLAM) flight system, AL2 enables compatible drones to fly beyond communications range and venture beyond line of sight into unmapped areas, it says.

“The AL2 technology enables companies to rapidly map, navigate, and collect data in challenging inaccessible environments such as mines, civil construction works, telecommunications infrastructure, and disaster response environments,” Emesent said.

Andrew Rouse, Chief Technology Officer at PYBAR Mining Services, a user of the Hovermap payload, said: “AL2 is a game changer for us. It takes Hovermap into places that even the most experienced pilots would fear to venture, enabling us to obtain critical data in real time without risking the machine. We’re already seeing great benefits to our workflow and operational efficiency from using the new technology.”

PYBAR has previously collaborated with Emesent to test automated drones at the Dargues and Woodlawn operations, in Australia.

Emesent’s technology builds on a decade of award-winning research by CSIRO’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems group into drone autonomy and 3D LiDAR-based SLAM techniques.

Customers around the world have been using Hovermap’s Autonomy Level 1 capability for almost two years, safely mapping challenging GPS-denied areas within line of sight. Moving to AL2 means the drone can self-navigate and avoid obstacles beyond line of sight, while being operated from take-off to landing from a safe distance, the company explained.

The system processes data on-board in real time to stream a 3D map of the environment back to the operator’s tablet, providing instant and detailed insights into the surrounding area, as well as any potential hazards. The entire mission from take-off to landing is conducted by interacting with the live view 3D map, allowing stopes to be mapped with just a few taps, Emesent claims.

AL2, according to Emesent, will give industrial customers:

  • Improved safety, with the ability to fly beyond line of sight keeping workers away from hazardous environments and better data insights informing how to make mines and other environments safer;
  • Cost optimisation, as it is quicker to scan environments and the technology requires less skill to operate;
  • Reduced downtime, with the drone able to quickly and easily map inaccessible underground excavations, with minimal disruption to production;
  • Enhanced visibility into environments, with real-time point clouds delivered directly to the pilot’s tablet, enabling them to interact with and explore the scan data as they operate the aircraft; and
  • Ease of operation due to its “Tap-to-Fly” and “Guided Exploration” functionalities, and various fail safes, including automatic return to home on low battery and automatic landing at critical battery level.

AL2 is currently compatible with several DJI Enterprise drones including the new DJI Matrice 300 RTK, according to Emesent.

“Emesent has worked closely with DJI to ensure close compatibility and integration of autonomous functionality such as AL2 with the drone’s flight controls,” it said. “Further compatibility with other drone models is planned following the launch.”

Dr Stefan Hrabar, CEO and co-Founder of Emesent, said: “This is a huge step forward for drone autonomy and a massive benefit to industries like mining, civil construction, and emergency response.

“With the intelligence to navigate environments without a prior map, customers can use the system to carry out complex missions, secure the safety of personnel, and drive greater efficiency in their operations.”

PYBAR to trial autonomous loading at Dargues underground gold mine

PYBAR Mining Services says it is applying new technology to several automation projects it is currently working on, including Diversified Minerals’ Dargues underground gold asset and the Heron Resources-owned Woodlawn zinc-copper operation, both of which are in New South Wales, Australia.

Chief Technology Officer, Andrew Rouse, says the company’s approach has always been to get the basics right using traditional means and then adding technology to enhance its capabilities. “This guiding principle is being applied to several current automation projects,” he said.

New Cat R1700 underground loaders being deployed at the Dargues gold mine are undergoing staged testing that will result in them moving towards improved automation in early 2020, according to PYBAR.

Dargues is owned by Diversified Minerals, an associated company of PYBAR Mining Services. The mine is expected to have a 355,000 t/y capacity gold processing facility comprising crushing, milling, flotation and filtration circuits and produce a sulphide concentrate for export. Dargues is expected to produce an average of 50,000 oz/y of gold in the first six years of production.

Testing of the LHDs has featured the use of Cat’s next generation MXZ technology, which includes traction control and Autodig, where the machine digs the load instead of the operator, PYBAR said. “Both technologies have made an impact with full buckets consistently being achieved,” the company added.

The next step in the process will involve setting up tele-remote operation from the surface in time for stoping in early 2020, according to the contractor.

PYBAR was part of the team at Ramelius Resources’ Vivien gold mine in Western Australia where the first global underground trial of the Cat R1700 loader took place in October 2017. This followed a global launch of the machine at MINExpo 2016.

Another project has seen PYBAR collaborate with Emesent to test automated drones at the Dargues and Woodlawn operations.

LiDAR and SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping) technology is used to track the drones underground and keep them away from obstacles, according to PYBAR, with the trials having delivered some favourable outcomes; among them the swift processing of information gathered by the drones.

“The technology has great potential and PYBAR is investigating how best it can be applied to our business,” it said.

CSIRO drone autonomy spin-out Emesent finds financial backing

Emesent, a drone autonomy spin-out from Australia’s CSIRO, has raised A$3.5 million ($2.5 million) in venture capital to commercialise its first product, Hovermap.

Main Sequence Ventures, which manages the CSIRO Innovation Fund, led the funding round along with long-time Bechtel mining executive Andy Greig.

Developed by former researchers from CSIRO’s Data61, Emesent’s Hovermap technology automates the collection of valuable data in underground areas too dangerous or difficult for people to survey or navigate, such as stopes or ore passes in mines, the technology arm of Australia’s national science agency said.

“Drones installed with Hovermap can be deployed in GPS-denied environments without a human controller to create 3D maps, and record gas readings, videos and images,” CSIRO said.

Hovermap draws on a decade of research by CSIRO’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems group into drone autonomy and 3D LiDAR-based simultaneous localisation and mapping (3D SLAM) techniques.

Dr Stefan Hrabar, Co-Founder and CEO of Emesent, said: “Hovermap enables the mining industry to safely inspect inaccessible areas of underground mines, while improving the type and quality of data collected to unlock new insights.

“This includes comparing the stope design to the actual post-blast shape to detect over-break and under-break, identification of geotechnical structures and accurate post-blast volume reconciliations.”

The data gathered improves a mine’s productivity and provides a better understanding of conditions underground, all without sending surveyors and miners into potentially hazardous areas, according to Hrabar.

Before being spun out of CSIRO, Hovermap enabled the world’s first fully autonomous beyond line-of-sight drone flight in an underground mine, 600 m below the surface of Western Australia. And the Hovermap system is already being used commercially for a variety of applications by early adopters in Australia, the US, Canada, China and Japan, according to CSIRO.

A new programme targeting the underground mining sector has now been rolled out, providing early access to Emesent’s mining-specific autonomy functions to selected participants.

“The investment will give us the opportunity to build out our team from seven to 25 and make Emesent a global leader in drone autonomy and automated underground data collection and analysis,” Hrabar said.

Queensland-based Emesent has also received support from CSIRO’s ON Accelerator programme. Both Main Sequence Ventures – CSIRO Innovation Fund and ON are supported by the Federal Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda.

Larry Marshall, CSIRO Chief Executive, said Emesent is an example of a company who has hit the “innovation sweetspot”, combining its deep domain experience in mining with digital expertise.

“This has been harnessed by the environment we have created at CSIRO where deep science combines with innovative ideas and agile minds to create game-changing technologies,” he added.

The field of automated underground drone mapping has been growing recently. Just last month, drone major Terra Drone bought a large stake in Sweden-based startup Inkonova AB, a company focused on aerial robotics for underground mining.

Emesent is partnered with CSIRO’s Data61 to compete in the US Defense Advanced Projects Agency’s new Subterranean Challenge, which aims to develop innovative technologies to rapidly map, navigate and search underground environments.

It is one of seven funded teams competing and the only team selected from outside the US.