DRONES for Mining? Not that simple.

I was arriving to my cabin after having breakfast in one of the greatest Acapulco resorts when I heard something buzzing above me. It was a surveillance drone watching over me. When the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) noticed I had spotted it, it hover away, speeding.

Stockpile surveys from above

Now that drones have become popular for almost any foreseeable use, Mexico’s mining industry is not the exception.

The 31st Acapulco Mining Congress was showcase for topographic drone service companies offering stockpile volumetrics. Stockpile measurements are the most cost effective solution for the mining industry; drones use proprietary sampling software to survey the miners ground to report accurate stockpile inventories within hours; this service allows miners to concentrate in production while releasing them from counting rocks.

FLYING DRONES IN MEXICO, Is it REGULATED?

Although many startups have made their first millions flying drones in a not regulated market, the mining industry today requires that some regulations are met for both aerial service devices and personal privacy rights that make flying drones not such an easy task. Of course, these flying objects are flown in places the authorities are unlikely to appear. However, in the event of third party damage (violation to privacy, drone crash, or any other major or minor accident), the company receiving the service is liable for damages.

COMPLIANT DRONES AND SURVEYING SERVICE

Some drone based service companies supplying the mining industry have gone a long way assuring their total compliance to Mexican regulations and are now one of the very few approved and certified operators to fly drones for mine ground surveying.

WHAT ARE THOSE REGULATIONS?

• CO AV 23/10 CR2 by Direction of Civil Aeronautics, chapter for RPAS (RemotelyOperated Aircraft Systems).

• NOM 017- STPS-2008, Personal Protection Gear.

• NOM 024-2013, Open pit and underground mine safety.

• NOM 064-SCT3-2012, Radio Communications Safety

In addition, to the above, service companies are requested to be covered under third party insurance for amounts that vary from client to client. In the same token, all service drones are to be properly identified with fireproof nameplates attached to their body.

4. COMPETITION

A wide variety of drone brands of foreign origin started to be sold in Mexico with applications ranging from security, photography, news, entertaining, movies, architecture, construction, real estate, topography and cartography. There are products with prices available to the hobbyist and the professional. The most mentioned brands include LowePro, Aibotix, Trimble, among others. A list of serious drone service suppliers currently doing cartography, quarry mapping, blast photography and mine planning for the mines include SmartDrone, Terrasat, CartoDATA and Stockpile Reports.

5. PROSPECTIVE MARKET

Different from what it seems, Mexico has been using drones since their very early stages of development. INEGI, the National Statistics and Geography Institute and SGM, the Mexican Geology Service have long used drones and mapping software to develop their products. SEDENA and SEMAR, the Mexican army and navy military forces as well as SPP, the ministry of public security use them for security and their fight against organized crime. The mining industry is currently using drone surveying services regularly as well as security. Research Centers and Universities are also good prospects.

6. BARRIERS AND OPPORTUNITIES

There are no barriers to the importation of drones into Mexico, however their operation is restricted to authorized zones per norm CO AV 23/10 R2 (see document) and their pilots are required to be certified before SCT, the ministry for Communications and Transportation. A full regulating initiative is in process and is thought to be ready by 2018.

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