Remotely piloted aircraft (RPAS) operations are rapidly increasing in popularity within the mining industry, with drone technology considerably expanding business options. Constantly evolving RPAS technology provides an increased scope of capabilities and options to Remote Operator Certificate (ReOC) holders and their companies, through improved safety and more efficient data acquisition. However, the mining environment brings with it a unique set of challenges that can limit RPAS use in business.
A prominent challenge that exists within the mining environment is the standard operating condition for RPAS regarding maximum height required above ground level.
The current regulation states that the maximum height at which RPAS can operate, without an area approval, is limited at 400 feet (or approximately 120 metres) above ground level.
The term ‘ground level’ includes the bottom of the pit floor, therefore limiting the depth of which the RPAS can gain valuable data.
Regis Resources, a publicly listed Perth-based gold production and exploration company, have been operating RPAS within all their mine sites for the past 3 years under standard operating conditions.
Understanding the limitations these conditions place on a company, they have recently completed the process with Aviassist to obtain a 1000ft area approval for 6 of their active mines, increasing their opportunities dramatically within the mining environment.
The area approval puts them ahead of the game, enabling them to explore further than the competition. One of the largest gold producers in Australia, Regis Resources sought out guidance and support from Aviassist to obtain their area approval to ensure any future operations would continue to be CASA compliant. Alongside realising improved compliance, the area approval has proven to be even more valuable.
For Regis Resources, there is a noticeable decrease in the reliance on traditional manned aircraft image capture technique as remote pilots can now fly their aircrafts over waste dumps and tailings dams, reducing expenditure on third party contractors.
Access to internal solutions and the decrease in third party contractors allows mine sites more time for exploration and less reliance on external aid. Alongside this, the company are able to access more up-to-date data as a vastly greater area can be captured with a single set of batteries. The flexibility provided as a result of the approval allows the survey team to drastically improve the efficiency and quality of their data capture, which will prove valuable for Regis Resources.
Securing an area approval has clear benefits as it allows the operator to extract maximum value whilst reducing risk from business operations by leveraging RPAS technology.
Benefits of obtaining an area approval are significant within the mining and surveying environments, allowing them to conduct superior operations.
Aviassist provides a service to obtain permissions, drone approvals, and exemptions on behalf of companies holding a Remote Operator Certificate. Aviassist first completes a pre-approval audit against the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems Specific Operational Risk Assessment (SORA). This is the standard the Civil Aviation Safety Authority has adopted for issuing area approvals.
The SORA provides the tool to determine the level of robustness required for a particular operation to gain an area approval. Once the pre-approval audit is complete a meeting is scheduled to discuss the findings of the audit.
Aviassist can then assist with forming the appropriate procedures for the area approval to be issued, simplifying the procedure for companies. Once approved, operations can continue to a greater level of safety, compliance, and efficiency.
To read more about Area Approvals in the mining industry, click here
Want to see where an Area Approval can take your business? Call us now on 1300 359 772 or follow the link for a request form