ECA Group's UAV IT180 applications for the mining industry

Monday, December 21 2015
The capabilities of the ECA Group unmanned aircraft IT180 for mineral exploration and mining activities were recently exposed to international delegates at the « Future Mining » conference in Sydney (Australia) 4th and 5th November 2015.Dr Laurent Ameglio, specialist in airborne geophysics, presented a paper titled “Light Airborne Platforms for Monitoring Mines and Minerals”. In this paper, the versatile design and the powerful and effective flying capabilities of the IT180 (for both petrol and electrical models) were showcased. A selection of geo-sensors and mapping and imaging results (magnetic, gamma-spectrometry, visual, near-infrared and LiDAR) were also illustrated for applications as varied as natural resources exploration, infrastructure inspection and environmental monitoring.

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The mini-UAV IT180 have been delivered by ECA Group to customers worldwide since 2008.  Dr Laurent Ameglio, through the GYROLAG company, has one unit available in South Africa to perform geophysical and geomatic surveys for notably mining companies in Southern Africa.

The IT180 is a mini-UAV with effective range, endurance and payload capabilities comparable to those of close-range UAVs but without the inconvenience of their high price, weight and bulk.

As an airborne mobile carrier the IT180 also offers significant advantages and competitive edges for geo-surveys compared to traditional aircraft and terrestrial platforms. The most significant advantage is economics, with the cost of a UAV mission for imaging often being more than a tenth of that of an aircraft or helicopter mission. IT180 surveys performed to date also displayed an effectiveness improvement ratio of 8–9 in survey time and 12 in operational costs compared to ground crew operations.

With over 70 per cent of mine operations worldwide being open pit, mining is very much an open surface business. Safer and more effective mine monitoring can then only benefit from the capabilities of the IT180 including its tethered model.

The IT180 also offers a critical solution to the limitations of satellite-based Earth observation instrumentation with better temporal and spatial coverage and also ultra-high data resolution.With the natural resources exploration market worth several hundreds of millions Euros per year, the potential market for mini-UAVs is tens of machines per year in the next decade and beyond.

In addition to geophysics for natural resources exploration and mining, GyroLAG also performs services for the agriculture industry using the IT180. Applications encompass soil zoning and crop/biomass health to quote a few. They benefit a various base of customers such as farmers, insurance, fertilizer and/or seeds companies. Those stakeholders demand a more detailed knowledge of farm field and crop performance to sustain the world production of food for an ever growing population.

The ECA Group IT180 range offers a unique versatile technological solution to multiple industries.

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