The use unmanned aerial vehicles at mines is taking off in Northern Nevada as operators apply the technology to tasks such as surveying and inspections.
The Federal Aviation Administration made way for the commercial use of drones, such as work at mines, when it updated commercial operation rules for small UAVs effective August 2016. Instead of requiring a pilot’s license, the federal government allows an operator to pass an aeronautical knowledge test to be able to fly commercially under certain restrictions.
Drone-based businesses have since launched to answer the growing demand for drone equipment and services.
Pennsylvania-based Identified Technologies serves the SSR Mining Inc. Marigold Mine in Valmy by providing a drone and data-processing services. In January, the company began training its staff and started to work flights into its routine at the run-of-mine heap leach operation.
On a blue-sky day in early October, Marigold Mine Chief Surveyor Alan Clayson unpacked a tote containing a DJI-brand drone with four helicopter blades and coordinating equipment for a demonstration flight.
Watching was Identified Technologies CEO Dick Zhang, visiting the mine on a customer service call. Zhang started the business almost five years ago and got his start serving the construction industry.
“We’ve come so far. It’s so satisfying, so fulfilling,” Zhang said, explaining how his role at Marigold has morphed from trainer to spectator now that the mining staff is trained and certified.
Clayton and another employee earned their remote pilot certification through the FAA by completing an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-certified testing center. Marigold staff said they could have another person certified by the end of the year.
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