How Mining Drones Improve Safety & Efficiency for Mining Operations

Recent advancements in mining drone technology have provided mining companies with invaluable tools to improve resource management, operation planning and mining personnel safety across a wide variety of mining sites.  These improvements have been driven by advanced lidar drone technology that can be used to support mining operations by delivering a highly accurate site model thanks to lidar drone data. Lidar mining drones provide critical support for mining industry site operations in the three key areas:
  • Inventory & resource management
  • Monitoring and inspection
  • Personnel safety 

Mining Industry Applications for Lidar Drone Technology

miner walking in underground mine Remotely operated equipment permits far greater data collection and hazard identification capabilities than traditional, manual methods.  Particularly helpful for surveying confined areas, lidar mining drones can capture both visual data, such as high resolution images and video, as well as geospatial information, in the form of highly accurate 3D point clouds for detailed mapping. These capabilities keep mine personnel out of harm’s way and allow for better informed decisions between planners, engineers and teams underground.  The data collected from mining drones can facilitate mining operation improvements in the following areas:

Inventory & Financial data

Rapidly generated aerial terrain models help mining industry stakeholders collect and analyze up-to-date information about all aspects of mining sites, including stockpiles, for easy and accurate volume calculations.  This data improves the accuracy of monthly or annual reconciliations, and it can also be used to help mining companies audit work performed by subcontractors.  

Stockpile & Tailing Dam Management

Both tailings dams and stockpiles present significant hazards for mining personnel. Especially with stockpiles, accurately assessing a large volume of loose material is difficult and hazardous with manual methods, which is why it is one of the leading lidar drone applications.  The benefits for stockpile management are immediate, allowing mining companies to accurately assess the remaining ore in a particular site to improve financial projections and reporting, while maximizing employee safety. 

Underground Monitoring & Inspection

Workers on deep underground mine sites face significant hazards and risks, including falling rocks and debris, floods, gas leaks, extreme humidity and others. By using mining drones to collect data in these environments, mining companies can protect their workers from these hazardous conditions while gaining significant improvements to operational efficiency. 

Lidar & Photogrammetry for Mining Surveys

Mining drones can generate aerial terrain models and digital surface models of complex environments in a small fraction of the time and cost of traditional surveying methods.  For outdoor sites, aerial data with geospatial information permits aerial photogrammetry, which creates detailed digital surface models to assess changes over time and improve future planning. Also, in underground environments, lidar mapping can be used to create digital terrain models for low-cost surveying in short times frames. 

Safety Improvements

The implementation of mining drones has improved worker safety across the mining industry by removing workers from dangerous environments.  Difficult tasks, such as highwall, crest and stope inspections, can now be assessed for safety considerations without ever having to expose a miner to the area. Similarly, blast engineering is facilitated because workers can make sure that, following a detonation, the area is safe for workers to continue mining operations. 

SafeSight’s Drone Technology

mineshaft worker operating underground drone SafeSight Explorations Inc. supports the digital transformation of mining operations through innovative mining equipment and integrated solutions.  The DB3 Underground Lidar Drone and SafeScout ERD combines cutting-edge lidar technology with an open platform flight controller for underground lidar surveys and photogrammetry. Ideal for surveying, data collection and incident investigation, the DB3 is a versatile solution to a wide variety of mining industry challenges. underground drone scanning mineshaft

A Short Guide to Mining Safety Equipment

Underground mining has a long history and is widely practiced around the world, using a variety of techniques to extract everything from diamonds to precious metals to coal. Despite the major differences in techniques, geography, and materials across mining operations, the mining industry remains inherently dangerous for workers.  In order to overcome safety challenges and keep up the pace of production, mining industry stakeholders need to embrace a variety of safety solutions. In the past, mine safety focused on general safety procedures and personal protective equipment, but industry best practices have evolved to include remote controlled mining equipment 

Common Mining Industry Health and Safety Risks

Although mining operations are now much safer for workers than they have been in the past, miners continue to face hazards on a daily basis. The most common health and safety risks include:

Mine Shaft Collapse

Cave-ins and collapses, although rare, are extremely dangerous events that put the lives of miners at serious risk. Events that fall short of a large-scale collapse, such as rock falls, don’t compete for headlines the way collapses often do, but falling objects are a significant threat to miner safety. 

Fires & Explosions

Due to the extreme nature of mining environments, as well as the materials and equipment involved, many fire suppression methods are neither practical nor effective. Despite every effort to avoid them, the fires and explosions that still occur from time to time put mine personnel in great peril. 

Exposure Risks – Dust & Noise

The combination of cramped spaces, limited ventilation and powerful machinery creates dangerous amounts of dust and noise in underground mining operations, especially coal mining. Without adequate protective gear, miners risk permanent hearing and/or breathing problems as a result of these environmental factors. 

Heavy Machinery & Vehicle Accidents

In modern mines, the majority of safety incidents are now linked to vehicles and machinery. Whether as a result of inadequate safety training, poor hazard communication, a lack of machine guarding or procedural safety, many of the most common accidents are avoidable with improved procedures and equipment. 

General Mine Safety Equipment & Practices

workers in hard hats wearing high-visibility jackets Although modern mine safety equipment, improved mine engineering and more robust safety procedures have made mining much safer, mine operators should nonetheless remain proactive on the safety front. Even a relatively minor incident can entail major costs for both workers and operators, so here are some of the most important elements to consider for underground mine safety. 

Worker Tracking Systems

In order to ensure the safety of all personnel, operators must know their location in the mine for the duration of their shifts. Especially in large-scale operations, worker identification systems must be sufficient to account for the location of all miners, and have the procedures in place to react when flags are raised by the check-in/check-out system. 

Emergency & Evacuation Plans

Mine operators should have comprehensive plans in place for emergency response and employee evacuation. And these plans must be tested periodically to make sure that they work as expected, and that employees fully understand what they need to do in particular emergency situations.  Whether the issue is a dangerous fault with electrical wiring, a trapped miner or the detection of a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide, operators need thorough emergency plans to prevent or reduce injuries and provide maximum worker safety. 

Air Quality Sensors

Underground miners risk exposure to a wide variety of potentially dangerous fumes, vapors and gases, with carbon monoxide exposure as one of the most common risks, so air quality sensors and alarms should be regularly tested, inspected and maintained. 

Lighting & Hazard Signs

For both operational efficiency and worker safety, sufficient lighting is an absolute necessity.  In general, 5 foot-candles of illumination is enough for tunneling, but 10 foot-candles is required for shaft heading during drilling, mucking and scaling. Also, operators must ensure that any and all hazard signage is well located and well lit. 

Fall Protection 

Although it sounds paradoxical to those outside the mining community, underground miners sometimes have to work at major heights, and fall hazards can be present even when workers are not at the top of a long ladder or tall scaffold.  Workers who face potential exposure to working at height should be adequately trained on the latest fall arrest procedures and have access to sufficient safety equipment. Fall protection equipment, commonly used on construction sites or by rescue teams, includes anchors, connectors and body support harnesses. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

worker wearing high-visibility vest, holding hard hat Physical protection is some of the most important mining safety equipment a worker can have. As the last line in protection between workers and hazards, proper PPE is essential to help miners stay safe while on the job. Making sure that all workers have access to the required PPE for their particular tasks is an absolute necessity in underground mines. These safety products include:

Protective Clothing 

Protective clothing must be robust enough to protect workers from the mine environment and highly visible in poor lighting conditions to keep workers protected. 

Work Gloves 

Proper hand protection depends on the specific tasks being performed, but all work gloves should provide sufficient puncture resistance and abrasion resistance to keep workers hands free from harm. 


Modern protective footwear offers miners many options to choose from, in terms of protective strength, stability and insulation. Mine personnel should replace their protective footwear, at least annually, to maximize their comfort and safety. 

Hard Hats & Eye Protection 

Hard hats and eye protection are PPE items of absolute necessity that most people take for granted. But moden PPE includes a number of small but important technical advancements that go a long way to helping workers feel safe and comfortable.  For example, many miners now prefer hard hats with integrated face shields over traditional protective eyewear. Also, hard hats are now available with more features than ever before, so workers can adjust their water protection, ventilation or illumination as they see fit. 

Hearing Protection 

Often overlooked in industrial settings, hearing protection is vitally important for the long-term health and safety of mine personnel. Mining machinery, tools, vehicles, and especially blasting, in confined spaces can generate sufficient decibel levels to cause permanent hearing loss, so workers need adequate hearing protection at all times. 

Respiratory Protection

Dust exposure, flying particles and grinding residues present major risks, so all mine workers should have access to the face masks, respirators or self-contained breathing equipment required to work safely around such hazards. 

Mining Drones: A Giant Leap Forward for Worker Safety & Operational Efficiency

Mining operations will always require a certain number of boots on the ground, or under the ground as the case may be, but recent advancements in lidar drone technology offer new ways for mine operators to simultaneously increase worker safety and operational efficiency.  By providing highly accurate site models through lidar data, mining drones facilitate dangerous tasks, such as highwall, crest and stope inspections. With applications for blast engineering, underground lidar survey and photogrammetry, flying drones and other remote, mobile equipment can reduce the scale of effort required to keep workers safe because so many tasks can be carried out by personnel who are far removed from hazardous environments.  SafeSight Exploration is a leader in lidar drone technology, offering products, such as:

DB3™ Underground Drone

DB3™ Underground Drone SafeSight developed the technology behind the DB3TM Underground Drone in a narrow vein environment, giving it more capabilities than other drones on the market. With the ability to access openings as small as 2m x 2m, the DB3TM helps remove workers from hazardous environments by carrying out a wide variety of inspection and survey tasks. 

MRC Rail Runner™

MRC Rail Runner™ In another innovative safety solution, SafeSight’s autonomous MRC Rail Runner™ can be used for remote 3D mapping and capturing HD images and video of the face or raise.  By keeping workers far removed from hazardous environments while offering superior data capture capabilities, the MRC Rail Runner™ offers safety and operational efficiency for a wide variety of underground mine environments. 

SafesSight Awarded for Innovation – Safety Innovation Award for 2020 Ontario Mining Contractor Safety Association

  Redpath Canada Limited and SafeSight Exploration Inc. are the recipients of the Ontario Mine Contractors Safety Association’s (OMCSA) Safety Innovation Award for 2020. The announcement was made at a virtual meeting this month.  Continue reading “SafesSight Awarded for Innovation – Safety Innovation Award for 2020 Ontario Mining Contractor Safety Association”

CTV News – The sky is the limit

‘The sky is the limit’: North Bay company starts offering drone flight training

NORTH BAY — Training new drone fliers to get a bird’s eye view, that’s the goal of a North Bay company that teaches the mining industry how to fly drones. Safesight Exploration Inc. is starting to offer flight training school to eager drone users to get them high in the sky safely.
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Mining Life: Underground Air Support

Underground air support

Drone deployments at the Hoyle Pond mine provide a more precise picture of underground operations
The surveying team at Newmont Goldcorp Porcupine’s Hoyle Pond mine was having trouble getting a clear picture of its narrow vein deposits using the conventional laser survey method on its stopes. So they called in air support… Read the article here

Northern Ontario Business

Robotics stepping up safety in underground mine inspections

Safesight Exploration, Redpath Mining partner on MRC Rail Runner
Combining old technology with modern robotics has resulted in a new safety innovation for underground mines that’s expected to reduce risk and improve efficiency. The MRC Rail Runner, developed by SafeSight Exploration Inc. of North Bay, is a utility robot clamped onto a mechanized rail climber (MRC), which is sent up into a raise to do an inspection… Read the full article here.