by Jon M. Casey
As Diana Barnum recently reported in our April/May 2016 issue of NAQN, drones are playing a larger role in the quarry industry, especially when it comes to worker safety. With the advent of stockpile inventory software that works in conjunction with drone technology carrying digital photo and video equipment, quarry operators are able to map and calculate stockpile volumetrics in less time and more safely than ever before. An increasing number of companies are offering drone equipment packages or drone based services that gives the industry more options from which to choose.
For example, the winged eBee drone from senseFly, a Parrot Company, is made from Styrofoam and plastic and is extremely lightweight. It carries a Sequoia multi-spectral UAS camera that is designed to work with the winged drone for highly accurate infrared or other photo needs. Operators are able to program the area of over-flight into the drone’s software program, then launch the unit and wait for its return. The eBee drone makes its mapping flight, then returns to the coordinates where the operator chooses to have it land.
Other drone units resemble helicopters in their design. Outfitted with multiple lifting propellers varying in number from four to eight in most typical configurations, larger units like the six-bladed DJI S900 Hexacopter, weighing in at 14.55-pounds, is able to carry most cameras and gimbals and is able to fly for up to 18 minutes on one battery charge. It comes with retractable landing gear and rotor arms that fold up for easier transport between jobs.
More compact models like the DJI Phantom 3 flying camera, a 9.3-pound unit, offers a number of features that make aerial photography easy with high quality video and still photo capabilities. This can be extremely beneficial in the sales and marketing segments of a business. For example, a recent tour of the Screen Machine plant in Etna, Ohio, featured a DJI drone on display in one of their meeting rooms, along with video and still photos of their crushing and screening equipment being demonstrated in the field. Drone technology has proven to be a valuable sales and marketing tool for the quarry industry. Prices can range from under $500 for a basic unit to more than $50,000 for a larger model, complete with all the necessary software, hardware and accessories needed for hi-tech mapping and photography.
On June 28 of this year, the FAA released its latest version of the 14CFR Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Part 107 Final Rule (Federal Register/ Vol. 81, No. 124). These rules will go into effect on August 29, 2016. A brief summary (PDF) of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Rule (Part 107) as well as the complete regulation, is available at www.faa.gov/uas .
The guidelines in the summary include the operational limits and the Remote Pilot in Command Certification and Responsibilities. Some of the regulations from the Summary, page 1 include:
Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
Visual line of sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS. Alternatively, the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the visual observer.
At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS for those people to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation, not under a covered structure, and not inside a covered stationary vehicle.
Daylight only operations, or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
Must yield right of way to other aircraft.
May use visual observer (VO) but not required.
First person view camera cannot satisfy “see-and-avoid” requirement but can be used as long as requirement is satisfied in other ways.
Maximum groundspeed of 100 mph (87 knots).
Maximum altitude of 400-feet above ground level (AGL) or, if higher than 400-feet AGL, remain within 400-feet of a structure.
For companies that do not wish to own and operate their own systems, national drone service providers like DroneView Technologies with offices in Michigan, New York, Texas and Arizona offer drones for hire, drone training and other related services on a national scale. Are drones on the horizon for your operation? Only time will tell.