By Krishnan Hariharan
Over the next year, the adoption of industrial drone programs for businesses is estimated to increase at a 66.8% compound annual growth rate, marking a growth trend seen over the past several years.
Industrial drones are leveraging the power of AI, machine learning and deep data analytics, and are being used in major industries to drastically decrease the amount of time workers spend collecting and analyzing data, while increasing accuracy. Because drones are more accurate at data collection and their technology is commonly paired with advanced ML/AL algorithms, the benefits of Smart Inspections have become immediately applicable to the aggregate industry.
Smart Inspections use drone technology, AI, machine learning, cloud-based analytics and high-resolution imagery to enable the aggregates industry to conduct completely touchless inventory inspections in significantly less time.
With Smart Inspections, aggregate pros no longer need to manually climb on stockpiles to take measurements for inventory. Instead, they can easily operate an AI-powered drone through the use of a tablet. All they have to do is press a few buttons, and the drone will autonomously fly the selected perimeter, capture aerial images, and send the data to the cloud where it can be analyzed. Then, the drone will land all on its own, and the worker merely had to man an iPad for a few short minutes.
With all the technology available to us today, it begs the question: Why on earth are aggregate pros still performing stockpile inspections manually? Having workers climb atop stockpiles to gather data is not only dangerous, it is a liability and can cause serious injury, which is bad news for both the employee and the employer.
With Smart Inspections, aggregate pros avoid pulling out rickety ladders and scaling across questionable stockpiles that have steep slopes. Instead of putting themselves in this scary situation, they can simply grab their tablets, select a flight perimeter for the drone to fly autonomously, and get the data they need safely and efficiently.
Safety isn’t the only perk of Smart Inspections – they also significantly save on time. Once a worker maps out the flight path for the drone, the drone takes it from there and gathers the data it needs in minutes, and then quickly uploads it to the cloud where it is available to all who need it for analysis.
Not only can drones fly faster than people can walk, but they can also access areas that are difficult or unsafe for humans. For example, if a stockpile is especially steep in a certain area, the worker would have to strategically plan how they get to that area for measurement. This not only wastes precious time, but it puts the worker in danger. However, a drone can quickly zip right over the area in question and gather the imaging and data needed.
In addition to drones completing stockpile inspections at record speeds, they also share the data incredibly quickly. Once the drone completes its flight path, it sends the data it captured to the cloud so that the aggregates pro has it at their disposal within minutes, and the team back at the office can review it at the same time. As a result, quick decisions regarding the stockpile inventory can be made, and teams can collaborate on and off-site.
Through the power of AI and machine learning, autonomous drones are always getting better at how they fly and collect and analyze data. They have the capability to collect high-resolution aerial imagery and videography and can account for the slope of a stockpile to ensure measurements are as accurate as possible.
While traditional forms of stockpile inventory measurement are prone to human error (even the best of us make mistakes), with Smart Inspections, mining and aggregate pros can be certain their data is nearly perfect every time, with accuracy in the 1% to 3% range.
Autonomous drones present a unique opportunity for aggregates companies. Not only do they keep workers out of harm’s way and increase accuracy of stockpile measurement, but they also save a great deal of time and therefore money. Smart Inspections represent the future of stockpile inspections, so aggregates companies should strongly consider adopting them now so they aren’t outpaced by their competition.
Krishnan Hariharan is CEO of Kespry.