Guide to Drone Series: Which Photogrammetric Platforms Fit Your Solution?

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Guide to Drone Series: What Type of Analysis Will You Perform?

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Identifying Joint Sets and Extracting Orientations for Mine and Pit Planning

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Contributors: Andrew Maximow, Kyle Houston, Caleb Cass, Lauren Elmore.

At Firmatek, we are always looking for new ways to help clients solve problems. One client recently approached us about finding a better way to identify joint sets. The process is historically done by a visual inspection. We do many different types of work where we transform 3D scan data into analytics and reports that assist in mine and pit planning for our clients. So when the client approached us about creating this new deliverable, we were excited about the opportunity.

By examining joint set orientation, Firmatek helps our mining clients increase productivity, reduce waste, and improve safety.  According to project engineer, Kyle Houston, G.I.T., understanding joint set orientation in a quarry is a major factor in determining the preferred orientation of pit walls.

Joint Sets and Their Importance

Geologic and tectonic activity cause tensile stresses which create systematic breaks and cracks in rocks.  Often times, these breaks or cracks occur in parallel, evenly spaced groups called joint sets. Joint sets are an important piece of information for mine engineers and geologists who are working to create, monitor, and update mine plans.

It turns out that blasting along a pit wall that is oriented correctly to these joint sets is predictable and optimal. This increases the amount of material mined in a single blast, while minimizing the volume of material needed to be excavated in the floor. With regards to safety, properly designed highwalls are also less likely to slough off.

The importance of joint sets to operational efficiencies and safety made this project a great fit for Firmatek. We love to work on projects that will provide insights to our clients, allowing them to make better business decisions and operate more efficiently.

Measuring and Identifying Joint Sets

How do you safely identify joint sets without physically getting close to highwalls to measure joints and orientations?  Firmatek uses LiDAR scanning technology to build a detailed 3D model. We can then use this model for measurements, determining patterns and orientation, and data visualization.  We use the Reigl VZ 400 in combination with a Nikon D700 DLSR camera to collect a colorized point cloud. This technology can be deployed at a safe distance and results in an accurate and detailed 3D representation of the rock face.  The colorization of the point cloud comes from the combination of the camera and the LiDAR scanner and is used to enhance data visualization.

After the data is gathered and prepped, Kyle uses 3D modeling software to analyze the point cloud. He looks for patterns in the data-sets, measures surfaces, and identifies significant groups of parallel surfaces (the joint sets).   

In the final analysis, he plots the measurements and orientation of the various joint sets on a rose diagram. The results are superimposed on a geospatially accurate map of the quarry site.

New Projects, New Deliverables, Better Business Intelligence for Clients

Mining engineers need to have a clear and accurate understanding of joint set orientation so that they can design blasting and pit progression to occur at specific angles to that orientation.

Our team of expert mining engineers and geologists understand our client’s needs. This joint set mapping project is just one example of how we partner with clients on new projects and new technology to bring them information that gives them better business intelligence. Then they can go on to improve their operations. It’s another example of our services led and technology enabled approach.

What Growth in the Drone Industry Means for Firmatek for 2019

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By Andrew Maximow, Chief Drone Officer.

What does “growth in the drone industry” mean to Firmatek in 2019?

The challenge for measuring growth in the drone industry, like many nascent technologies, is identifying what to measure and how to quantify.  This is especially true in the commercial/enterprise sector where the only available metrics are the number of Part-107 licenses being issued and to some degree, the number of drones being shipped.  If the rate of new Part-107 licenses being issued is declining, does that mean that overall growth in the drone industry is declining? At Firmatek, we don’t believe that is the case.

While the consumer drone market is mature and possibly saturated, we believe that mass adoption for commercial/enterprise applications is still ahead of us. In 2019, there will be a gradual transition from early adopters to an early majority, at least in the industries that we support.  While we experienced a major increase in Part-107 licenses, pilots, and drones in 2018, the key observation was a greater utilization of those pilots and drones in terms of frequency and demand for incremental value-added deliverables. The drones that were deployed were used more often and more creatively to collect different types of data.  The consensus among our clients is, “You can’t manage it if you can’t measure it.” Thereby driving the demand for data analysis from an annual/quarterly auditing requirement to a monthly and weekly inventory management best practice. The regular use of drones for 3D mapping prompted the question, “What else can I use my drone for?” This unlocks a plethora of additional use-cases including site planning, change detection, equipment monitoring, and underground inspection, just to name a few. In 2019, we see this trend catching on with the early majority of customers driving the demand for more data analysis. This in turn will drive additional demand for pilots and drones.

How does Firmatek plan to facilitate pent up demand and drive growth in the drone industry?  

Our plan is 3-fold:

1) Services-led, technology-enabled approach.  

 Drone technology in the commercial/enterprise sector is still in the nascent stage with new innovation in drone hardware, software, systems, and analytics being developed and introduced at a rapid pace. Early adopters and the early majority of clients will need guidance and help to implement these technologies in a meaningful way that helps solve real-world business problems.

2) Put the tools in the hands of our clients.  

It is becoming easier and easier to fly missions and collect data with basic drones.  Enabling clients to plan missions, fly, and collect data empowers them to fly where ever, when ever, and as often as they like.  This drives frequency and the demand for more data analytics.

3) Drive incremental value-added services.  

Drone manufacturers are responding to the needs of commercial/enterprise clients with new types of sensors, integrated RTK/PPK platforms, and new way of analyzing data. During 2019, Firmatek will be actively working on testing new drones, new sensors, and software in addition to the deliverables generated by 3D mapping requirements.

Firmatek will continue as a trusted advisor to its clients with service as a priority and technology as an enabler towards providing insights and building business intelligence.  If we do that well and guide our clients through the complexities of the technology, the growth will come.