Drones are new canaries in the mine
Autonomous drone-mounted gas sensors will keep miners safe Metal Tech News - February 28, 2022
Last updated 3/8/2022 at 2:56pm
Maestro Digital Mine, which specializes in industrial internet of things (IIoT) devices that make mines safer and more productive, and Exyn Technologies, a pioneer of aerial drones capable of autonomously navigating complex underground environments, have teamed up to create the 21st century equivalent of a canary in the mine – an ExynAero drone equipped with critical gas sensors manufactured by Maestro.
For centuries, hazardous gases have posed a fatal threat to underground miners, who often don't know they are in danger until it is too late. Caused by either natural occurring underground sources or from mining processes, underground gases can be toxic to breathe and cause fire and explosions.
One of the earliest hazardous gas sensors was the canary, which is much more sensitive to dangerous gases than humans. If the canary died, the underground miners knew there were dangerous gases, and they should get out of harm's way.
Today, gas levels are measured by the ventilation system or wearable sensors donned by miners. And while these innovations and the canaries that came before them have saved countless lives, they don't allow a man-less hazardous gas inspection before entering underground passages or re-entering after emergency situations.
Now, the fully autonomous ExynAero drones are being equipped with Maestro's IIoT gas sensors. This cutting-edge canary in the mine can be flown down drifts or into stopes to detect and localize any hazardous gases without putting mining and survey teams in danger.
These same gas sensors can also be mounted on an ExynPak, a handheld version of the technological payload aboard ExynAero, and installed to the front of a truck or loader to capture the same gas data while mapping drifts or moving ore – ensuring the air is safe for miners without slowing production.
Powered by ExynAI's multi-sensor fusion capabilities, gas sensor readings are captured while the robot is in flight and displayed in real-time via a ruggedized tablet. These sensor readings are saved with precise coordinates in a high-fidelity point cloud that can be exported and examined in a variety of mining software.
The Maestro gas sensors add another payload for Exyn drones and handhelds that are already being hailed by mining companies for their ability to map underground mining passages faster, safer, and more accurately than the current survey techniques.
Furthers details on the use of Exyn drones in historical and currently operating mines can be found at Exyn drones map Alaska, BC gold mines in the February 19, 2022 edition of Metal Tech News.
"In the future, buying an autonomous robot will be similar to online car shopping. Pick your airframe, your preferred level of autonomy, and add in any sensors that fit your specific need," said Exyn Technologies CEO Nadar Elm. "The capabilities of ExynAI multi-sensor fusion move autonomous robots out of boutique one-to-one use cases and into much broader applications."
Exyn and Maestro expect to expand their collaboration to include the development of other Maestro IIoT payloads for ExynAero and ExynPak that will make both underground and surface mines safer and more productive.
"Collaborating with a world leading autonomous drone manufacturer is another important step to living up to our core purpose of enhancing lives by the pursuit of productivity and safety excellence," said Maestro Digital Mine CEO Michael Gribbons. "This relationship will open up opportunities to both Exyn and Maestro to expand upon our current installations at over 170 mines in 38 countries globally using our patented edge-based IIoT sensor technologies."