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Intelligent airships monitor nickel mine

Metal Tech News – October 11, 2023

Terrafame selects Kelluu airships to monitor, create a 3D twin of nickel mine in Finland.

Will autonomous airships become a common site over safe and efficient mines of the future? The answer to this question may lie in the success of Terrafame's use of Kelluu dirigibles to monitor its 23-square-mile (60 square kilometers) nickel mine and processing plant in Finland.

Terrafame's project is a complete battery materials supply chain that begins with an open-pit mine at the largest reserve of nickel in Europe and ends with the production of enough nickel sulfate for the lithium batteries to power around 1 million electric vehicles per year, along with cobalt, copper, and zinc.

The low-carbon and completely traceable battery chemicals produced at Terrafame's site have attracted the attention of global automaker Stellantis, which entered into an agreement earlier this year to source a significant portion of the nickel sulfate it will need for EV batteries over the coming five years from the Finland operation.

To enhance the safety and efficiency of its nickel mine and processing facility, Terrafame has selected Finnish Kelluu to provide hydrogen-powered airships to capture accurate and geo-referenced terrain data for continuous monitoring of the industrial site.

Kelluu's self-flying dirigibles are mounted with multiple spectral cameras, sensors, and scanners that can gather real-time data on terrain, vegetation, and infrastructure. Upon processing this data, an accurate 3D digital twin of the environment is created.

"The combination of high-resolution RGB, multispectral, and Flir images, combined with the same 3D mesh, is a fascinating tool, especially in heap leaching and open pit slope stability modeling," said Aki Ullgren, senior geotechnical engineer at Terrafame. "We're happy to welcome Kelluu to the group of monitoring services we use to promote safety and efficiency at our Terrafame site."

The 3D twin created with this array of sensors allows Terrafame to monitor and forecast dynamic changes at the industrial site and optimize its infrastructure maintenance and production processes to further strengthen the environmental safety of the site.

"It is truly mesmerizing to see the Kelluu's airships in the air at Terrafame," said Kelluu CEO Janne Hietala.

Low-carbon aerial monitoring

The aerial monitoring of mines and other industrial sites is typically carried out with satellites, helicopters, or battery-powered drones, which are backed up by ground-based surveys.

Kelluu's airships offer a more robust, continuous, and efficient means of collecting aerial data at industrial sites. Being lighter than air, these airships can carry multiple sensors for durations of more than 12 hours while emitting 99.5% less carbon dioxide than alternative aerial monitoring machines such as helicopters.

Kelluu dirigibles are also effectively operational in subzero temperatures, an important factor for Terrafame's Finland locale.

As Terraframe produces hydrogen powering the airships at its nickel project in Sotkamo, Finland, Kelluu has built a ground base on the industrial site. Kelluu will autonomously transfer its airship about 110 miles (180 kilometers) from its current base in Joensuu, Finland, to Terrafame's nickel mining site.

"We felt a strong connection with Terrafame's commitment to positively impacting the world by reducing emissions of electromobility," said Hietala. "What Terrafame does for mobility, ... we do it for aviation. Together, we provide increased safety using Kelluu's breakthrough intelligent airship technology."

In addition to monitoring mining and other industrial sites, Kelluu's airships offer an efficient and low-carbon means of safeguarding biodiversity by monitoring large forest areas for pests, enabling quick action in case infected trees are detected.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Metal Tech News

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With more than 16 years of covering mining, Shane is renowned for his insights and and in-depth analysis of mining, mineral exploration and technology metals.


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