Lidar carried on UAV drone for mining surveys

UAVs – Drones for Opencast Mines and Quarries

28th August 2019 Billy Rooney General

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), often called Drones, and their multifarious applications are becoming increasingly accessible and, as such, they can be utilised to great effect during mining surveys. The mining community has been quick to note that the variety of drone applications is growing rapidly, thereby enabling the rapid survey of main mine workings and the creation of an accurate mining survey.

The presence of UAVs in the geospatial industry means that, for certain projects, mining survey companies like ourselves are able to produce highly reliable and conclusive findings in a smaller time frame. However, there are limitations to the use of UAVs in the mining industry. When these limitations are reached, the application of Airborne Lidar technology, (mounted on a drone or for large areas – fixed wing aircraft), ensures that we’re able to overcome such obstacles and produce comprehensive mining surveys and mining maps.

Limitations of UAVs in Producing Mining Surveys

The ‘drone method’ often uses automated photogrammetry to build a digital terrain model (DTM) from multiple overlapping images. The quality and accuracy of the resulting model depends on two things:


You can rapidly create a fantastic looking colourised DTM, almost at the touch of a button, with the latest software. But, there are many points to consider when looking to achieve suitable, and measurable accuracy to ensure dependable results: 


Additionally, photography will not enable you to see through the foliage – so any terrain modelling of the foliated areas surrounding the mine, or in the next development/expansion area, will simply map the surface of the tree tops, grass and foliage. 

Each of these questions need to be considered and addressed before thinking about producing an opencast mining survey or a quarry survey. 

Producing A Concise Mining Survey With Airborne Lidar 

Today, there are lidar instruments small enough to be carried by drones, but they need to be the bigger ‘professional’ drones used by geospatial professionals, such as Merrett Survey Limited. Alternatively, you can commission us to conduct a lidar survey using a ‘conventional’ fixed wing aircraft. The combination of a UAV and airborne lidar technology, or a lidar drone, enables us to complete fully concentrated scans of areas. Such UAVs enable us to see through the foliage and map the ground. 

Of course, we can provide the UAV/drone surveys but we recognise that, for large scale operations, most will want to make use of their own for regular update work. If this is the case, we are here to advise you and assist with the installation of control networks. In addition, we can provide guidance on work flows, if you wish to enter this field.

Merrett Survey Limited – UK & Worldwide Mining Surveys

As established mining surveyors, we have not only been providing thorough surveys throughout the UK, but across the globe, for over 35 years. We’ve carried out numerous mining surveys as part of our Africa Precision operation and continue to apply our expertise, ensuring safe mining and optimum productivity levels. 

The Merrett Survey team have experience in all areas of geomatics and welcome conversation on any of our other services. Whether you require a survey for the mining of metallic minerals, industrial minerals or the extraction of oil and gas, we are here to help. Our in-depth knowledge of the latest surveying technology, alongside a breadth of experience in our field, sets us aside as leading mining surveyors. Contact us to learn more about our mining survey services.