Canadian Pioneer Exploration Consultants Ltd., a geologic consulting firm uses an unmanned aircraft outfitted with a magnetometer to probe the earth for mining clients. Prospecting for gold, uranium, copper, and other precious metals with a drone.
Prospecting for gold, uranium, and other precious metals with a drone
Michael Burns, geologist and president of the company, and his team use a DJI Matrice 600, and sometimes even larger, custom-built drones outfitted with a magnetometer to look for rock and mineral formations to identify areas that may contain minerals and other precious metals.
A magnetometer is a very sensitive compass that reads the earth’s magnetic field. Based on the data gathered with the drone Burns and his team make magnetic maps that offer drill recommendations for prospecting clients.
Using drones to explore mining opportunities is both ‘cheaper, safer, and better’ compared to traditional forms of manned aviation such as the use of helicopters and other aircraft. Magnetometers can also be worn in backpacks, but covering large areas in rough terrain this way can be very time consuming and expensive.
Compared to traditional aviation, drones can fly much lower and far more stable and thus collect more and more precise data that can be used to create magnetic maps of the area.
A typical mission with a drone might involve five to 10 days of flying with an additional two or three days of in-office planning, says Burns. For most missions, Pioneer uses the DJI Matrice 600 drone, although, for operations that require a heavier payload-carrying ability, the company also uses even larger, custom-built multi-copter drones.
“Beyond the drone itself, there’s a lot of modification into what we do to make it applicable for our types of survey work,” Burns said, adding that the company uses non-DJI software for flight planning and control, according to an interview in AOPA.
A typical day during a mission might involve anywhere from 25 to 30 drone launches per day. Two generators keep five sets of batteries fully charged to allow for non-stop drone flying.
“Our pilots work extremely hard and they fly a huge amount of missions. Safety is always really key. Our focus is to collect the best quality data in the industry. It just turns out that we’re using drones to do it,” Burns said.
A typical prospecting drone flight will be 30 to 60 feet above the terrain with the magnetometer hanging from the unmanned aircraft in order to get the cleanest possible signal and not magnetic noise from the drone.
President and CEO of Belmont Resources, George Sookochoff is very enthusiastic about using drones for prospecting, because of the high-quality data that Pioneer delivers at roughly half the cost of traditional methods.
“There’s no comparison [to helicopter-acquired data]. You’re getting higher quality at half the cost,” he said as he reviewed the most recent imaging data delivered by Pioneer. “I’m just so impressed.”
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Photos courtesy of Pioneer Exploration Consultants / Belmont Resources Inc.