For modern process industries, supply chain optimization is critical for obtaining and maintaining a strategic competitive advantage. Digital transformation and IoT has seen rapid developments in real time monitoring, operational intelligence, and a significant improvement in the accuracy of data. Now industry is looking for the next step change and automated industrial drones are leading the way.
Industrial drones are already improving traditional methods of security, asset inspection and routine surveying needs. They are also increasingly being adopted to collect valuable data throughout the mining process.
The variety of applications that can be created will lead the way for the next generation of smart factories and facilities that are adopting industrial IoT.
With expertise in aerospace hardware design, robust electronic systems, leading software engineering and years of experience in commercial drone operations, Airobotics is already working with operators to identify the potential gains to be made and develop what’s needed to make that next step change a reality.
Airobotics partnered with Israel Chemicals Ltd (ICL), an innovative global mining business. ICL is a major manufacturer of specialty fertilizers, specialty phosphates and flame retardants. The facility started utilizing Airobotics’ automated drone systems to streamline surveying methods and improve accuracy of volumetric information on the company’s diverse stockpile areas.
The Rotem Amfert site, located in Israel’s Negev, is a manufacturer of phosphates. This renowned site encompasses the entire production process of mineral extraction, processing, and packing of final product for delivery to customers worldwide.
Recently, Airobotics and ICL launched a three-month pilot. ICL decided to conduct an extensive investigation to assess the use of automated drones services in the facility, versus working with a human surveying team. For three months, Airobotics’ drone was flown over stockpiles, to collect data and generate volumetric measurement, which was then compared to ICL’s traditional manual data collection techniques. A series of experiments were conducted benchmarking the volumetric accuracies of standard, ground-based methods versus the Airobotics system for designated stockpiles at the Rotem Amfert site.
To provide a controlled benchmark, 16 Ground Control Points (GCPs) were established throughout the stockpile under investigation. These control points each mark a specific absolute position confirmed by the highly accurate RTK GNSS method. The GCPs were divided for experimental purposes, to provide ground control to the aerial photogrammetric model and to produce a standard point cloud model to benchmark the accuracy of the photogrammetric method.
The images collected were then processed through SimActive’s Correlator3D software, an industry leader in photogrammetric processing, to create a digital elevation model of the stockpile. The 3D terrain model yielded by the process was then compared to the standard method of interpolating sparse ground control points for several parameters and ultimately benchmarked for the final stockpile volume.
When comparing the results of the measurements done by the surveyors, using traditional tools and methods, and the ones generated from the Airobotics system, the difference was approximately 1.37 per cent. Airobotics’ drone solution uses and measures millions of points, which proves to be a much more reliable and accurate way to measure, than the traditional way, which involves measuring a few hundred points.
Some of the other clear benefits for ICL are reduced mission times, cost reduction and increased safety. We can safely say that in terms of saving time, using Airobotics drone services provides results in a third of the time that it takes for traditional methods.
Importantly, unlike traditional measurement method, where ICL had to halt some of the site operation in order to conduct the measurement, the Airobotics’ system is able to run automatically every day, in a pre-scheduled manner, without interruption to the site’s routine operation; saving significant downtime on operational activities.
Based on these results, ICL has begun a new era in which volumetric measurement is performed by the Airobotics’ system.
In the process ICL has gained access to more accurate data without the logistics and liability associated with traditional surveying methods. The transition to the drone-based system has also provided both significant cost savings and reduced mission time.
“I feel like this is the future. The Airobotics platform has provided us with a highly effective tool that is cheaper economically and saves us time. With the platform, we can measure in one day what once took multiple days to measure.”
– Yakov Kahlon, Executive Vice President, ICL Phosphate.
The investigation of aerial data methods at the ICL Rotem Amfert site demonstrated highly accurate, repeatable survey capability achievable with the Airobotics automated drone services.
Beyond the reconciliation accuracy achieved with the transition to aerial data, ICL has highlighted the significant operational benefits of the fully automated system. The automatic drone platform, capable of executing many different missions a day, does not require manual drone setup, operation, or data processing pre and post mission. With the fast-paced technological advancements within the field of automation, industrial drones are changing the face of long-standing industries that have long awaited innovative optimization solutions.
To learn more about traditional versus automated surveying, download the ICL Case Study: