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Drones unlock safer future for underground mines

5 November 2018

A new autonomous drone start-up from Queensland, Emesent, has received venture capital backing for its technology to make underground mines safer and more productive.

Emesent’s first product, Hovermap, is installed on drones to automate data collection in underground areas too dangerous or difficult for people to survey, such as in mines.

Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said Emesent featured world-leading drone technology, developed by former researchers from CSIRO’s Data61 and supported by the Coalition Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda.

“Emesent has developed game-changing technology with the potential to boost the global mining industry. This is a prime example of how investment in Australian research can create new opportunities and value for our economy, including our mining sector,” Minister Andrews said.

“This could help improve the productivity of mines and the safety of workers. The data collected provides a better understanding of underground mine conditions, without placing miners in hazardous situations,” she said.

“The Coalition recognises the importance of our science, research and technology capabilities to Australia’s economic growth and jobs of the future – that’s why we’ve invested $2.4 billion in this year’s Budget to grow these sectors.” 

Hovermap can be deployed in GPS-denied environments without a human controller to create 3D maps, and record gas readings, videos and images.

The data can be used to compare the stope design to the actual post-blast shape to detect over-break and under-break, identify geotechnical structures and generate accurate post-blast volume reconciliations.

Emesent raised $3.5 million in a funding round led by Main Sequence Ventures — CSIRO’s Innovation Fund and also received support from CSIRO’s ON Accelerator program, both supported by the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

Last year, Hovermap enabled the world’s first fully autonomous beyond line-of-sight drone flight in an underground mine, 600 metres below the surface of Western Australia.

The Hovermap system is already being used commercially for a variety of applications by early adopters in Australia, the US, Canada, China and Japan. The real world applications of this technology extends beyond mining and can be integrated into industries such as underground rail and road transport, telecommunications, and disaster response.

Media contact: Minister Andrews' office 02 6277 7070