Aerial Drones Used to Sample Pit Lake Water Reduce Monitoring Costs and Improve Safety

Author(s) D. Castendyk, B. Straight, P. Filiatreault, S. Thibeault, L. Cameron
SME Annual Meeting Feb. 19 - 22, 2017, Denver, CO


Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, capable of collecting and retrieving water samples from pit lakes, tailings ponds and other mine water basins will revolutionize environmental programs by lowering sampling costs and reducing safety related risks. Costs typically include a boat and associated equipment, boat transportation, road maintenance, water safety devices, water safety training, and additional staff. Typically, the total cost can exceed $20,000 USD per sampling event (excluding lab analyses). Hazards include potential for drowning, unstable pit walls, and unconsolidated sediment surrounding tailings ponds. Hatch has developed a novel device for aerial drones which currently enables the collection of water samples from depths up to 390 ft (119 m). This system only requires a pilot, a sample technician, and a safe operations point overlooking the water body. Hatch anticipates this will reduce monitoring cost by at least 50% while improving safety, reducing staffing requirements and accelerating data acquisition. This manuscript demonstrates profiling and sample collection from a 95 ft (29 m) deep reservoir and a 377 ft (115 m) deep pit lake, and highlights the potential of this emerging technology.