Drones leave no stone unturned

Zeppelin Baumaschinen GmbH, the exclusive sales and service partner in Germany for Caterpillar Inc., will be using drones in the future to streamline the use of its wheel loaders, crawler excavators, dump trucks and dumpers in quarries.

As drones catch on more and more, these high-tech devices are now even starting to penetrate areas previously considered the reserve of heavy machinery. In the past, quarry operators often had to rely on their instincts to try get the most out of their wheel loaders, crawler excavators, dump trucks and dumpers. But now the first companies are starting to explore new alternatives, such as Zeppelin Baumaschinen GmbH, the exclusive sales and service partner in Germany of Caterpillar Inc. According to Bernhard Tabert, the fleet manager at Zeppelin, the digital quarry of the future will merge drone movements, GPS data and machinery downtime into a single map. Knowing when and where unproductive idling is taking place will enable companies to systematically stamp out the causes and thus significantly reduce operating costs. It is already possible now to digitally display and analyze a quarry using a web interface and thus effortlessly optimize mining based on hard facts.

The display and analysis software that quarrying companies need for this task has been jointly developed by Caterpillar and the French startup Redbird. Using reference points on the ground, the quarry is first mapped by a drone taking hundreds of photos, which the Redbird software turns into a 3D model with a resolution of three to four pixels per centimeter. “The art lies in transferring the acquired 3D data onto a user-friendly web interface and automatically analyzing it. This generates an overview of the quarry, which the operator can use to make better and quicker decisions based on data analyses,” says Tabert, explaining the benefits of the new system.

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