Exyn: mapping the minescape

Exyn: mapping the minescape
We look at Exyn Technologies' autonomous aerial robot systems for complex, GPS-denied environments and some exciting innovations for the mining industry

Exyn Technologies specialises in creating autonomous systems that navigate and map challenging, GPS-denied environments. Its systems are used in industries as varied as mining, logistics, geospatial data, infrastructure, construction, and government. With ExynAI, it meets the growing demand for autonomous mapping across a wide range of applications

Tech transforming mineral exploration and extraction

For instance, the establishment of comprehensive digital communications underground has improved information flow both below and above ground. “Digital technology has played a crucial role in reshaping the mining landscape in the past decade or so," affirms Ben Williams, COO of Exyn Technologies. "Looking ahead, autonomy, big data, and analytics tools still offer tremendous opportunities to transform mining operations in terms of application and impact.”

Another perspective on these transformations revolves around efficiency and productivity. Information technology, in its essence, serves as a tool to streamline the flow of information in all its diverse forms. Technologies like remote monitoring, mobile mapping, and high-precision data collection have already significantly enhanced the efficiency and productivity of mining operations. Moreover, by incorporating automation and autonomous vehicles into the actual mining processes, human efforts can be extended more effectively, reducing variability and minimising human error. These advancements facilitate uninterrupted, round-the-clock operations while minimising downtime. The mining industry generates vast amounts of data from sensors, IoT devices, mobile mapping, and autonomous systems. Leveraging advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms, this data can be processed to optimise mining procedures, anticipate equipment maintenance requirements, and enhance the quality and speed of decision-making.

Giving mines the Exyn 'edge'

Since its inception in 2014 Exyn has continuously disrupted the mining technology landscape. In 2020 it unveiled the ExynAero drone, which launches at the press of a button, and navigates pilot-free through the entire stope in a single flight rapidly producing precise 3D maps, sensor data, and georeferenced models. Mining companies have recognised that these new ways of doing things are far more accurate, efficient, and safer than traditional manual methods. The growth in demand for autonomous mapping technology in the mining sector is driven by safety concerns, operational efficiency, and compliance requirements. Digital tools, like 3D modelling and geospatial analysis, are helping mining companies identify new deposits, plan extraction strategies, and optimise the use of resources.

This year it announced the ExynAero EA6 drone airframe, US-built to meet commercial customer demands. Beyond sourcing a new airframe manufacturer, Exyn was searching for a partner with a product that would be capable of evolving with them. 

quickly and nimbly adjust to customer feature requests, supply chain constraints, new sensors, and specialised configurations. In addition, Easy Aerial and Exyn are ISO-9001 certified and Easy Aerial is AS9100 certified, which will help facilitate quality production of the ExynAero EA6. The Osprey platform is beneficial to Exyn in business verticals like mining and construction, but as a Blue sUAS certified platform by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), it is especially advantageous for Exyn’s work in the government sector. The Osprey is a durable carbon composite hexarotor airframe that provides motor redundancy in case of failure. The platform offers longer airborne endurance, while maintaining a slightly smaller form factor than the previous M210 and accommodates increased thrust capabilities.

Exyn’s products gather data in a complete and efficient manner to create a digital twin of the mine. “We gather the 3D point clouds and use them to create 'meshes', which are models of the stopes,” explains VP Commercial Sales Raffi Jabrayan. “Given how complete our data is, the technical services team is able to make decisions about the quality and volume of the blasting. Furthermore, given the speed with which we operate, this information is available to them immediately after the scan.”

Exyn’s technology and products are an extension of the miners, Raffi points out. “They are not intended to replace the employee, but to give them a tool that allows them to enhance their ability to do their jobs more efficiently, accurately, and safely! It also allows them to learn new skills and keep abreast of the latest technology. Exyn products are in line with existing industry methods, however we are far more advanced with our autonomy, mapping capabilities, and efficiency. This provides far greater ROI for mining companies that are working with us. Recently, USC Consulting did a white paper at one of our customers' sites in Alaska that can speak to this.”

Exyn has many developments planned, including expanded capabilities to support outdoor flights and remote actuation, allowing mines to use a single product for many different applications. This will change the way mapping and scheduling is done in mines by reducing the down time between blasting and mapping and reducing the need for personnel at the face.

“We feel that our product is useful for small and large-scale mining operations,” concludes Raffi Jabrayan. “A single mine with an ExynAero or ExynPak will see immediate results. Larger operations will require larger fleets, but their ROI will be to scale. We have customers with a single site, others with eight sites. We provide the same level of service and support to all of them, as we know our products have become an integral part of their operations, and will help cut down time.”

Safety and sustainability – in and beyond the mine

Digital technologies enhance worker safety by reducing the need for human operators to enter hazardous environments. Drones can be used for inspections in dangerous areas, and remote-controlled machinery can perform tasks that previously put employees at risk. In fact, safety has become the most important core value for all mining companies, and Exyn Technologies is proud to play such a major role in that. In traditional stope surveying, the miners would have to get dangerously close to the “face” to do their job. They could be working very close to falling rock, or dangerously near a large stope opening. Exyn changed all of that with its technology. Now, a surveyor can safely operate under fully supported ground more than 30 metres away, and do their job with more accuracy. Furthermore, given the speed with which Exyn products work, the same task can be completed in a fraction of the time which a surveyor used to need to spend underground. For the mining company, automation and remote monitoring can have a dramatic effect on the number of lost time accidents (LTAs) that are key to assessing the company's HSE performance. They are also essential in assessing the mine's social, environmental and sustainability performance. Tracking these impacts and designing appropriate mitigation has become far easier as Exyn's digital solutions enable better monitoring, improved waste management, and more efficient resource utilisation.

Ben Williams sums up his complex organisation: “The benefits of using autonomous systems in demanding industries like mining cannot be overstated. Exyn is proud to be at this intersection – helping to keep miners safe, making mines more efficient, and providing rich, real-time datasets that allow operators to make decisions quickly. Technology has revolutionised the mining industry by improving safety, efficiency, and environmental responsibility while reducing costs. These advancements have enabled mining companies to operate more responsibly and profitably. That is the story so far. At Exyn, we are poised to continue to evolve our technology to help the mining industry stay at the forefront of innovation.”

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