There’s been a lot of talk lately about the role drones might play in our society in the future. From controversial military applications to automated delivery robots for companies such as Amazon, drones seem poised to have a major impact on our society in the coming years.

What people may not have heard is that drones are poised to cause a revolution in the mining industry.

Mining as an industry is very labor intensive. In addition, mines are by their very nature difficult environments to work in. Drones would allow the industry to overcome some of the major challenges facing mining today.

There are many possible uses for drones. Here are some of the most promising:

– Self driving trucks: About one in 200 mining trucks in the world today is already driverless. These trucks are able to detect their surroundings and haul materials automatically and safely. Currently, their use is limited to regions where labor costs are high, but as the technology matures, and prices start to come down, we may see them start to become more widespread.

– Surveying drones: These drones are essentially small unmanned airplanes loaded with a wide range of remote sensing instruments. By eliminating the need for a piloted plane, companies can make the plane smaller and employ ground based remote operators to conduct surveys of remote exploration sites.

– Delivery drones: These small drones would deliver replacement parts at sprawling mine sites, reducing down time during mining operations. Models currently in development will be able to carry parts weighing up to kg.

– Mining robots: These robots, which may lie a bit further in the future than the others, would actually carry out mining operations deep underground. Mining robots can work in hot, dusty, or otherwise unsafe conditions where human workers cannot. In addition, the can integrate data from multiple sensors, allowing them to mine in the most efficient manner possible.

While we may not see all of these developments in the near future, it is almost certain that drones and advanced robotic technology will have an increasing role to play in the global mining industry.

For more in-depth analysis of the future role of drones in the mining industry, check out these links:

Business Week: the future role of drones in mining

Australian Mining: The use of drones for surface surveys

Semi-robotic drills employed in British Columbia

Drones used by small scale gold prospectors