JOHANNESBURG Oct 6 South Africa is developing
drones for the mining industry for inspections in potentially
unsafe areas underground, removing the need to put humans in
harm's way, an industry conference heard on Thursday.
Fred Cawood, the director of the Mining Institute at
Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand, told the
conference drones were being developed to send to danger zones
beneath the surface.
"It is to use the machine in areas where people should not
be," Cawood told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference.
South Africa's mines are the deepest and among the most
dangerous in the world and safety is a huge concern for the
government, unions and boardrooms in the world's top platinum
Cawood said there was a prototype under development,
equipped with video cameras, which measured 40 cm (16 inches)
across and could be operated from a control room on the surface.
"It cannot be very big to operate in the tunnels," he said.
Drones could be used to inspect the stope area after
blasting is done to ensure it is safe to resume work or to see
if it is safe to send rescue teams in after a disaster.
Cawood said he had a request for funding to commercialise
the drone technology with South Africa's Mine Health and Safety
Mining deaths in South Africa fell for eight consecutive
years, hitting a record low of 77 in 2015, but a spike in deaths
this year has raised red flags.
(Reporting by Ed Stoddard)