The Emesent team. Image: CSIRO.

 

BY ELIZABETH FABRI

 

DRONE technology developed by CSIRO Data61 spinoff Emesent has received a $3.5 million boost to bring its autonomous prototype, Hovermap, into the mainstream market.

 

The technology, which draws on 10 years of research by CSIRO’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems group, was designed to automate the collection of data in underground areas that were too dangerous or difficult for people to survey or navigate, including stopes or ore passes.

Emersent’s Hovermap can be integrated with drones to enable them to be deployed in GPS-denied environments without a human controller to create 3D maps, images, videos or record gas readings.

“Hovermap enables the mining industry to safely inspect inaccessible areas of underground mines while improving the type and quality of data collected to unlock new insights,” Emesent co-founder and chief executive Dr Stefan Hrabar said.

“This includes comparing the stope design to the actual post-blast shape to detect over-break and under-break, identification of geotechnical structures and accurate post-blast volume reconciliations.

 

“The data we gather improves a mine’s productivity and provides a better understanding of conditions underground, all without sending surveyors and miners into potentially hazardous areas.”

 

Hovermap completed the world’s first autonomous beyond line-of-sight drone flight at an underground mine in WA in 2017.

The technology is already being used commercially by some early adopters in Australia, the US, Japan, China and Canada.

Dr Hrabar said the raising would enable him to grow the team from seven to 25, and commericalise the product.

CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said Emesent was an example of a company that had “hit the innovation sweet spot” combining deep domain experience in mining with digital expertise.

“This has been harnessed by the environment we have created at CSIRO where deep science combines with innovative ideas and agile minds to create game-changing technologies,” Dr Marshall said.