How a Drone Mined Data from a 70-Year-Old Gold Mine

Image: Exyn Technologies

November 21, 2019      

PHILADELPHIA – Exyn Technologies, which develops autonomous aerial robot systems for complex, recently announced the success of a mission that collected data from a previously inaccessible area in a historic gold mine that has been inactive since the 1940s.

Data collected from the mission was able to provide precise locations of more than 70-year-old underground workings and stopes (notches in an excavated mine), as well as structural geological information that would have been nearly impossible to acquire given current access conditions, the company said.

Narrow tunnels

Exyn gold mine surveying

Narrow tunnels and 1940s technology made human surveying of the mine dangerous. Image: Exyn Technologies

Ascot Resources, which owns the gold mine, brought in Exyn Technologies to help it gather the data from the mine, which was last accessed in the 1940s. Ascot said it determined that procedures were too costly and conditions were potentially too dangerous for human surveyors to perform, especially since the company didn’t know exactly what kind of data would be discovered. In addition, older mines are different than modern mines, with narrower tunnels and more limited vehicle access due to constraints of 1940s technology.

“At Ascot we are looking to use the facilities available at a former producing mine to extract new resources that we are currently drilling. Exyn came to our site to show us the autonomous capabilities of their drone technology, and were very impressed with the timeliness and quality of the data acquired,” said John Kiernan, COO of Ascot Resources. “Looking forward, we think this technology will be used to safely explore and evaluate the condition of underground mines, while also potentially providing cost savings in mine surveying and ventilation monitoring.”

Exyn said its autonomous drones were able to create a comprehensive map of the mine’s workings by using LiDAR-based mapping technology. When cross-referenced against existing mine layouts and diamond drilling data, the map allowed Ascot teams to determine where additional gold and silver resources could be interpreted. The Ascot team was able to gather the data retrieved by the Exyn drones to create a report of existing mine openings, and determine how much gold there was left to be mined onsite to present to potential investors. Exyn said this technology could potentially reopen many other long-disused mines that may still have valuable materials inside.

Exyn technologies gold mine

A team member prepares to launch an Exyn aerial drone to help survey an old gold mine. Image: Exyn Technologies

“Never before have we been able to deploy autonomous aerial robots in completely unknown underground environments, and have them come back to us with accurate, comprehensive mapping,” said Raffi Jabrayan, director of markets and industries at Exyn. “Exyn’s robots relieve the heavy burden of countless man hours, dollars, and risk of traditional surveying while keeping mine personnel safer.”

Exyn Technologies, which began as a spinout from the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Laboratory, raised $16 million in Series A funding in July 2019. The company was named one of the “companies we’re watching” in the RBR50 2019 report, and it recently participated in the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, which is exploring the use of robotics and autonomous systems in underground environments, including human-made tunnel systems, urban underground, and natural cave networks.