For centuries, the African continent has been the leading source of natural resources and is home to 30 percent of the world’s mineral reserves, shaping the various economies of the region. A number of international companies now work in the mining industry, constantly looking for new ways to streamline the process of transporting mined minerals to their desired locations. Historically the process of transportation has always faced issues and delays with many mines in inaccessible locations.
In the past, the industry has been behind in adopting new and innovative logistics techniques to help facilitate its growth. Only recently has technology played a critical role, leading to improved efficiency of processes, and reduction of costs, as stated by the Journal of Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration in their recent paper on the topic.
However, an increased use of rotorcraft and even unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) offer the industry solutions to some longstanding logistical challenges. These aircraft can be used to carry heavy loads and assist in the transportation of vital equipment to and from remote and difficult-to-access locations. These important developments are being supported by local authorities with, for instance, the South African Civil Aviation Authority recently approving the use of a remotely piloted aerial system for the mining sector to help revolutionize the industry.
Meanwhile, the capabilities of rotorcraft in assisting with complex and heavy logistical challenges have been exemplified in the work of Rocky Mountain Rotors, an American helicopter chartering company founded by Mark Taylor. It has been using a Bell 505 helicopter to assist in transportation operations and rescue missions in the Rocky Mountains. With a payload of up to 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) at and an altitude range of 22,500 feet density altitude (6,096 meters) thanks to its Arrius 2R engine, the Bell 505 has proven a worthy companion against heavier and more expensive competition.
Mark and his team have tested the durability of the 505 on numerous occasions. His first job was to transport almost eight tons of equipment across six miles (nine kilometers) of dense forest at 7,700 feet (2,347 meters). On another occasion, Mark used a 505 to transport over 750 pounds (340 kilograms) of load up the mountains. The Bell 505 flew in at 9,200 feet (2,904 meters) and performed a delicate set down of the cargo on the frozen Delta Lake at 9016 feet (2,748 meters).
The Bell 505’s extreme towing capabilities, as well as its power to weight numbers mean that it can operate at a lower cost the other, larger aircrafts. This in turn provides a new alternative to the mining industry in Africa, which historically is heavily reliant on trucks to access the harshest of terrains.
Bell is actively collecting information for the future of mobility and aircrafts like the Bell 505 are perfectly suited to accommodate everything from VIP transportation to external cargo lift missions. This is because it is reliable, cost-effective, and safe to perform a wide variety of missions in efficient travel times.
Another transformative technology that could reshape the mining industry in Africa is the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in operations. UAVs have been used traditionally in geological mapping missions, but never to carry significant pay loads.
In an effort to save time and costs, UAVs such as Bell’s Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) might just be the answer. The vehicle is capable of autonomous flight and taking off and landing vertically. It has demonstrated the ability to carry a payload of 110 Ibs (50 kilograms), offering a solution for mining companies who are looking to transport goods away from mining sites.
Bell understands the need to modernize the mining industry and is developing tools to solve this. With the 505, it can offer customers an opportunity to hoist larger cargo to and from different locations, while with the APT, swifter and less costly aircraft for smaller payload. Both aircrafts open a new world of possibilities for logistical transportation. By efficiently moving goods from one location to another, they provide safe, cost and time efficient solutions for mining companies looking at alternative means of transportation.
Sameer Rehman, Managing Director of Africa and the Middle East, Bell, commented: “With the Bell 505, we have an aircraft that has shown time and again that it can be trusted to operate in high-risk locations and with heavy payloads, providing a capable machine for logistics operators. With APT, Bell is set to re-define on-demand logistics support across a number of industries, Thanks to its autonomous flight capability and intuitive interface, the simplicity of the UAV’s operation means that it can go further, faster and carry payloads at increased ranges all while saving time, cost and energy.”
To find out more about the 505’s cargo hook capabilities, the APT’s capacity and the rest of Bell’s existing product line up, please visit https://www.bellflight.com/
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