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Septentrio: Receivers guide drills despite ionosphere

Photo: Anglogold Ashanti/Flanders

Flanders uses Septentrio receivers to guide automated blasthole drills, such as at this South African mine run by AngloGold Ashanti. Photo: Anglogold Ashanti/Flanders

Flanders, a U.S.-based company with expertise in electrical machinery and control systems, has developed its proprietary ARDVARC advanced drill-rig control system to control mine-drilling machines, making them safer and more efficient. The drill rigs equipped with ARDVARC create holes with centimeter precision. This ensures optimal rock fragmentation, simplifying and expediting subsequent jobs such as stone extraction and removal.

Mines close to the poles or to the magnetic equator, such as those in the Amazon, are challenging for GNSS receivers because they tend to experience the most intense ionospheric scintillations, resulting from rapid fluctuations in the electron density in the ionosphere. These scintillations affect GNSS signals that travel from space to Earth, causing degradation of positioning accuracy or even positioning loss.

To address this challenge, ARDVARC uses Septentrio AsteRx-U GNSS receivers. They are housed in a tough IP67 enclosure and run Septentrio’s proprietary GNSS+ algorithms including IONO+, which ensures high-accuracy positioning even during ionospheric scintillations.

ARDVARC’s benefits include a faster drill cycle time, increased drill hole location precision, increased drill-rig component operating life, improved fragmentation and greater operator safety. The system is available in several levels.

  • The Intelli-rig manual control system also delivers data on the position of each blast hole, the machine operation and the drilling conditions; it incorporates mine-planning functionality using the mine’s existing or Flanders’ optional GPS equipment.
  • One-touch converts a manually operated machine to one operated with a single touch, increasing productivity. Once the machine operator positions the drill rig over the desired target, One-touch initiates the automated drilling process, which includes machine leveling, hole collaring, drilling to elevation and angle, rod handling, bit retraction and jack reset.
  • The fully autonomous drilling solution removes the operator from the cab, allowing one operator to monitor multiple drilling operations from a safe distance. The solution increases productivity by enabling drilling during blasting and shift changes. It uses Flanders’ HazCam to monitor the surroundings, preventing the drill from operating in unsafe conditions.
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