Scorching temperatures and travel challenges were no match for the 20,000 attendees who gathered in Las Vegas last week for MINExpo 2021. While the usual Big Iron took the center of attention in displays from Komatsu, Caterpillar, Volvo, and more, the overtone of a tech-enabled mining future was clearly on display. At least a few Spot robotic quadrupeds from Boston Dynamics roamed the show floor, and the fully autonomous mining trucks -- now in operation for over a decade by miners like Rio Tinto -- have been upgraded to fully electric.
In our corner of North Hall, a consistent gathering of visitors were drawn to the Skycatch booth by our software demonstrations and the presence of the DJI M300 and Phantom 4 RTK, which our users pair with Skycatch Edge1 to turn them into high precision survey machines.
Especially relevant to the DJI systems was the announcement of Flight1x, custom Skycatch software which enables viewing terrain and flight planning in 3D; automated RTK/PPK drone management; and fast edge processing which delivers data in minutes versus upwards of 24 hours. Importantly, the Skycatch High Precision Package with M300 and Flight1x is was built with data security in mind with servers hosted by Skycatch in the US.
The majority of miners we talked to have been using drones in at least a part of their operations: drill & blast, maintenance, and of course, the technical services of survey and geotechnical engineering. The experienced surveyors using drones today gave helpful feedback on the Edge1 Smart Base Station, which takes a low-cost photogrammetry drone and turns it into a laser-scanner-like system that delivers point clouds on the spot. We also gave a preview of our Skycatch tailings monitoring solution. This addresses a strong need in the market given great regulatory scrutiny and several recent high-profile failures of tailings impoundments domestically and abroad.
Miners have thought in 3D long before the advent of the term, drilling deep shafts and planning optimized overburden removal for centuries. Now, modern data collection methods including drones, laser scanners, and radars provide a huge input stream to mining operations. Multiple presentations in the education session were dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, which is a critical component in turning this unstructured data stream into actionable insights for miners. Skycatch has been pioneering this for years, releasing our first AI-powered ground detection feature in 2015. Our CTO, David Chen, is scoping new mining-focused features for 2022 that winnow the most critical insights from high-bandwidth data like the DJI L1 airborne LiDAR.
Our entire Skycatch team was reminded of the value of getting face-to-face with our customers to understand their way of working, and how we can create technology which helps the industry operate more efficiently. The mining community which continues the hard work of providing the natural resource needs for society has given us great feedback, and motivation to continue our pursuit of precision, automated mining intelligence.