Emesent, a drone autonomy spin-out from CSIRO's Data61, the technology arm of Australia's national science agency, has raised AU$3.5 million in venture capital to commercialise its first product, Hovermap.
Developed by former researchers from Data61, Emesent’s world-leading Hovermap technology automates the collection of valuable data in underground areas too dangerous or difficult for people to survey or navigate, such as stopes or ore passes in mines. Drones installed with Hovermap can be deployed in GPS-denied environments without a human controller to create 3D maps, and record gas readings, videos and images.
Hovermap draws on a decade of research by CSIRO’s Robotics and Autonomous Systems group into drone autonomy and 3D LiDAR-based simultaneous localisation and mapping (3D SLAM) techniques.
According to Dr Stefan Hrabar, co-founder and CEO of Emesent, 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.
“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,” said Mr Hrabar.
“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.”
Before spinning out of CSIRO, Emesent established its leadership in this new category of automating industrial operations in the underground world. Last year, Hovermap enabled the world’s first fully autonomous beyond line-of-sight drone flight in an underground mine, 600 metres below the surface of Western Australia.
Emesent’s Hovermap system is already being used commercially for a variety of applications by early adopters in Australia, the US, Canada, China and Japan. A new program targeting the underground mining sector has now been rolled out, providing early access to Emesent’s mining-specific autonomy functions to selected participants.
Larry Marshall, CSIRO Chief Executive, sees businesses like Emesent as a necessary step towards Australia realising its global digital innovation potential.
“Emesent is an example of a company who has hit the innovation sweet spot combining their deep domain experience in mining with digital expertise,” Dr Marshall said.
This story will appear in its entirety in The ASIA Miner Q1 2019 edition.