August 10, 2021

The future belongs to those willing to pioneer solutions and who continue to innovate.

At Rocketmine, innovation is hard baked into our DNA. Our global team is constantly sourcing the latest tech and skills to deploy across 11 countries for clients operating in the mining, energy, agriculture and security sectors.

Recently, our team concluded the deployment of a Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) solution, which provided greater data, accuracy and faster processing at the fraction of a cost of a traditional manned LIDAR deployment solution.

To advance industry understanding, we’re proud to share these high-level insights and best practice examples attained from a recent survey mission for a tier-one mining company’s exploration project in West Africa.

First off, here’s a refresher and summary of what LIDAR is and why it’s becoming an increasingly necessary tool for drone-based surveyors to accompany traditional photogrammetry techniques.

What is LiDAR?

LiDAR is an acronym for
“light detection and ranging.”

It is sometimes called “laser scanning” or “3D scanning.” A LIDAR sensor sends out pulses of laser light and measures the exact time it takes for these pulses to return as they bounce from the ground. It also measures the intensity of that reflection.
LIDAR uses oscillating mirrors to send out laser pulses in many directions so as to generate a “sheet” of light as the drone moves forward. Through measuring the timing and intensity of the returning pulses, it can provide readings of the terrain and of points on the ground.

Mission Environment
& Parameters

Rocketmine was tasked to survey an area of 6,500 hectares in an equatorial jungle environment in West Africa. This extreme mission environment provided an ideal testing arena to deploy a Vertical Take-Off & Landing (VTOL) drone solution equipped with a LIDAR sensor. The dense jungle environment is problematic for traditional photogrammetry surveying techniques and RGB sensors, due to the inability to penetrate the multiple canopy layers of the site.

As the first active deployment of a Quantum-Systems drone solution in the region, Rocketmine’s crew was able to pioneer the use of this groundbreaking tech and rapidly produce digital terrain models (DTMs) according to the client’s brief. We were able to achieve our these objectives by drawing on our more than eight years of experience and a culture of continually launching industry first solutions.

How We Deployed

By deploying a VTOL drone, we were able to scan a wider area faster, due to the longer endurance capabilities on this drone. Current industry practice is to attach a limited LIDAR sensor to a rotor-drone, which is slower, more cumbersome and does not have the endurance of a fixed wing rone. While using a fixed wing drone requires an open level field or runway to land safely, a VTOL wins this contest. In comparison, a specialised VTOL drone reduces the risk to the LIDAR sensor. Additionally, it mitigates against risks associated with poor or failed landings (staff safety and operation continuity), as well as being able to deploy from anywhere.

against risks associated with poor or failed landings (staff safety and operation continuity), as well as being able to deploy from anywhere.

In comparison, lidar missions by manned aviation are on average 10x more expensive and with accuracy only 20 cm (8 in) horizontal and 10 cm (4 in) vertical, in our project we were able to deploy and achieve results <3cm accuracy. Total project accuracy despite the dense tropical vegetation was 0,0232m.

How did we do this?

For this specific mission and to meet the client’s objectives, Rocketmine flew 20 times (58min per flight) over four days with each flight mapping 325 hectares (HA). In total, we were able to record 11,1 Billion points and 2,6 Billion Ground Points from a total of 6500 HA surveyed. Post each flight, our team was able to process the data in just 6-hours.

Importantly, due to our experience and certifications gained to do beyond line sight of operations and in non-daylight flights for security patrolling, we can deploy this solution in the evening and provide data the very next day. This ensures zero disruption on site and for decision makers off-site waiting for the insights provided by the survey.

Key Learning and Takeaways

Investing and deploying an effective and accurate LIDAR solution is increasingly mission critical for operations in inaccessible jungle environments; powerline inspections; exploration activities; open cast mining, as well as rail track monitoring. The reality, however, is that while as LIDAR sensor for drone systems improve; the applications will grow, but as with new technology it requires specialists to maximise its potential. Moving forward, teams will require a photogrammetry or a LIDAR solution depending on the site, or objective.

With mining exploration flourishing in Africa, the growth in demand for LIDAR solutions is expanding rapidly says Rocketmine’s General Manager, Ajay Harduth.


“There is growing demand from our clients looking to expand their operations, and we’re able to provide actionable data based on their requirements using the right tech for the job. As the leading drones as service provider, operating across multiple jurisdictions and sectors, we are uniquely positioned, accredited and equipped to deploy these solutions rapidly.”

- Ajay Harduth


If you are a company, organisation or institute in need of a groundbreaking LiDAR solution, please get in touch with our Rocketmine team today.


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