Does the mining environment mean mining drone flights need an area approval?

Operating mining drone flights offer unique challenges to Remote Pilots

Operating mining drone flights greater than 400ft above the pit floor require area approval

The fact many mines are deep holes in the ground presents a unique challenge when it comes to mining drone flights. The maximum height at which a mining drone flight may operate (without an area approval) is 400 feet (approximately 120 metres) above ground level. The interpretation of ground level includes the bottom of the pit floor, not just the natural surface surrounding the pit. If a 400ft long rope was tied to the bottom of the drone, the other end of the rope should always reach the ground. This means, in extreme cases, a mining drone flight operating at 400ft above the ground could still be below the top of the pit wall.

One of the main reasons to instigate mining drone flights is to remove people from harm’s way, away from the active mining area. The interpretation of the ground level could restrict the use of safe drone operating areas or worse, force mining drone flights to be undertaken in active mining areas. Additionally, mining drone flight efficiency is reduced by requiring multiple flights to be undertaken due to large changes in terrain.

The solution to this challenge is simple, obtain an area approval to operate higher than 400ft above ground level. Approvals are a standard way of conducting business in aviation and most successful aviation operators have an approval/exemption of some description.


Maximum height of 400 feet above the ground without area approval.

Operating mining drone flights over company personnel in equipment requires area approval

Mining drone flights that jeopardise the safety of mining personnel defeat the purpose of utilising drones in the first place. The drone regulations are very clear when it comes to flights over people. Mining drone flights must remain at least 30 metres from the public and 15 metres from personnel that have signed a waiver allowing drone flights to be conducted between 15 and 30 metres. The distance is measured horizontally from the person and does not take into consideration if people are accessible or not. For example, in the drone regulations, a person within a building is treated the same as a person standing outside.

The area approval process allows for the inclusion of sheltered operations. This means those that can not be accessed or injured, i.e in haul trucks can be flown over.

mining drone flights near people

The minimum distance from people is measured from the person laterally and then taken up in a cylinder to infinity height

Aviassist's Area approval process

Aviassist can help your company obtain CASA area approval.

Pre-approval audit

Aviassist first completes a pre-approval audit against the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems Specific Operational Risk Assessment (SORA) . This is the standard the Civil Aviation Safety Authority has adopted for issuing area approvals. The SORA provides the tool to determine the level of robustness required for a particular operation to gain an area approval. Once the pre-approval audit is complete a meeting is scheduled to discuss the findings of the audit.

Aviassist can then assist with forming the appropriate procedures for the area approval to be issued. Once approved operations can continue to a greater level of safety, compliance, and efficiency.

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