The technology gives ArcelorMittal Dofasco a more complete view of raw materials.

If you ever see a tiny airplane flying over ArcelorMittal Dofasco, it is not an errant remote-control toy of a neighbourhood child.  It is in fact, the Dofasco Aerial Reconnaissance Tool (DART). Since late 2015, Material Handling and Logistics has used the fixed-wing drone to take monthly inventory of raw materials.

The drone, which cost about $40,000, is equipped with fully autonomous mapping capability. It weighs 800 grams and has a ground speed of 60 kilometres per hour.  It is equipped with a Canon 18-megapixel camera. To launch, its operator simply needs to shake it and throw it forwards.

“In MH&L, we have different kinds of raw materials and by-product stock piles. Due to the sheer size of these piles, it is very difficult to accurately measure volume using conventional techniques. The drone flies over the piles at 400 feet and takes hundreds of photos,” said Meet Pandya (Material Handling and Logistics). “We bring the images back to the computer to process and stitch them together into a 3D model. It is then used to calculate volume and total tonnage of each pile. It also helps us to create an overhead 2D image of the area.”

To operate an unmanned aerial vehicle, Transport Canada required Dofasco to acquire a Special Flight Operations Certificate, which gets renewed every year, and shows proof of understanding aviation law and proof of competency of drone operation.  Six Material Handling and logistics employees took three days of ground school and flight training to qualify for the certificate.

“In this day and age, decision-making in a business is data driven. With the help of this new technology, we’re able to accurately produce data that were not available before. We use other available technology, such as LIDAR (laser) scanning to take measurements from the ground level and compare it to the data produced using the drone,” said Meet. “The LIDAR scanning system is costly and time-consuming due to the area we cover in MH&L. Therefore, the drone serves as a very useful tool for our purposes.

“This is a very cool technology. It saves time and money.”

Through a consulting company, Dofasco also has a helicopter (quad copter) style drone that takes photos and videos for activities to prepare Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) documents and videos for training purposes.