Field study of geological mapping for First Quantum Mineral Ltd.

Radai succeeds in delivering a magnetic survey to its world-class customer, First Quantum Mineral Ltd. The field operation was fulfilled with high-resolution UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) magnetic survey with over 5400 line-km in 13 days.

First Quantum Mineral Ltd is one of the world’s top 10 copper producers, with long life operations in several countries, exporting millions of tonnes of concentrate to customers worldwide. The company is continuously looking for efficient, sustainable and less invasive solutions in all its operations, while striving to meet its customer’s expectations. In order to meet the ever growing demands for natural resources, First Quantum is involved in several exploration projects around the world, one of which is located in Eastern Lapland. Geophysical characterization of the area proved to be challenging for traditional methods of airborne surveying, however Radai’s highly-customized field survey method provided a solution in this case.

The field study was completed over 2 campaigns between July-August 2020. The exploration area is located in a sparsely populated part of Finland. The main objective and outcome of the survey was to improve geological mapping of the selected survey area. The compounded surface of surveyed areas was 240km2 and was made using multiple Albatros VT2 UAVs. The surveyed area was covered by 69 flights, measuring over 5453 line km – one of the longest in Radai’s history.

The survey was made beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) operational mode with the permission of Finland aviation authorities. Radai’s magnetic measurement system was installed into a custom-made UAV fixed-wing plane (Albatros VT2). Survey system included a magnetometer, datalogger and other sensors such as a GPS, barometer and an optional orientation sensor.

After take-off, the flight was controlled by an autopilot that guided the drone through a predefined set of way-points. The flight path followed terrain topography defined by a digital elevation model (DEM) which was provided by the National Land Survey of Finland.

The flight performance was controlled by a PC software via telemetry (radio) link and redundant connection was established via wireless mobile GSM link in real time. Separate GSM based tracker devices enabled the UAV to be tracked in case of lost telemetry signal or an unwanted crash. Magnetic base station near the mobile telemetry/control station measured the temporal variation of the magnetic field and the barometric pressure. In post-processing, the magnetic data of the moving UAV platform, and optionally the flight height, were corrected by the temporal changes observed at the base station. The data processing was made using the interactive RadaiPros software created by our Chief Geophysicist Dr. Markku Pirttijärvi.

Radai’s UAV-based solution in environmental and geophysical survey has proven to be faster, more flexible and cost effective than ground survey and manned airplane survey. Radai has built up a highly qualified team with unique, unrivaled knowledge in the fields of geophysics, data analysis and modelling, applied mathematics, embedded software development, drone development and sensor development. The entire team pays special attention to ensure that the field operational process and work methods have been enhanced in order to provide effective and safe operational procedures. By being a small company with world class expertise, Radai is able to offer customized, high tech solutions to its customers.