Zambian drone start-up completes exploratory flights

A Zambian drone start-up is today basking in glory after completing a successful exploratory mission using drone technology in north western parts of the country recently.

Zanifi Enterprise Limited – a geophysical company based that focuses on drone-based aeromagnetic surveys – recently scored a deal with a client to carry out airborne magnetic surveys in remote parts of Zambia’s North Western province.

Airborne magnetic surveys are geophysical survey methods used to map variations in the Earth’s magnetic field. This helps to understand distribution of magnetic minerals and rocks in the subsurface.

In this case Zanifi’s client – which has chosen to remain unnamed at this point in time – called out for the help of drones to fulfil its mission, rooted in its need to explore parts of the province for mineral deposits.

The region is reportedly rich in mineral deposits that include cobalt, copper, gold, molybdenum, nickel and uranium.

The drone route was also chosen for its convenience, as the area is said to be hard to cover through ground-based transport means; the land is blessed with a dense Mukwa forest, and other parts are covered with sands that can sink to depths of 60 metres.

Having been selected for its aerial solutions, Zanifi whipped out its Radai Magnetic Survey System, which comprise a Vertical Take-Off-and-Landing (VTOL) UAV; data loggers, magnetic sensors, lidar sensors, camera and other related data collection equipment.

With a wingspan about 2160mm long, the drone has a maximum take-off weight of 8kg, can climb to heights of 1,500metres (although it stayed roughly 50 metres above ground for this mission) and can stay in the air for one hour before the batteries have to be changed or recharged. The drone can also withstand with up to 17.5miles per hour; temperatures as low as -10℃ and as high as 40℃.

“The survey planning was conducted in Lusaka, Zambia, using RadaiPath, a specialized flight planning software developed by Radai Oy,” said the start-up in its report.

“The flight path is a series of waypoints with given geographical location (latitude and longitude) and altitude (absolute or relative to home base location.”

The area the company surveyed was 50 square kilometres, in the drone would fly away and back in a North-South direction in paths spaced at 50 metres.

This meant that the drone ended up flying for a total distance of 1,013km, with an additional 102km covered for the tie-in flights.

“The flight operations were carried out by Zanifi Flight Crew, who were responsible for maintaining and operating the drones; monitoring the flight operations; making the flight plans and magnetometer calibrations; monitoring the flights, and retrieving and transferring logger data onto cloud service as well as data pre-processing.

“Safety oversight was provided by Zambia Civil Aviation Authority (ZCAA).”

Zanifi further explained that the pre-processing and quality control of the data was done on site, with the magnetic base station near the control station measuring the temporal variation of the magnetic field.

In the post-processing of the data, the magnetic data of the moving UAV platform would be corrected for the temporal changes observed at the base station.

Founded last year, Zanifi uses specialised technologies for geophysical and imaging surveys. The start-up produces a wide range of data for the mining, construction, engineering, agricultural, conservation, and research industries using drones and cutting-edge sensors.


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