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Hole navigation ensures reliable drilling practice, delivers smooth operation



Epiroc has cemented itself as a leader in drill rig technology – so much so that about 95 per cent of orders for its SmartROC drill rigs include its Hole Navigation System.

As infrastructure demand has grown around Australia – with Victoria breaking decade-old extractive production records, Greater Sydney placing in the Western world’s top 10 fastest- growing regions, and Western Australia and Queensland benefitting from the HomeBuilder program – technologies of efficiency, safety and productivity have become necessities.

Epiroc’s surface division product manager Kris Thomas said the days of manual drill mapping were well over.

“The traditional method prior to the Hole Navigation System (HNS) was to have a surveyor walk along the bench to mark out the desired blasting area,” Thomas told Quarry. “The operator would then have a sheet he would have to follow – making sure he was moving correctly from one position to the next and hitting the right depths.

“It was pretty labour-intensive work and obviously having to mark the dots out, it wasn’t as safe as it could have been.”

HNS can be installed by adding some simple hardware and software to any of Epiroc’s SmartROC drill rig range.

Thomas explained the ins and outs of the underlying technology.

“It uses existing satellite constellations to get the machine’s position to an accuracy of 50mm,” he said.

“In this way, you can create your drill map off-site, load it into the machine via USB or 3G, and the operator can then view the dots on their screen rather than some paint on the ground.

“The machine can then allow you to digitally and physically navigate to the correct position, and the rig can also calculate the right depth it needs to go to.”

By removing the need for an operator or surveyor to venture out onto the bench, you remove the possibility of injury or wasted time, compared to viewing the rig’s efforts on-screen.

To further remove the operator from harm’s way, the HNS can be used to complement Epiroc’s benchREMOTE station which can control a SmartROC drill rig from up to 100 metres horizontally and 30m vertically.

Thomas said as demand for quarried resources grows the need for final products to be delivered with efficiency and accuracy grows with it.

“There’s a much lower margin for error these days,” he said. “Especially as these technologies continue to be implemented by the wider market.

“If an operator misses the required depth and causes overdrills, potentially they’ll adversely affect the next bench down.

“If they blast too deep or too shallow, they will create an uneven bench when they get down to the next level.”

For this reason, Thomas said technology like the HNS is just another box to tick in growing a reputable quarry business.

“Over the last three years, we’ve seen it implemented more and more for the quarry market. Almost all the SmartROCs we send out, customers have chosen to include the HNS,” he said.

“If you want to progress to become one of the bigger quarry owners, you need to get up to speed with the technology.”

One of the only requirements – besides a SmartROC drill rig – to take advantage of the HNS would be a GPS base station.

This device is used to ensure the HNS can live up to its lofty standards of just a five- centimetre margin for error.

“The contractor will need to have a base station or very often the site will have a surveyor’s base station which the HNS can connect to. This is a very important requirement,” Thomas said.

“The base station gives a correction message from the satellites because, where the accuracy with the GPS on something like a mobile phone is something like 10m, the base station corrects the signal to within 50 millimetres for the HNS.”

For more information about the Epiroc HNS system, visit the Epiroc website.

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