Technological development is critical to ensure that successful mining companies’ business remains viable and protected, according to Dr Martin Clark, a researcher in the Department of Geology at the University of the Free State.He said successful mining companies closely monitor assets, expenditures, risks, and other parameters associated with their business to best ensure their longevity.Sentiments are based on his involvement in the initiative, Multi-purpose Aerial Geological Image Classification (MAGIC). Clark’s work specifically focuses on expanding the applications for which drones are used.“MAGIC aims to collect geological and structural information that is critical for making informed decisions in exploration and mineral extraction processes,” he said.Clark also drives multiple aspects of the initiative including education, research, and business development. “Drones can collect a great deal of data randomly over vast or small areas within hours, historically accomplished by mapping campaigns which can last months to years. Drones can also collect data in areas which are difficult and dangerous for humans to get to. These include cliff faces or rock walls, as well as stretches of land where dense vegetation, inaccessible terrain, and even atmospheric dangers become factors which reduce or modify the scope of exploration work,” he said.Clark developed interest in using drones to address geological questions in 2013, when he was busy with his doctorate. At that time, he was working with remotely sensed high-resolution LiDAR imagery to better understand geological structures at the Sudbury Mining Camp in Canada. The interest became a reality in 2018, when he applied this initiative during his post-doctoral fellowship at the University of the Free State.“At present, there are no direct mining projects underway, but projects are expected to begin in 2020. Drone operation and image-analysis techniques are currently being refined for the industry,” said Clark. Besides his work with drones, he also works in the fields of structural geology, remote sensing, and geospatial data analysis.