"The robot will relentlessly and reliably persist in its mission as it goes into unknown environments even if it loses signal. You can sit back and let the drone do the work."
What markets and partnerships is Exyn Technologies looking to grow or develop?
Nader: We currently operate across five continents with partners all over the world. Our head office is in Philadelphia, and we opened a second location in Sudbury, one of Canada’s major mining hubs. We have an aggressive growth plan over the next couple of quarters with plans to expand operations into Europe, Africa and Australia. We have established major partnerships, such as Ernst & Young, to develop capabilities for tailings management facilities, and we have a partnership with Sandvik, one of the largest OEM’s in the underground space. We released a very exciting video at MINExpo 2021 where we showed the collaboration between aerial and Sandvik’s ground-based robots — the first of its kind. Looking ahead to 2022, we’re seeking to extend our partnerships across the mining industry including distribution partners, solutions and service providers, and software solutions developers. We are also forging new partnerships in the construction and industrial inspection industries as we extend our solutions to other verticals.
How are drones technologies stepping stones for the mining sector to catch up with other sectors in terms of Industry 4.0 adoption rates?
Raffi: one of the largest stumbling blocks to Industry 4.0 adoption has been connectivity underground. Many technologies still require some kind of prior infrastructure in place for their products to work; at Exyn we do not require any sort of infrastructure because the robots do not require communication once the operator has given them the mission. In a nutshell, we are completely autonomous. The drone builds a map and plans its paths in real time, all within the context of its mission. Therefore, we can go into any underground mine without the requirement for any changes to the infrastructure or environment to deploy our products. This is artificial intelligence in its most sincere form.
What are the differences between ExynAeroTM and ExynPakTM?
Nader: ExynAeroTM is designed to go into areas in which miners are at greater risk. One of the big reasons our company exists is to ensure miners are getting home safe. With ExynAeroTM, we reduce the number of hours miners have to spend underground and allow them to work at a safe distance on fully supported ground. ExynPakTM is a complementary product used for building longer and larger maps, like an entire mine with many kilometers of tunnels. The drone-based ExynAero will have shorter missions in inaccessible areas, whereas with the ExynPakTM you have a couple hours of battery and is something you could mount to any sort of vehicle, walk around in your backpack, or get into smaller areas which drones might have trouble getting into.
Which of your solutions are in highest demand and driving growth for Exyn Technologies?
Raffi: I would say it is autonomy, ExynAI. Mapping and scanning stopes are always high-risk, but with ExynAeroTM powered by ExynAI we can remove that risk. The quality of the maps we can produce is outstanding. Our units are dynamic so they fly throughout stope until they capture the entire scan, which provides a very accurate volumetric calculation.
Nader: And ExynAI’s Level 4 Autonomy is one of our key differentiators. What that means is that truly all the intelligence is on-board the vehicle itself. In addition to enabling breakthrough capabilities, it reduces the load of actually operating the robots. Because all the intelligence is on board the drone, the operator does not need to be an expert to fly our drones nor have to worry about the success of the mission. The robot will relentlessly and reliably persist in its mission as it goes into unknown environments even if it loses signal. You can sit back and let the drone do the work. The other big thing is that we capture data in real time. This is significant because we can shorten the time for not only data capture, gut also to get to an analysis and insights within the shift, which will in turn drive a massive boost in productivity.
What is aerial regulation like underground and how do you source the hardware?
Nader: The focus of our customers’ missions is predominantly underground, which is outside of most regions’ regulatory jurisdiction. That said, we are not entirely unrestricted as we do have to operate within each company’s own health and safety policies and we are acutely sensitive to that. Our future plans, however, are to extend our propositions above ground, which will bring us into regulated space and we will meet requirements and operate within the rules as defined by the regulators.
Exyn Technologies does not actually make any of the hardware. What we create is the software intelligence that goes on-board to make the robots fully autonomous. We match the hardware to the mission and, depending on the requirements for the use case, we use different drones and sensors. We have now implemented on over a dozen different platforms in different formats, including standard quad-rotors as well as coaxial platforms that look like the JPL Ingenuity copter that is flying around on Mars. We are not limited to only drones. We have started integrating ExynAI onto ground-based UGV robots and have a lot of interest in underwater UUVs. Frankly, if the vehicle has virtual joysticks that we can plug into, we can drive it.
Do you have a final message in terms of how you see this technology evolving?
Raffi: The mining industry is rapidly adopting new technologies like autonomy and we see huge opportunities moving forward. Most companies we show these products to are purchasing and implementing them.
Nader: We have only been available for a couple of years, but I’m glad to say that we have seen a big jump in the adoption of robotic and automation technologies. And we see the momentum increasing as more industries look to artificial intelligence such as ExynAI to autonomously capture rich data sets that drive better business decisions while keeping employees safe.