The company plans to use aerial photography at its open-cast mines to help with prospecting as well as condition monitoring of its roads, power lines, heat networks and other areas of infrastructure.
"A more accurate and fast data collection tool will become available for prospecting and other surveying activities," NLMK said of the initiative, from which it said it could gain R100 million (US$1.28 million) annually.
"Photogrammetry will enable a more precise evaluation of the iron content and distribution in the overburden following an explosion. Ore shipments from the mine will be managed more efficiently, ensuring the Fe content required to support the stable operation of the beneficiation factory."
In regards to its road condition monitoring, the company said the effort will help it to complete timely repairs as well as reduce fuel consumption. Tire life and truck repair frequency will also benefit.
Additionally, it noted that thermal imaging cameras on the units will be utilised to reduce heat losses from buildings and heating grids.
"Drones can [also] provide footage of facilities that are hazardous or difficult to access, such as smokestacks, ventilation ducts and tailing dumps," the group said. NLMK said the UAVs will make about 600 flights per year at 150 facilities that make up a combined 5,000 hectares (about 12,300 acres).
"The use of unmanned aerial vehicles along with advanced data processing tools is a new high-tech business process," group VP for energy and the environment Sergey Chebotarev said.
"It will enable us to promptly obtain information for a wide range of purposes, from production and logistics to environmental protection. Our company plans to scale up the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to all sites."