Gold Fields brings WingtraOne on board to survey its stockpiles and sites

Since 1887, Gold Fields mining company has been growing and evolving its gold and mineral exploration business across Africa, Australia and South America. Two of its gold mines—Tarkwa and Damang—operate in Ghana. Since gold is measured by the ounce, managing its excavation and measuring stockpiles is a sensitive undertaking.

Gold Fields Ghana Ltd. has relied on drone data for the past few years as a way to collect site information and stock volumes over larger areas, faster and more accurately than terrestrial methods. Through experience with classical fixed-wing drones, survey managers discovered the power of rapid, wide-coverage data collection.

During the inception of the company’s drone program, there were several limitations these systems presented, including belly landing—which threatened the payload and drone unless the landing was planned on a wide, soft surface, which was time consuming to find. For this reason, surveyors at Gold Fields Damang and Tarkwa mine sites have recently upgraded to vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology by investing in two WingtraOne drones. 

Headline image of Gold Fields Ghana Ltd. Damang mine credit: Enock4seth, Wikimedia Commons

Gold Fields logo
Limited space to take off and land, high standards around volume accuracies, valuable stocks and operations to conduct efficiently

With WingtraOne, we can take off anywhere. So now I don’t need to drive a distance before I do my flight, compared to the previous drones we were using where we had to map in fragments.

Ebenezer Owusu Dapaah
Unit Manager-Survey, Damang Mine, Gold Fields Ghana Ltd. 

Streamlining survey workflows for two massive goldmines

The Tarkwa mining site measures 20,800 ha (210 km2), and the Damang site measures 8,111 ha. (81.11 km2). Every quarter, the teams at these sites must map the entire area. Tarkwa borders two villages. The company is able to monitor how the villages are expanding and if they are growing into the mining area. They also measure their storage facilities and get an overall sense of all operations on the mine site.

“Previously we were using UX5 and now we realize we have constraints with landing spaces,” said John Adjaye, Unit Survey Manager at the Tarkwa mine overseen by Gold Fields Ghana. “With WingtraOne we are not constrained by landing spaces, because we are in a very heavily dense vegetation zone and flying the UX5 is a challenge as you always have to map from one or two spots. So WingtraOne gave us relief around mapping the concession.”

The quarterly concession survey takes about a week with WingtraOne. Over the rest of the time, the survey teams at Tarkwa and Damang mines fly smaller, weekly surveys with WingtraOne to monitor stockpiles and pits. The surveys are run with an aim for accuracy better than 5 cm (2 in), which is consistently achieved with the RX1R II payload.


Goldfields Ghana operator carrying WingtraOne in its backpack
WingtraOne features ease-of-use on every level, including transport. You can even carry it in a soft-shelled backpack as Valentine Ikechukwu Amuah demonstrates.

We are happy with the results. We can do one flight and cover all our stockpiles. This one is such a plus, and it works well for us. We can then come down and process all of the data at a go.

John Adjaye
Unit Survey Manager, Tarkwa Mine, Gold Fields Ghana Ltd. 

Improved wind-tolerance, safety and convenience

At the Damang site, Ebenezer Owusu Dapaah, Unit Manager, Survey-Damang Mine, said the team relied on an eBee before upgrading to WingtraOne. The landing area constraints were the same as they were for the UX5, and it wasn’t until upgrading that the surveyors realized how much control they could have with a mapping drone.

“We couldn’t use the eBee any way we wanted,” Dapaah explained. “But with WingtraOne, we can enjoy a very good take-off and landing spot. So long as the take-off and landing site is dry. 

“We are enjoying the work. Plus, you look at the wind endurance and you can fly in 12 m/s wind. All the times I have witnessed WingtraOne flying, even in extreme wind, it still lands safely.”

Beyond this, the automation integrated into WingtraOne enables the survey teams to run thorough checks of the entire system before take-off and to see that these checks are completely performed. Take-off is not possible unless the drone is ready in terms of its motors, its camera connection and other vitals. This gives the pilots a lot of peace of mind that they are both flying safe and flying to capture the best data possible.

WingtraOne drone on a Gold Fields mine site
WingtraOne on the Gold Fields Tarkwa Mine site in Ghana.

With WingtraOne, pre-start flight checks are automated. Human errors are minimized. In the case of most of the other drones we’ve used, you have to check your drone by yourself, and you can miss something yet still fly it at your own expense.

Ebenezer Owusu Dapaah
Unit Manager-Survey, Gold Fields Ghana Ltd. 

World-class training and support

Among the key benefits of working with WingtraOne, Adjaye said the support and training is outstanding. The firm works with WingtraOne’s distributor partner TerraCam, based in South Africa.

But what’s even more impressive about the case of Gold Fields Ghana is how everyone was trained. The unusual circumstances of 2020 prevented face-to-face contact, so all of the learning happened remotely through screens, which turned out to work well despite the circumstances.

“We actually got the drone at the time when the COVID-19 pandemic was at the height of its first wave,” Adjaye said. “So we did our training with Microsoft Teams and our first flights with virtual instruction as well. There was no on-site trainer, but the two instructors we worked with online were helpful.” 

Remote WingtraOne training at Gold Fields Ghana Ltd.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gold Fields received "outstanding" and thorough remote support and training from Wingtra's partner TerraCam. Ebenezer Owusu Dapaah displays recommended handling of WingtraOne during a training session.
TerraCam Wingtra distributor

TerraCam is a Wingtra distributor partner based in South Africa. Their relationship with clients goes beyond sales, as they offer turn-key drone solutions that cover everything from hardware, software, spares inventory, training and support. They specialize in drone integration for enterprise clients wanting to establish their own in-house drone capabilities, which offer better ROI compared to outsourcing services to expensive contractors. Every step is covered so that the investment into WingtraOne includes a relationship with knowledgeable professionals who ensure the best experience possible.

When we have questions, we can call or write for help, and our Wingtra distributor contact at TerraCam easily gives us solutions—this is key to our smooth operations and the benefits we get from WingtraOne.

Ebenezer Owusu Dapaah
Unit Manager-Survey, Gold Fields Ghana Ltd. 

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