Drone footage of Bingham Canyon copper mine

Drone technology is advancing so quickly it's hard to keep up with it. From aerial shots of construction projects to surveillance of strategic locations and even heat maps of crops to make farming more efficient, unmanned aerial vehicles are a disruptive technology that appears to have unlimited staying power.

Rio Tinto's (LON, NYSE,ASX:RIO) Matt Key is chief drone pilot at Rio's Kennecott operations in Utah. Key leads a team of 20 certified drone pilots and is helping to improve safety and productivity at the Bingham Canyon copper mine, according to a spotlight on Key by Rio Tinto.

Key says two of the biggest advantages of flying drones at Kennecott are safety and maintenance.

"There are some jobs where it’s better for drones to do it rather than people – for instance high wall mapping or rock fall analysis. By using drones we’re removing people from harm’s way. We can also use drones to identify safety risks – such as cracks and signs of rock movement," he says. "We can see things we’ve never seen before. For instance, we’re using thermal diagnostic capability to identify equipment problems from the air. We can identify high friction rates on equipment in real time and notify the maintenance teams so the issues can be addressed."

Kennecott’s operations include the Bingham Canyon Mine, Copperton Concentrator, Garfield Smelter, refinery, power plant and associated facilities.

In production for over 110 years, Kennecott produces copper, molybdenum, gold, silver and sulphuric acid.

Check out the aerial footage of a drone flying through Bingham Canyon, presenting a bird's eye view of the operation.