In remote areas it is cost effective to move drill rigs and other large geological gear by helicopter. Access is often difficult by road, and security concerns and inclement weather can hamper conventional drilling programs causing costly down time. The environmental effects of drilling programs are significantly minimised by a helicopter-supported project. The associated rehabilitation costs are far less than with conventional drilling programs, and this is a major advantage.
The AS350B2 and AS350B3 helicopters are increasingly being utilised for the heavy sling work associated with drilling programs. Conventional drill rigs can be adapted to break into 650 kg sections. These sections and the associated drilling gear are moved using specially adapted harnesses and nets. A typical rig move can be done in under 3 hours.
All helicopters are fitted with vertical reference windows, mirrors, and cargo hooks. The load on the sling can be monitored by a digital gauge in the cabin to ensure safe operation. VHF radios are used to ensure constant communication with the pilot and ground crew.
The pilots flying underslung operations all have valid sling ratings and have the experience and knowledge required to handle the complexities of slinging in remote environments.