Drones are helping the cement industry in various ways, including surveying and inspection. Holcim deployed drones to measure the thickness of cement kiln walls at a cement plant in Switzerland, while HeidelbergCement inspected its kilns by drone at a plant in Germany.




Holcim Schweiz hit a milestone recently with the aerial drone programme at its Siggenthal cement plant. The project with Voliro, a Switzerland-based technology start-up, has started to use multi-rotor drones to conduct official measurement flights.

They used them to take measurements to determine the steel wall thicknesses of the cement kiln and the cyclone preheater. The work has been part of Holcim’s ‘Plants of Tomorrow’ industrial automation plan with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Key features of the particular drones being used are that they can be rotated around all axes by a special rotor system and can even fly upside down.

Holcim has been using drones in and around cement plants for a few years now. When it launched the Plants of Tomorrow plan in 2019, Switzerland-based drone supplier Flyability said that the cement company had chosen its Elios 2 model to perform confined space inspection. Earlier in 2017 another supplier, SenseFly, said that LafargeHolcim Tanzania had been using its fixed-wing products.

Holcim is also far from alone in its use of drones. A few examples among many include Cemex USA’s work with Kespry earlier in 2021, HeidelbergCement’s work in North America and Germany in 2020 and 2021 and Votorantim’s testing at its Córdoba and Niebla plants in Spain back in late 2015.

UAV usage by armed forces dates back to examples like unmanned incendiary balloons being deployed in the 19th century to Azerbaijan’s reported decisive use of drones in its war against Armenia in late 2020.