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Making Volumetric Calculations Worthwhile

by Richa Singh

DRONE – Making Volumetric Calculations Worthwhile

The people working in the construction, agriculture and mining industry very well understands importance of volumetric calculation of stockpile & its direct link to the success of their work. Whether the stockpile measurement is carried out to ensure availability of material enough to meet requirements or providing a financial report to inventory, attaining more precise and accurate results is the biggest challenge and that makes all the difference.

Understanding traditional surveying techniques
According to the conventional ground-based surveying methods of stockpile volumetric calculation, a surveyor is supposed to take all the required equipment’s on site and employing them to register the coordinates and elevation of the stockpile at multiple points – around the base, on the top and along all the break lines. After capturing these points, the surveyor has to carry out significant deskwork in order to generate a surface model – which is then employed to calculate the volume changes by comparing it against previous survey data, or a baseline surface or a virtual reference plane.

              Surveyors on site carrying out measurements and calculations.

Limitation of conventional methods

Employing this technique to quantify all the stockpiles in a massive stockyard can take days to accomplish. Moreover, it is associated with a risk factor. It lays the surveyor exposed to highly hazardous conditions (such as climbing up unstable stockpile surfaces, dealing with and working in close proximity of heavy equipment’setc.) .Often it becomes necessary to halt the operations while surveying work is in progress, owing to the hindrances it follows.

The alternative - How drone came into the picture

As it is being said, necessity is the mother of invention. Manual operations are generally more prone to errors (especially human error) and at the same time it is also a very time consuming process. Moreover, in addition to that traditional methods are generally very costly. In order to device an efficient technique, drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) were invented.

Drone is an unmanned, compact-sized aircraft equipped with a high resolution camera, controlled autonomously through software or guided by a pilot along a customized pre-defined flight line. It is employed to yield high quality, measurable data sets.


Perks of using a drone

•Rapid: While manual operations are very slow, subjective and time consuming, drones on the other hand can speed up the process to 10 times as they can measure thousands of points in a fraction of seconds, which otherwise will take a duration of several days to accomplish.

•High-Accuracy: Various user tests have found that when following best practices, drones yield results with 1-2% accuracy in comparison to the traditional ground-based manual measurements.

Drones to capture terrain data for use in aerial maps that help calculate volumes, capacity void and settling without the risks associated.

•High-Precision: In a single go a drone can record height samples of thousands of points within the polygon boundary. Conceptually, this is similar to a surveyor climbing across a stockpile taking thousands of elevation points – though clearly much safer!

        Volumetric measurements using drones yield more accurate, detailed and precise calculation.

•Safer: As drones are unmanned devices and are remotely accessed, hence they certainly outcast the human risk factor and avoid several potential hazardous scenarios that a surveyor is exposed to.

                       Remote access of drones makes them safer and risk-free.

•Cost-Effective: Conventional surveying methods are accompanied with considerable amount of monetary input owing to various factors, including the cost of field equipment’s used in surveying. The usage of drones has rendered investment in such articles worthless, reducing the total cost to half.

•Quality data: High-Resolution Images (up to 1cm, 2cm and 3 cm) captured by drone provides even the minute details of stockpile surface geometry that helps in generating highly detailed maps hence making analysis easier.

                                Aerial map of a gravel pit and stockyard mapping showing high-resolution imagery.

•Real-time information: The time lag between measuring stockpiles and analyzing their surface models so generated, is very less, henceforth making all the calculation real-time. 

                                               Periodic and real-time information is accessible using drones.

•Wide-area coverage: Drones are made to move over a particular area of interest in a straight line (or combination of straight lines). In a single swath, they are capable of covering a very wide area horizontally depending upon the height of camera attached to it.

•Easy Modeling: Drone makes the volumetric calculations of stockpile almost effortless. Much of the man-force that can get extremely exhausted in site surveying, now can channelize their efforts more into its implication part i.e. deskwork. Also, mechanically generated data outcast the efforts of manual input - saving much time and minimizing error.

                              Customized stockpile areas can be effectively measured and modeled using drones.

•Periodic updates: Stockpile volumetric calculations helps, say, a mining company’s site manger to make decisions about whether to extract or process more materials to fill their orders. So using drone helps them to have up-to-date information.

•Facilitative Monitoring: Since drones are pretty faster and cheaper than traditional techniques, they can be run over quite periodic (and quite frequently too) to monitor even the minute changes in stockpiles.

                                Measurements of a stockpile at different intervals are being compared for analysis.

Sectors using drone service 

  • Mining
  • Oil & gas
  • Construction
  • Forestry
  • Agriculture/Vegetation management
  • Town planning
  • Urban planning
  • Road and railway corridor mapping
  • Utilities
  • Governance requirements
  • Search and rescue
  • Preserving the past and aiming for excellence
  • Intelligence and Securit

SATPALDA is a privately owned company and a leading provider of satellite imagery and GeoSpatial services to the user community. Established in 2002, SATPALDA has successfully completed wide range of photogrammetric and Remote Sensing Projects.

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