How Accurate is Drone Surveying

How Accurate is Drone Surveying in Quantifying Stockpiles?

Drones in Mining and Aggregates, Part Three: 

Drone surveying vs ground surveyingIn Parts One and Two of this series, we covered the steps involved in drone surveying, and then looked at one company’s economic breakdown of the cost savings experienced by integrating a commercial drone into daily operations.  Drone surveying is revolutionizing this process and saving a great deal of money (and time) for companies throughout the world.

Now we’ll address a common question in regards to quantifying stockpiles with UAVs: How accurate is drone surveying?

The Right Stuff: Superior Drone Surveying Equipment and Software is Paramount 

Subpar drone surveying equipmentPhotogrammetric accuracy in quantifying and mapping depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is equipment. Factors such as pixel resolution, lens quality, accuracy and control, quality of GPS, caliber of software, post-processing procedures and more all directly affect the accuracy of drone surveying.

Since drone surveying technology began to explode and the FAA eased restriction on using UAVs for commercial use, drone pilots have come out of the woodwork using off-the-shelf machines and sub-standard cameras, trying to pass as UAV professionals.

Drone surveying equipmentWhen it comes to specialization like measuring stockpiles and creating 3D mapping, cutting corners on equipment just won’t cut it. The equipment involved in accurate drone surveying isn’t cheap. At Diverse Flight Solutions, we use (and sell) advanced drone packages that run anywhere from around $15,000 up to $50,000 plus.  When the Tom, Dick and Harrys come out of the woodwork offering specialty services like this with substandard equipment, the drone surveying industry as a whole gets a black mark.

When a drone professional with the right equipment and proper volumetric software follows best practices, study after study has proven that drone surveying consistently comes within 1-2% accuracy compared to expensive and time-consuming professional ground surveys.

Continued on Page 2: Case Study on the Accuracy of Aerial Surveys

A Real World Look at How Aerial Surveys with Drone Technology are Revolutionizing the Industry

How Aerial Surveys with Drones Save Companies Money: A Real World Look

Drones in Mining and Aggregates, Part Two

Aerial surveys for stockpilesIn Part 1 of this series, we took a step-by-step look at our process of measuring stockpiles through aerial surveys in mining, aggregates and construction. The process itself is quick and efficient, particularly in comparison with traditional quantifying methods (i.e. “walking the piles”).

Whether a company decides to invest in its own drone package for recurring aerial surveys, or hires a qualified service provider to come out periodically (Diverse Flight Solutions does both in the state of Florida), this technology is saving mining and aggregate firms a great deal of money, time, as well as liability.

Now that you’ve seen the calculation process, let’s take a look at one company’s in-depth economic study comparing stockpile measurement done through conventional methods versus aerial surveys through drone technology.

Aerial Surveys Provide Substantial Savings for Alabama Contracting Company

This study, provided by Kespry, begins by adding up the company’s costs associated with quantifying stockpiles at three sites—each with a total of 30 large piles—over the course of a year.  Costs were broken down into three categories as follows:
mining and aggregate measurementAnnual Costs (Without Drone)

Manpower – Before incorporating aerial surveys, the company conducted four internal volumetric measurements over the course of the year. Each of the three sites took a week to quantify, which translated to a total of 576 hours at $30/hr for an annual total of $17,280 of employee manpower.

Equipment – The cost of the survey and GPS equipment was figured by the firm’s finance department to be $11/hr, adding up to $4,752 over the course of the year.

Third Party Expenses – Two external ground surveys were completed throughout the year as well. One was carried out via manned aircraft at a cost of $11,000 and another by ground at $4,800, for a third party total of $15,800.

Total Annual Cost: $37,832

Continued on Next Page: Annual Costs Using a Drone/Summary