How Drones are Used to Measure Stockpiles
Drones in Mining and Aggregates, Part One:
Word is starting to get out about commercial drones, and their ability to provide valuable aerial data, functional 3D models and accurately measure stockpiles in a fraction of the time required using traditional methods. While it’s not necessarily the drones that quantify the stockpiles—the high-tech cameras, sensors and data-analyzing software connected with the drones do the heavy lifting—this technology is helping mining operations and aggregate producers the world over to streamline essential tasks, thereby saving a great deal of time and money.
But how exactly does this drone technology work? Let’s start with some basics, including the steps involved in stockpile measurement, and then take a look at how drone technology is saving mining and aggregate businesses money and time in the real world (spoiler: it’s not only through stockpiles).
Why Are Drones in the News Right Now?
Before we get into the specifics, you might be wondering why drones are such a hot topic; particularly in the US. In August of 2016, the FAA officially began certification testing for commercial drone use without a pilot’s license. In order to legally provide a service like stockpile measurement in the past, one would need an actual pilot’s license and an exemption from the FAA, known as section 333.
Under the new rules, UAV pilots that are certified through the FAA via “Part 107” can legally provide commercial drone services in the United States. This allows businesses in a number of different industries to legally and more affordably use drone technology to streamline tasks and gain competitive advantage.
Drone Options: Purchase vs. Service
Companies can take advantage of this drone technology by either purchasing their own drone package (UAV, high-tech camera with essential sensors, software analysis package, etc) to quantify stockpiles or by hiring a qualified provider to come out and fly the site.
Buying a drone equipped to provide accurate stockpile data is, of course, not cheap. For this reason, the trend appears to favor the service model. The industry as a whole is still in its infancy, but qualified drone service providers like Diverse Flight Solutions can periodically fly a site to provide accurate inventory measurements of any number of stockpiles, as often as need. Price will often be reduced as frequency of service increases.