Why You Should Use a Drone For Your Volumetric Surveys

Leading suppliers of excavators and construction equipment across the globe is estimated to be around $113 billion in 2020.

But, providing the machinery and equipment to support an industry, which struggles with inefficiency, would beg the question: Why aren’t most suppliers trying to offer an end-to-end solution?

Companies like Caterpillar, Bobcat, JCB and Terex all supply hardware to leaders within the construction industry, but what can drone technology offer to these companies? 

We have already started to see some manufacturing companies embrace this technology and partner with software providers to help with some inefficiencies. And, at the top of the list is managing stockpiles & forecasting, and volumetric surveys. 

Removing it from the ground is one thing, but managing accurate stock and knowing the volume is key for forecasting and logistics. Traditional surveying methods of stockpile volume calculation rely on site personnel to perform ground surveys with a Global Navigation Satellite Systems — such as GPS — receiver to determine the exact position of each measured point with pinpoint accuracy.

Using drones allows volumetric surveys to be completed in a fraction of the time it takes to conduct conventional surveys, leading to lower costs, higher productivity and improved safety.

By performing volumetric surveys with drones, you will get qualitative and quantitative data supplied in a 3D format, as well as aerial photography and video.

How accurate are volumetric surveys?

Drone surveys are proven to be more accurate than traditional ground surveying methods. And, trusting the calculations are key for site management and accounting. 

The measurements and calculations of material is key for multiple reasons:

  • Available stock to sell
  • Duration of project
  • Volumes and resources needed for earthworks extraction etc. 
  • Forecasting

Companies often perform stockpile inventory on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis, in order to carry out reporting.

Software providers such as Propeller Aero, Hybird and Pix4d all enable data to be scrutinizsed and converted into real-world context whilest enabling you to pick the important information from it. 

 

LISTEN NOW: Mohamed Hafez of HyBird Technologies discusses capturing the process with UAV data

 

According to Propeller Aero, the company “creates tools and software for construction companies, mines, quarries, and landfills to collect, process, and visualize accurate survey data. Some of the world’s leading heavy civil and resources operations trust Propeller to answer critical questions about their site’s progress, productivity, work quality, and safety.”

The data collected can also be used within different departments of any organization. New aerial images and 3D models could be used for marketing communications, or to communicate with local authorities about the project.

For companies like Caterpillar, Bobcat, JCB and Terex, to actively promote innovative ways to assist their key customers could see an increase in demand for their own products.  

Volumetric surveys with a drone
DEM - digital elevation model. Product made after processing pictures taken from a drone. It shows mine area and aggregate storage

Expert-Level UAS Support

At Consortiq, our UAS team can help you provide this level of service without the major investment of technology and/or platforms.

Our drone pilots can gather the information for you, and they provide the key results and data you need. We also use different software providers, depending on your specific requirement, all while delivering exceptional service. 

We recently wrote about the different aspects to consider when making the decision to choose a provider or start an in-house drone program.

Whichever choice you make, it’s important to consult with UAS experts prior to getting started. Experienced consultants will help you to identify your specific needs and explore the best fit to meet those needs. You’ll also get support on creating operations manuals, safety guidelines, and regulation requirements.

No matter what you choose, Consortiq has a solution for you. From unmanned data services that include aerial surveys and mapping, to extensive global remote pilot training and drone consultancy, we’ll help you put the right plan in place.

Need expert-level support? Just complete the form below or call us at 1-855-203-8825 (Americas) or +44 (0)208 0450 322 (Europe) to get started!

Lee Barfoot - Sales & Marketing EMEA at Consortiq

Lee Barfoot - Sales & Marketing EMEA at Consortiq

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Get More Accurate Data in Less Time With Aerial Surveys

There already exists an impressive list of use cases for drones across a diverse set of industries.

Some UAV applications are seeing positive but limited use, such as drones designed for planting trees. Other UAV solutions are becoming more widespread and commonplace. One of the most prevalent UAV solutions is aerial surveying.

Surveying is essential to many of the largest sectors of the global economy. Construction, mining, oil and gas, real estate, and several other industries rely on accurate survey data for building, project management, and other onsite operations.

Traditionally, these industries have used ground survey methods to collect the data needed to create outputs, such as 3D models, topographic maps, volumetric estimates, orthomosaics, and other photogrammetry products.

Drones are more cost-effective for the task than land-survey crews. And, for many businesses, they’re the best option available.

The benefits of aerial surveying are fueling greater adoption of UAV technology. If you’re looking for a faster, safer way to conduct surveys, then drone-use might just be the solution.

How Aerial Surveys Work

Drone aerial surveying is a form of photogrammetry, or measuring distance using pictures.

There are several programs on the market that make planning and executing aerial survey flights almost automatic. 

When conducting an aerial survey, remote pilots fly the drone  over the subject area, with the camera pointing downward. As the drone flies on a predetermined course, pictures are taken at different angles and in an overlapping fashion.

Additionally, the drone’s GPS receiver records coordinates for the center point of each photograph.

After photos are uploaded to photogrammetry software, the data is converted into any number of products, such as topographic maps or 3D models.

How Accurate Are Drone Aerial Surveys?

So, how accurate are they?

The short answer is that, with the right drone and additional equipment, they’re just as accurate as ground-based surveys. And, they cover more areas, such as dangerous terrain.

Aerial surveys include both relative and absolute accuracy. Relative accuracy is the accuracy between two images or points the drone collects. Absolute accuracy is how accurate the aerial survey is to the Earth’s surface.

Drones use GPS receivers to record the coordinates assigned to a given image they collect. GPS receivers. on most drones, have high relative accuracy but are not as accurate in absolute terms.

That means the data they collect can quickly be processed into 3D maps and other products, but some calibration is necessary to align with the Earth’s surface and yield survey-level absolute accuracy.

To achieve this, tools called Ground Control Points (GCPs) are added to the aerial surveyor’s kit. GCPs are markers on the ground whose location is recorded using handheld or built-in GPS receivers with a very high absolute accuracy level.

When the coordinates for these points are compared to the drone’s data, the relative data points are calibrated, and highly accurate survey data is produced.

The Benefits of Aerial Surveys

There are several significant benefits to using aerial survey platforms, as opposed to land-based survey teams.

If your business uses land-based teams, switching to aerial surveys can produce a noticeable difference in your bottom line.

Additionally, It saves you a substantial amount of time. UAVs cover a large amount of ground in a short time frame. Some drones are capable of completing surveys 80% faster than traditional methods.

Also, many environments that require surveys are dangerous. Construction sites, open-pit mines, or even areas affected by natural disasters pose severe threats to humans looking to survey the area.

Drones offer standoff from the immediate danger while still allowing for accurate surveys to be completed. Additionally, drones typically do not require an active site to be shut down for your survey team’s safety.

Land-based survey teams often require advanced scheduling and several days or even weeks to complete a project.

And, the low cost of capable UAV platforms allows for most operations to have in-house drone capabilities. This convenience means surveys can be conducted whenever needed, without the hassle of scheduling surveyors or using outside resources.

Aerial surveys with drones are quickly becoming the standard. As technology continues to improve, UAVs will likely command a larger share of the survey market. If you are currently using traditional survey methods, invest the time to investigate aerial survey options further with a qualified consultant.

Bringing It All Together

Aerial surveys with drones are quickly becoming the standard.

As technology continues to improve, UAVs will likely command a larger share of the survey market.

Are you looking to a better way to conduct your surveys? We’re here to help. Whether you want to outsource or create your own in-house program , Consortiq offers Drones-as-a-Service, a full complement of training, and continued operational support.

Ready to get started? Just complete the form below!

Or, click here to learn more about aerial surveys by Consortiq!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

LiDAR and Drone Uses

When it comes to UAV payloads, thermal and Red Green Blue (RGB) cameras get a great deal of attention.

With low price points, the technology is easily accessible to just about everyone. Several standard drone missions, such as three-dimensional mapping, are effortlessly carried out using it. There are, however, limitations to using only these two types of payloads on drones.

Thermal cameras are ideally suited for inspections where temperature variations are the primary data points. Beyond this function they are, by design, limited.

RGB cameras are excellent tools for photogrammetry. While this survey method is accurate and useful in a wide range of applications, it is also not without its limitations. For example, drones with RGB cameras can survey vacant land in preparation for development. In most cases, the images collected can produce precise three-dimensional models and topographic maps that planners will find useful.

However, if this same land were covered in thick, dense vegetation, the RGB camera would fail to give planners any information on the actual earth’s surface. For this type of analysis, RGB and thermal cameras are not the best tools for the job.

What is LiDAR and how does it work?

Invented in 1961 by the Hughes Aircraft Company, LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is ideal for the type of analysis mentioned above. LiDAR systems consist primarily of three components: a laser, scanner, and a specialized GPS receiver.

LiDAR works by accurately measuring the distance from the drone to the ground. A laser is fired millions of times from the LiDAR scanner towards the ground as the drone flies a predetermined pattern. As each pulse of light is emitted, the exact time the light is fired is recorded. As the light pulse is reflected, the scanner detects the return and again marks the exact time the light returned.

The specialized GPS receiver records the exact position of the sensor throughout this process. An equation that utilizes the constant speed of light generates a slant range for each beam of light fired. When all the data is compiled, millions of points on the ground produce an accurate representation of the earth’s surface and features above it.

The data points are so numerous and so precise that layers of vegetation or other obstacles can be removed to show the topography of the region. One light pulse can generate multiple returns and thus, layer the area being surveyed. The technology has seen successful use in many fields such as disaster response, high precision infrastructure monitoring, and topographic/hydrographic survey.

 

Types of LiDAR for UAS, and the industries that benefit

UAVs use two types of lidar.

For measuring the earth’s surface, topographic LiDAR is ideal. It utilizes a near-infrared laser for mapping land.

The second type — bathymetric LiDAR — is designed for surveying the seafloor and riverbeds. It uses a green laser to penetrate water, but operates on the same principles as described above.

LiDAR systems on UAS provide professionals across many industries the ability to map the earth’s most challenging environments. The level of accuracy spread across millions of data points is particularly beneficial to construction planners, as well as those monitoring utility infrastructures. Hard-to-see features, such as powerlines, are easily identified by LiDAR. These features can also be isolated from other features, aiding in in-depth analysis.

There is perhaps a no better example of the power of LiDAR than in archeology. The incredibly dense jungles of Central America were home to one of the ancient world’s greatest civilizations, the Mayan. The Mayans built vast cities with massive structures. 

After a mysterious decline and disappearance in 900 A. D., many of their cities were swallowed up by the jungle. Dense jungle canopies all but erased many locations. Traditional investigation methods, such as aerial surveys in aircraft, see only vast expanses of the jungle.

However, LiDAR systems on crewed aircraft and drones are revolutionizing what researchers know about the Mayans. LiDAR can remove the vegetation and show what lies underneath. In some cases, its identified previously unknown locations with tens of thousands of structures. LiDAR is helping to expand this ancient civilization’s study in ways that seemed unimaginable just a few years ago.

Bringing it all together

Drones carrying LiDAR payloads are a power tool.

With only a few years of UAV technology and lidar working together, impossible topographic challenges are becoming increasingly simple tasks. For decision makers in construction, utilities, survey, and research, the advantages of UAVs carrying LiDAR are worth further investigation.

Want to know which drone platform works best for your project? Need help with gathering unmanned data or policy development? We’re here to help! 

Complete the form below to get started!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Construction and the Benefits of Drones

In recent years, UAV technology has been one of the standout tools aiding the construction industry.

 
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the construction industry is one of the largest in the global economy.

Approximately $10 trillion is spent annually on construction sector goods and services. With such an enormous amount of money dedicated each year, roughly 13% of the world’s GDP, experts are always looking for ways to increase productivity.

The most impactful solutions, which promise greater efficiencies, originate from innovation and technology. In recent years, UAV technology has been one of the standout tools aiding the construction industry. In many cases, drones are not only more efficient at a given task, but also more cost-effective. 

For those reasons, they present many stakeholders with win-win solutions.

Within the construction industry, some typical applications of drones include: Mapping and surveying, inspections, safety and risk mitigation, equipment monitoring, and project management. 

Stakeholders at every level — from executives to site superintendents — find that the data collected from drones is both timely and useful. The ability to quickly launch a drone and gain a real-time assessment of an active construction site is a game-changer. 

Beneficial reasons to use drones in surveying and mapping

Surveying and mapping are two of the most widely used drone applications in construction. 

Traditionally, site surveys and mapping have required the services of a survey team. Once scheduled, these teams will take accurate measurements using tools such as 3D scanners and theodolites.  

Data collection

The data collected is analyzed and used to generate site maps, as well as a variety of other products. Some examples include stockpile volumetric measurements, site layout plans, and recording the progress of onsite work.

While the data gained from a ground survey team is accurate, there are some drawbacks to the method. In many cases, the teams are independent contractors that require advance scheduling. Oftentimes, work must be suspended in the survey area for safety reasons, and it takes time to analyze data and generate products.

Maintenance

Drones are easily maintained onsite with a minimal impact on existing operations. A small space for charging batteries and storing drones is all that is required.  

Training

Training pilots is easily accomplished, especially with the assistance of a company specializing in enterprise clients. 

Enterprises focused trainers typically offer courses in not only the basics of flying but also in mission-specific tasks such as mapping and data collection.

 

Recent: Drones in Oil & Gas – Safe, Fast, Effective

 

Accuracy

Advances in positioning sensors, and the quality of camera payloads, have increased the accuracy of drone surveys over the last few years. 

In fact, platforms such as DJI’s M210 RTK industrial drone can achieve a relative vertical accuracy of approximately 2 cm and a relative horizontal accuracy of 1.20 cm. 

Speed

Speed is another advantage. 

By some estimates, drones can complete a survey three-to-five times faster than ground survey personnel. There are numerous software platforms, such as Pix4D, that automate the process, allowing the pilot to focus solely on flying safely.

Accessibility

A final advantage of using UAVs for this task is accessibility. 

Drones can reach areas in steep terrain or dangerous environments with ease. 

For example, assume your construction project requires an initial survey of a cell tower in a remote section of the national forest.  Getting a survey team into the area with all their gear would likely be more challenging than using a drone. 

The terrain can also significantly restrict the ability of the team to use equipment, such as a theodolite. The aerial survey of a UAV is only minimally affected by these challenges.

Bringing It All Together

Drones have the real and proven potential to positively impact your bottom line. With a relatively low initial investment, stakeholders up and down the chain will see the benefit of adding drones to their construction operations.  

Whether you are looking for cost-saving initiatives, risk mitigation, increased situational awareness, improved equipment monitoring, or a real-time solution to project management, you should consider adding drones into your arsenal.

Want to know which drone platform works best for your project? Need help with gathering unmanned data or policy development? We’re here to help! 

Complete the form below to get started!

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

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