How Stockpile Volume Measurements Work in Drone Surveying

Stockpile measurements are the number-one use case when it comes to using drones on a worksite.

Ideally, a stockpile would be something with an easy volume to calculate, like a perfect cube or cone. But even in good cases, stockpiles are an irregular shape, which makes drones a great tool for volumetrics.

What makes surveying stockpiles with a drone different is that it can capture all those irregularities and faithfully renders them in your survey, thus allowing the computer to calculate the volume of the true shape, not a rough approximation.

This accuracy starts with the imagery. Unsurprisingly, drone photos capture significantly more detail than shooting points with a rover. Photos let you see the physical details between the individual points.

stockpile reporting measurement and

Both horizontally and vertically (Z values), drones are able to capture and render higher resolution data, that’s just as accurate as traditional surveying. And, the better your data is, the better your model. Correctly used, drones in conjunction with ground control can produce 3D surveys with 20–50mm accuracy.


How to measure stockpile volumes with drone survey data

There are different types of stockpiles—from ramp- and bin-style to regular—and you want to measure them accordingly.  The following are a few examples of the different ways you can measure volumes in the Propeller Platform.


  • Measure volume from a reference level. Set the baseline to a desired figure and get your total volume from there up.

reference level volume icon


  • Measure using a smart volume, and let the computer do the work. For a smart volume, the platform extrapolates where the base of your pile is and gives you a total volume from there.

Smart volume icon


  • Compare volumes between two surfaces. This could be survey to survey, in order to see changes and progress over time, or measure against a design surface to see how far you have left to go.

Volume compare icon


And because these volumes are accurate, you can enter in a known material density into the Platform’s on-screen calculator to get the tonnage for any stockpile.


Find the drone stockpile measurement software right for you

Drone imagery and ground control are only half of the puzzle. Your data, no matter how good, is useless unless you can visualize it. That’s where software comes in.

Beyond the digital model of your stockpiles, you want to make sure that the processing software has tools that increase efficiency and actually get you the answers you need from your data.  

For the Propeller Platform, measuring stockpile volume is simple and quick. To streamline accurate measurement and reporting, there are number of templates available to create common measurements you need on site. A few of which we touched on above, but beyond that Propeller allows you to copy measurements to multiple surveys—great for piles that don’t move around.

The real value, however, comes with calculating the material properties of your stockpiles. Using that built-in calculator you can find out the density of your material and the dollar value of your stockpile. Easily see how much money is really sitting in your stockyard.

You also want a software that allows you to automate repeated tasks.

If you have dozens of stockpiles, measuring each one can take more time that you’ve got. Propeller has automated stockpile detection, which reduces the time it takes to calculate volumes—and thus all other measurements—by automatically spotting all your stockpiles during data processing. So when you’re ready to do some site analysis, you can find all these piles in one fell swoop.  

Download our complete guide to stockpile measurement and reporting to learn more.

Stockpile measurement and reporting guide



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