How to Create and Share Stockpile Reports with Propeller

Quarry mine stockpile

A streamlined solution for a once cumbersome process, drone surveying and data processing software make it easy for worksite teams to measure stockpiles and produce stockpile reports—cheaply, easily, and as often as necessary. The answers you need from stockpile data are literally right at your fingertips, just a few clicks away.

In this post, we’ll explore stockpile reporting from A to Z, including how to navigate drone stockpile software options, accurately measure stockpiles, generate stockpile reports, and share site data with the people and organizations counting on accurate project updates.

But first, why run stockpile reports at all?

Key benefits of stockpile reporting

With drone surveying and data processing and visualization software, you can count on exact stockpile measurements and get volume updates more frequently than ever before. This improved accuracy enables teams to tighten up worksite operations, from financial forecasting to supply-chain management to accurate reconciliation.

mesuring stockpiles volume with drones

 

1. Better financial forecasting

The benefits of drone surveying trickle down to the administrative side of your operations. Having accurate stockpile volume data on hand—and readily shareable—improves financial forecasting. “Fluff factors” and “eyeballing it” in inventory management has become a thing of the past.

 

2. Tighter supply-chain management

mine quarry stockpile inventory rock and ramp

Knowing what you actually have on site also allows you to tighten up supply-chain management. Stockpile reports give quick asset snapshots, from when you need more stock to how much is needed. If you are your own supplier, easily plan out when you need to start drilling and blasting. If an external supplier is used, you can plan out purchases and calculate a more accurate budget. Never get surprised by a big order again.

 

3. See how much worksite inventory is worth

With material property calculators built in, all of the reporting can reveal actual dollar values of your piles—or the money sitting in the whole stockyard. See just how much inventory is worth with every single stockpile report.

Inventory value stockpile report

 

What to look for in drone stockpile reporting software

Perhaps the most important aspect of surveying stockpiles with a drone is the ability to quickly see and understand the story the data is telling you. Stockpile reporting and sharing software should make your life easier, with these key features:

  • Easy, automated report creation.
  • A wide range of reporting options, with report types applicable to your day-to-day job (from raw data to CSV and PDF file formats).
  • An automation feature for frequently repeated tasks, like stockpile detection.
  • Built-in exporting tools that allow sharing stockpile reports with team members and stakeholders.

How to create and share stockpile reports

Creating and sharing stockpile reports doesn’t have to be difficult. By using drones for surveying and worksite data processing software, you can master stockpile reporting in four steps. We’ll dive further into each step below.

Step 1: Survey stockpiles using a drone.

Step 2: Measure stockpile volumes.

Step 3: Generate stockpile reports.

Step 4: Share your stockpile reports with team members and stakeholders.

 

Step 1: Survey stockpiles using a drone

Before you can generate stockpile reports, you need to gather accurate stockpile data to draw from. Enter drone surveying. “Drone surveying,” at its core, means using a drone to take aerial photos of your site and some form of GPS and ground control to tie the images down.

With recent technological advancements, there are two major workflows to measure your stockpiles: GCP-based drone surveying and PPK drone surveying.

Drone surveying with traditional ground control

For this workflow, you need a sufficient number of known points to verify and pin your drone imagery to the ground, because a drone without on-board GPS correctional processing capabilities is only a vehicle for capturing site imagery.

Having multiple GCPs on your site when surveying ensures survey-grade accuracy, but they can be time-consuming to set up on a large worksite. There are a couple of ways to set up traditional ground control:

As recently as a few years ago, the planning, risk assessment, and legwork associated with setting up ground control has been a necessary, if unwanted, sacrifice.

Drone surveying with onboard GPS correctional processing changes the need for ground control

PPK drones are able to accurately geotag and correct their GPS data, which reduces the number of necessary ground control points. While there are different kinds of GPS correctional processing technology, we’ll be covering PPK here.

how ppk drone works

(If you want to learn more about RTK, check out our Drone Surveying Explained: From GCPs to PPK ebook.)

PPK stands for “post-processing kinematic.” With PPK capability, the drone geotags X, Y, and Z coordinates to each image based on its GPS unit. While this happens, a base (be it a base station, an AeroPoint, or the CORS network) on the ground is also recording positional information, but with much more accurate triangulation.

After the flight is completed, those two sets of GPS data are matched up using the timestamp recorded when the drone takes a picture. Now that we know the offset after the fact, the initial, less-than-accurate onboard GPS data can be overwritten, giving precise geotags for the imagery.

Due to its ease of use and reliability, we recommend a PPK workflow for drone surveying on any site—from mines to landfills and every construction site in between.

Drone photogrammetry: turning your site data into a 3D survey

measuring quarry stockpile volume using drone data

When that data is processed into the final product—a 3D site survey—powerful processing engines are crunching numbers for many, many images and using photogrammetry to stitch them all together.

At its most basic, “photogrammetry” is measuring via photos. Essentially, if you see the same feature from three or more known positions, you can triangulate its location in space (get those exact X, Y, and Z coordinates). A feature is any visually distinct point in an image.

The more features you match, the better you can relate images to each other and reconstruct objects within them. This is exactly what photogrammetry software does for one feature, and the next, and the next, and so on, until it’s covered your entire site.

Once you have a lot of these features—think millions—a “cloud” of points is created. Each point has a matched feature describing the surveyed area in that location. The point cloud can then be turned into any regular outputs used in geospatial software, like a 3D mesh or digital elevation model (DEM).

point cloud view in drone photogrammetry
Point cloud view of a quarry site

 

Step 2: Measure stockpile volumes

Stockpile volume measurement

Once you’ve conducted a drone survey and processed your data, it’s time to measure the volume of your stockpiles. When it comes down to it, processing platforms like Propeller make this traditionally labor-intensive task simple and painless.

There are different types of stockpiles—from ramp- to bin-style to regular—and they need to be measured accordingly. Considering that, here are a few examples of the different ways you can measure volumes.

  • 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 is extrapolating where the base of your pile is and giving you a total volume from there.

Smart volume icon

  • Compare volumes between two surfaces. This could be survey to survey in order to see change 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 calculator to get the tonnage for any stockpile.

stockpile tonnage calculator
Let’s say, for example, you want to find how much material has been added or removed to a stockpile since your last drone survey.

Simply select the Polygon tool inside the Propeller Platform, and draw a line around the base of the stockpile. In an instant, Propeller will “take” the thousands of recorded height samples within the boundary of this polygon. Conceptually, this is similar to a surveyor climbing across a stockpile taking thousands of elevation points—though clearly much safer.

Next, Propeller compares these height readings (from your current survey dataset) to those from your previous survey (at exactly the same horizontal locations). Volume changes are expressed as either positive change, where material has been added (labeled Fill) or negative change, where material has been removed (labeled Cut).

You can also see the “Net” change (Fill + Cut).

It’s also possible to view changes in stockpile volumes as a cross section. In this case, Propeller reads the recorded height samples from various distinct datasets along a line that have been drawn, and renders the results on an interactive chart.

cross section survey chart

For stockpile measurement accuracy tips and tricks, read about best practices for volume measurements using the Propeller Platform.

 

Step 3: Generate stockpile reports

We’ve written about tools and methods of stockpile measurement and how it works, but once you have volumes in hand, what happens next? You need to be able to generate stockpile reports and share them with stakeholders. After all, it doesn’t do any good to have a bunch of data that can’t be readily used and shared.

A step-by-step to generating stockpile reports using propeller

  1. Draw a polygon around the stockpile in question, double-click, and choose which kind of volume measurement you want.
  2. Next, navigate to the top right-hand menu and click on Reports.
  3. Choose either PDF or CSV.
  4. Click Download Full Report.

The data that appears on stockpile reports can be easily customized. After you click Download Full Report, simply use the check boxes in the Report Settings sidebar to add or eliminate data sets.

CSV reports automatically include:

  • Name, description, and any material properties.
  • All measurement quantities based on how you created the measurement.
  • A link to each individual measurement.

PDF reports automatically include:

  • Name, description, and any material properties.
  • All measurement quantities based on how you created the  measurement.
  • Full orthophoto of the site.
  • Image of each measurement, including the outline.
  • A link to each individual measurement.

If you’ve added monetary values to stockpile materials, the stockpile’s value will also be listed in these reports for each individual pile.

 

Step 4: Share your stockpile reports with team members and stakeholders

Sharing stockpile reports should be as simple as generating stockpile reports. With the Propeller Platform, it is.

Share individual stockpile reports

If you just want to share a single stockpile measurement with a manager or team member, you can do so with a quick link via email or chat. When the recipient clicks the link, it will open the Site in the Platform to show the measurement selected and the camera focused on that pile.

Share reports of your entire site

Propeller also allows sharing your site with others through the Platform itself. All that is needed is an email address. Easily set up permissions at a granular level for individuals or teams—from view-only to administrator.

 

 

Want to learn more about stockpile measurement and reporting? Download our guide to Stockpile Measurement and Reports with Drone Surveying.

Stockpile measurement and reporting guide

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