Stockpile with profile section line

Volume calculations with a drone – faster, safer & cheaper

A quarry with many dangers for a traditional survey crew measuring volumes and site progress

Quarry, landfill or earthwork surveys can be carried out with a drone survey
quickly, cheaply and safely without the risk of trips, falls, spills and collisions
A drone earthworks survey can delivers volumes calculations in hours not weeks

Earthwork volume calculations are often performed in the field by land surveyors or civil engineers. Earthworks surveys are needed to calculate the total volume of earthworks for a given project. Earthworks surveys are often repeated and volume calculations are compared over time. This can be done in two ways:

– by surveying the area and calculating the volumes and dimensions of earthworks or stockpiles with a drone land survey using photogrammetry or lidar survey data

– by surveying the area, taking measurements from a topographical survey using traditional land survey equipment, and calculating volumes from that data.

Stockpile volume calculations from drone survey data

Stockpile volume calculations from drone survey data

Traditional volume surveys happen at a snail’s pace compared to a drone volumetric survey.

Traditional land survey of a quarry
Traditional land survey of a quarry

Traditional Land Surveying is relatively time-consuming, expensive, and requires a lot of manpower to be carried out successfully. A Land Surveyor walks the whole site, recording the 3d shape and position of coded points. This poses several health and safety risks that a drone survey can mitigate.

Features are mapped, a triangle terrain model is produced, and contours are extracted. Stockpile volumes and earthwork volumes can then be calculated based on that digital terrain model. Sequential comparisons with restoration levels, design levels, and erosion or deposition patterns can be accurately compared over time. Each survey could take days to survey and process. Repeat visits could be quite a drawn-out process.

Ground-based laser scanning is much quicker than a traditional survey but still poses all of the same health and safety risks and would take hours to measure. Mobile mapping with a handheld laser scanner would be quicker still. All ground-based methods would have gaps in the data because of line-of-sight issues. More observations, stations and scan points would overcome this at the expense of time.

A drone survey is far, far quicker.

Detailed stockpile volume breakdowns

Specific quarry products are segregated into different clamps. This kind of survey with more complicated shapes by traditional means in three dimensions would take a long time and pose many hazards for the surveyors on the ground. Each stockpile volume in cubic units can be calculated separately, aggregated by type and size, and the total volume for all products on site is calculated quickly with a drone. Many traditional surveys would represent this data as flat two-dimensional plans. Information in three dimensional space is much more valuable than information in two dimensions.

complex three dimensional stockpiles surveyed quickly with a drone
complex three dimensional stockpiles surveyed quickly with a drone

Measuring volumes with a drone is safer, quicker and more cost-effective

To make data collection more rapid, safer and more cost-effective, drones are being used as an alternative for surveying. Survey-grade data is rapidly collected across a site in a much smaller time frame. A traditional survey often involves repeat visits every few weeks to help accurately monitor how much material has been moved on and off-site. Using a drone for data collection is much quicker. A drone can cover far larger areas with less risk of personnel injury from falls or machinery on difficult terrain. By reducing the time frame of data collection, it is possible to increase the frequency of surveys. Often tracking changes in near real-time. Reducing the interval allows more accurate tracking of changes and less estimation between surveys.

Clogworks drone with Riegl laser scanner payload

Clogworks drone with Riegl Lidar scanner

Drone deliverables are also better

Each visit provides an orthographic photograph or a 3D photorealistic model of the whole site, a topographical survey, and a volume report. A rapid Lidar Survey with a drone can yield almost instant answers with little processing time compared to photogrammetry. Both photogrammetry and Lidar are quicker than a traditional volumetric survey and produce tight point cloud data of the survey area. A traditional survey inevitably has an element of estimation, but a skilled land surveyor chooses their survey points wisely to maximize the accuracy of the digital terrain model. Even so, points between the survey points are interpolated on a traditional survey. Every nook and cranny is measured with a drone survey, removing much of the guesswork for a surveyor. Our skilled and experienced surveyors can ensure the survey accurately reflects the real-world terrain. Ensuring accurate volume calculations. Errors in the traditional data collected and the model produced can make huge and costly differences. Frequent shorter survey times allow for rates of movement and volumes to be accurately monitored, supplementing your normal weigh bridge with more qualitative and quantitative data. Ultimately, a drone mapping survey can deliver a 3d model or digital twin of both the terrain and physical assets on site.

Stockpile with profile section line

Stockpile with profile section line

Drone quarry survey: Preview of ortho projection image and DSM altitude layer with scale
Drone quarry survey: Preview of ortho projection image and DSM altitude layer with scale. Click to see more about Nantmawr Quarry – modelled within 10 hours
3d digital twin of a quarry

3d Model of quarry

166 million triangle Model with 1.68 gigapixel textured mesh

What industries and professions can benefit from drone volumetric surveys

Construction industry

– monitor your site, volumes imported and exported and building progress

  • General contractors
  • Project managers
  • Site engineers
  • Civil engineers

Mining and quarrying industry

– rapidly measure your site and compare volumes over time

  • Mining engineers
  • Quarry managers
  • Geologists
  • Environmental consultants

Land development and real estate

– produce cut and fill sections and volumes to help with planning

  • Land developers
  • Property owners
  • Urban planners
  • Landscape architects

Government agencies

– understand and manage your assets

  • Public works departments
  • Transportation departments
  • Water management agencies
  • Environmental regulatory bodies

Environmental management

– measure the capacity of the floodplain, retention volumes of defence bunds and structures, earthworks & restoration fill volumes

  • Environmental engineers
  • Environmental consultants
  • Waste management professionals
  • Landfill managers

Agriculture and farming

– measure the volume of stockpiles of feed, fertiliser, crops and storage capacity

  • Farm owners
  • Agricultural engineers
  • Irrigation specialists
  • Soil conservationists

Engineering firms

– monitor earthworks, embankments and cuttings

  • Civil engineers
  • Geotechnical engineers
  • Structural engineers
  • Hydraulic engineers

Floodplain management

– measure the capacity of the floodplain and the watercourse, retention volumes of defence bunds and structures,

  • Floodplain managers
  • Hydrologists
  • Emergency management professionals

Other professions and users volume data

  • GIS specialists
  • Architectural and design firms
  • Architects
  • Landscape architects
  • Interior designers
  • Urban designers
  • Property owners and managers
  • Homeowners
  • Commercial property owners
  • Facility managers
  • Property management companies

Volume surveys: FAQs

What is a volumetric survey, and why is it important for my project?

A volumetric survey is a specialized type or unit of land survey that focuses on measuring volumes, such as earthworks, stockpiles, or water bodies. It is essential for various projects, including construction, mining, agriculture, and environmental management, as it provides accurate resource allocation, planning, and monitoring information. Sometimes it is as simple as working out how much space you have.

How much does a volumetric survey cost?

The cost of a volumetric survey depends on factors like the project size, complexity, and the frequency of the needed surveys. We will aim to give you a bespoke quote for your project. If you manage several sites, this can also have a bearing on the price.

What factors affect the accuracy of volume measurements in a survey?

The accuracy of volume measurements in a survey can be affected by the surveying method, equipment used, terrain, and weather conditions. As skilled surveyors, we will minimize these factors by employing appropriate techniques and technology. Sometimes, we will use multiple types of equipment to carry out an accurate survey. This will be with a drone as the most comprehensive and repeatable method of gathering data safely and very quickly.

What are the common applications of volumetric surveys in various industries?

Volumetric surveys are commonly used in construction, mining, agriculture, environmental management, and waste disposal industries. They help with tasks like calculating earthwork volumes, measuring stockpiles, managing landfills, and determining water storage capacity. Measuring the volume of voids can be equally important.

How long does it take to complete a volumetric survey?

The time required to complete a volumetric survey depends on the project’s size and complexity.
Using traditional ground surveys, smaller projects may take a few days, while larger or more complex projects could take weeks.
With a drone volume calculation survey, with photogrammetry, a volume survey would be completed in less than a couple of hours, even on a large site. Data processing of the images takes some time but is still considerably shorter than a traditional survey.
A lidar volumes survey with a drone would take the same amount of time to fly, but the results would be available on-site within minutes for initial calculations and the full results a day or so later.

What are the key considerations when commissioning a surveyor for volume calculations?

When commissioning a surveyor for volume calculations, key considerations include their experience, qualifications, use of modern equipment and technology, and understanding of your project’s specific requirements.

What kind of equipment and technology is used in volumetric surveys?

Volumetric surveys often utilize advanced equipment and technology, such as GPS, 3D laser scanning, aerial photogrammetry, and drone mapping, to ensure accurate measurements and detailed data.

How can a volumetric survey help optimize earthwork and material management in my project?

A volume survey can help optimize earthwork and material management by providing precise volume calculations. This information enables better resource allocation, cost estimation, and project planning.

What should I expect in the final report or deliverables from a volumetric survey?

After a volumetric survey, you should expect a detailed report including volume calculations, methodology, data, and visuals (e.g., maps, charts, or 3D models). This report will be crucial for informed decision-making and project management.

Are volume calculations for just big projects?

No. Even small sites can have a need for volume calcs. For example, the survey below was about potential planning enforcement on a site where material had been imported. Sections through the site compared to historical data show the amount of fill.

Planning: volume check survey for potential enforcement
Planning: volume check survey for potential enforcement
Planning: volume check survey for potential enforcement sowing section through imported material
Planning: volume check survey for potential enforcement sowing section through imported material

If you would like a volumetric survey, cut and fill calculations for your project that will save you time and money, and get you the results you need with improved safety on site then ask us for a quote today.

Safer, quicker & cheaper