Stockpile volume calculations from drone survey data

Volumetric Surveys: Precision Measurement for Efficient Resource Management

When precision in volume calculations is paramount, professionals turn to volumetric surveys. Integrating technologies like drones and 3D laser scanning, these surveys are vital for industries from mining to agriculture, directly impacting efficiency and financial management. This article provides a comprehensive look at how volumetric surveys work, their benefits, and their applications across various sectors.

Drone volume surveys: Key takeaways

A quarry with many dangers for a traditional survey crew measuring volumes and site progress
A quarry has many dangers for a traditional survey crew measuring volumes and site progress on the ground. A drone measures a site in minutes, whereas a ground survey measures in days. A drone survey saves money, in time and with accuracy. A drone survey is less risky than a ground survey

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones, have ushered in a new era in volumetric surveying. These flying marvels have not only streamlined data acquisition but have also made it more accurate and efficient. They have proven to be a game-changer in surveying, offering comprehensive data collection that is unparalleled by traditional methods. Using drones has also significantly improved site safety by reducing the need for personnel on the ground, thus minimizing the risk of workplace accidents.

However, the benefits of drone volume surveys are not limited to data acquisition and safety alone. By providing fast and accurate data, these surveys have potential financial implications as well. The precise data acquired from these surveys can save thousands of pounds by preventing costly errors in volume change calculations.

Understanding Volumetric Surveys

traditional survey methods in a quarry with a theodolite
Traditional survey methods in a quarry with a theodolite

Volumetric surveys are integral to industries that require high precision in volume calculations. These surveys play a pivotal role in assessing landscape changes, crucial for environmental research and landscape architecture. The mining and aggregates industries heavily rely on these surveys for accurate cut and fill volume assessments.

The advent of technology has significantly transformed traditional data capture methods. Advancements in volumetric survey techniques have led to more efficient and safer methods than traditional ones. Drone volumetric surveys, in particular, have revolutionized data capture, making it faster and more precise.

Technology at Work: Tools Used in Volumetric Surveys

Advanced tools like drones and UAVs are revolutionizing volumetric surveys. These devices capture images rapidly, eliminating the reliance on ground equipment and improving the process’s efficiency and cost-effectiveness. By providing more accurate data, UAVs enable better-informed resource management decisions, leading to productivity gains. A case in point is a UAV-enabled volumetric survey in a Portuguese quarry, which showcased this technology’s detailed mapping capabilities.

Besides drones and UAVs, 3D laser scanning and modelling are integral to volumetric surveys. These technologies generate detailed point clouds and precise surface geometries, enabling highly accurate volume calculations. The precision of volumetric surveys can exceed 98% with 3D laser scanning, significantly outperforming the accuracy rates of traditional survey methods. Hence, choosing a survey provider equipped with state-of-the-art technology is crucial to achieving high survey accuracy and operational efficiency.

Comparing Traditional and Modern Methods

Nantmawr Quarry drone survey - aerial photograph
Nantmawr Quarry drone survey – aerial photograph

Traditional methods for obtaining accurate volumes of stockpiles involved mathematical calculations based on common geometric shapes, which were often time-consuming. However, the advent of modern volumetric survey techniques like laser scanning and 3D modelling has enhanced precision and, in many cases, replaced these traditional survey and calculation methodologies.

Modern methods such as 3D laser scanning surpass aerial surveys and far exceed the lower accuracy rates of traditional methods like GNSS and total station. Aerial surveys using photogrammetry and LiDAR are fast and accurate, offering a bird’s-eye view of all areas, including challenging terrains that may not be visible from the ground.

The Importance of Accurate Volume Calculations

Accurate volume calculations are essential for maintaining volume accuracy in large-scale operations such as mining and construction, contributing to effective production and financial management. The precision of these calculations ensures good inventory accuracy, which is directly related to cost savings and the potential to increase sales volumes. To achieve this, it is crucial to properly calculate the required volumes by calculating volume with the right tools and techniques, such as using a reliable volume calculator.

Precise knowledge of stockpile volumes is vital for stakeholders like quarry managers, aggregate suppliers, and material merchants who deal with products such as timber, feeds, seeds, aggregates, and chippings. Volumetric surveys play a crucial role here, ensuring that the quantities of these materials are accurately measured and thus facilitating efficient resource management.

Accurately understanding the Volume of voids for restoration and fill calculations after excavation works and fill from waste management and landfill shouldn’t be forgotten. Neither should a sound understanding of straightforward area calculations as part of site management. Understanding a site’s capacity to hold more volume or how to move stock around a site efficiently can be critical.

Stockpile volume calculations from drone survey data
Stockpile volume calculations from drone survey data

Impact on Operational Efficiency

The impact of volumetric surveys on operational efficiency is profound. These surveys ensure accurate management of material quantities, which is essential for enhancing operational efficiency in large earthwork projects. Businesses leverage precise volume calculations from these surveys for better demand forecasting and production planning, contributing to smoother operations.

Moreover, accurate volume data from volumetric surveys lead to better resource management, allowing employees to efficiently manage the length of time spent on various tasks, such as:

These surveys are also pivotal in planning the effective transport of materials, optimizing load capacities, and delivery schedules for various commodities, including agricultural products, by considering the width of transportation equipment.

Financial Implications

Accurate volume calculations have significant financial implications. They ensure that financial statements reflect the true value of inventory on hand, which is important for managing profitability and making informed business decisions. Inventory accuracy, resulting from precise volume calculations, helps minimize costs associated with excess stock or stockouts, thus optimizing stock levels and reducing holding costs.

Accurate volume calculations are crucial for effective supply chain management. They allow for more accurate replenishment orders and proactive measures to reduce disruptions. These surveys also assist in calculating financial values by determining the volume of material removed or needed to fill in large excavation sites.

Implementing Volumetric Surveys in Various Industries

Volumetric surveys play a vital role across various industries. They offer detailed volume calculations essential for the construction, mining, and geology industries. From accurate measurements for resource management and infrastructure development to inventory tracking, volumetric surveys have proven to be an indispensable tool.

Moreover, environmental assessments benefit significantly from volumetric surveys. Accurate data about the quantity of resources extracted aids in sustainable land use and resource management.

Mining and Quarry Management

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

In the realm of mining and quarry management, volumetric surveys offer precise measurements crucial for resource management and safety. These surveys are essential for:

With safety being a primary concern in mining and quarries, volumetric surveys offer several benefits:

Materials staging and transportation

complex three dimensional stockpiles surveyed quickly with a drone
Complex three-dimensional stockpiles were surveyed quickly with a drone. The smaller peaks and troughs wouldn’t have been in as much detail or measured at all from the ground

Knowing stock levels can improve decision-making on sites where materials are imported, processed, and exported efficiently, particularly with ‘just in time’ management. Whether importing or exporting by road or rail, moving stock in a timely manner can help keep operating costs in check.

Storage clamps in aggregates marshalling yard
Closer view of the storage clamps in the above aggregates marshalling yard

Construction and Earthworks

Volumetric surveys play a critical role in construction and earthworks. They are essential in the pre-construction phase to establish accurate earthwork volumes, which are critical for budgeting and procurement of materials. During the construction phase, volumetric surveys are utilized to monitor site progress by comparing actual earth moved against project plans and adjusting work schedules and resource allocation as needed.

Accurate earthwork volume calculations from volumetric surveys enable contractors to submit precise progress reports and generate accurate invoices based on the actual amount and type of work completed. These surveys also contribute to environmental conservation by estimating the exact material quantities required for construction, minimizing unnecessary excavation and reducing the project’s environmental footprint.

Furthermore, volumetric surveys are key in quality control during construction, ensuring that earthworks align with design specifications before proceeding to subsequent construction stages.

Cut timber and Timber products

In the forestry and timber industries, drones significantly enhance the measurement and management of stockpile volumes for cut timber and timber products. This technology allows for precise volume assessments, which is crucial for optimizing inventory management and supply chain logistics. By accurately determining the amount of available stock, companies can improve operational efficiency, reduce waste, and better meet market demands. Drones also facilitate rapid assessments, enabling timely decisions and adjustments in production schedules. This approach not only supports the sustainable use of forest resources but also ensures that the timber industry can respond more effectively to consumer needs and environmental responsibilities.

Landfill and restoration works

Drone-assisted volumetric surveys in waste management precisely track waste volumes and site capacity, streamlining planning and compliance. This method is key for effective monitoring, environmental regulation adherence, and guiding eco-friendly restoration with minimal disturbance, especially in sensitive areas. It advances sustainable waste management by optimizing operational efficiency and reducing environmental impact.

Agriculture and Material Handling

In the agriculture and material handling industries, volumetric surveys offer significant benefits. These surveys help optimize storage solutions by providing accurate data on the space required for storing different types of agricultural products. For feedlots and agricultural storage facilities, volumetric surveys assist in managing feedstock inventory levels and ensuring that storage capacities are not exceeded.

Volumetric surveys are also used in agriculture for stockpile analysis to measure the volume of materials stored in large piles, such as feed or grain. This analysis enables precise planning and management of material resources in agricultural settings, helping to reduce waste and optimize production processes. Furthermore, volumetric surveys enable better forecasting in agriculture by providing precise measurements of product volumes, essential for supply chain management and market analysis.

Case Studies: Volumetric Surveys in Action

The impact of volumetric surveys is best understood through real-world examples. These surveys have significantly improved productivity in quarries and mines by providing accurate data for inventory management and operations. Companies in the construction industry have optimised project timelines and budgets after employing volumetric survey techniques to adjust their material needs and site plans.

Volumetric surveys have enabled better stock management and storage solutions for feeds, seeds, and other bulk materials in the agricultural sector. By facilitating the precise estimation of material volumes, they enhance resource management, contributing to more effective and economical material handling.

Boosting Quarry Productivity

Volumetric surveys have significantly boosted quarry productivity. With precise volume calculations of stockpiles, these surveys have transformed the way quarries operate. A recent case study demonstrated significant productivity improvements in a quarry after incorporating volumetric survey data into its operations.

Implementing advanced technologies like drones for aerial surveys has enabled more frequent and detailed volume measurements at the quarry. With 3D modelling as part of volumetric surveys, quarry managers can make more informed decisions regarding resource management and material extraction. As a result, the quarry reported an increase in the accuracy of stockpile volumes, leading to optimized operations and cost savings.

Streamlining Construction Projects

Volumetric survey data can be critical in streamlining construction projects. It allows for the optimization of project timelines and budget management. The quick turnaround time for volumetric survey data enables more accurate and timely decision-making in construction project management.

Even without a specific case study, most agree the benefits of volumetric surveys for construction projects include optimized timelines and cost savings.

Choosing the Right Volumetric Survey Provider

Choosing the right provider for volumetric surveys is crucial. A provider with a strong reputation for delivering quality results, evidenced by their experience in the industry, can be a valuable asset. It’s essential to investigate the provider’s history and client feedback to gauge their reputation and the reliability of their work.

Ensure the survey provider offers a comprehensive service range, including topographic surveys, road and utility mapping, and laser scanning to meet all project needs. It’s also important to verify the provider’s capability to handle the specific types of surveys required for your project, and their flexibility to manage varying survey requests.

Criteria for Selection

Certain criteria should guide the selection of a volumetric survey provider. The provider’s capabilities regarding the range of surveys they provide should be a primary consideration, ensuring they can meet the specific needs of various projects. Survey providers with a comprehensive service range, from topographic surveys to utility mapping, can handle numerous facets of a project with high precision.

Ensuring the survey provider has the appropriate certifications is crucial, representing a commitment to professional standards and industry best practices. A provider’s expertise and industry reputation can be evaluated through their portfolio and feedback from previous clients. The ability of a provider to adapt and manage survey requirements efficiently during varying periods of demand is also a vital consideration.

Why Partner with Us?

Partnering with us for your volumetric survey needs comes with several advantages. Our strong focus on our clients’ needs and our ability to exceed expectations reflect our client-centric business model. We offer personalized and tailored reporting that ensures the specific needs of each project are adequately addressed.

Our customers consistently express satisfaction with our prompt, professional service and the quick turnaround times of our processes. Our services seamlessly integrate with your company’s existing software systems, centralizing information and simplifying data management.

Ask us for a quotation today

We aim to make your life easier and equip you with cost-effective, accurate data so that you can make informed decisions and ensure the success of your project.


In conclusion, volumetric surveys are a powerful tool for industries requiring high precision in volume calculations. The use of advanced technologies, like drones and laser scanners, has revolutionized this process, offering increased efficiency, accuracy, and safety. Whether it’s optimizing quarry productivity, streamlining construction projects, or managing inventory in agriculture, volumetric surveys have proven to be indispensable. Moreover, choosing the right provider, one that understands your needs and can deliver accurate and timely data is crucial for maximizing the benefits of these surveys.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you calculate volume?

To calculate the volume of a 3D object, multiply the length, width, and height together. For example, if a fish tank has dimensions 3x1x2 meters, its volume is six cubic meters. Volumes from coordinates, complex curve geometry, and other geometrical shapes. Geometric Shapes and Formulas in Solid Geometry show some of the basic components. Survey software breaks them down more complicated shapes into manageable chunks, often from a triangle model or mesh of 3d triangular faces. Breaklines are added to help define the shape during a survey and make sure triangles fall the right way and at the right gradient. A surveyor will flip triangles and avoid creating crossing breaklines, which can confuse software, leading to errors.

What is a volumetric survey?

A volumetric survey accurately quantifies the volume of material removed from or placed at a location, often used to obtain volumes of material stockpiles or determine required fill. Conducted at different points in time, it involves comparing the results of two or more topographic surveys. It can involve surveys before, during and after movement and can involve calculations of the materials moved or the void left by movement

How have drones impacted volumetric surveys?

Drones have revolutionized volumetric surveys by providing rapid, accurate data collection, improving site safety, and making the process more cost-effective.

Why are accurate volume calculations important?

Accurate volume calculations are important because they ensure inventory accuracy, leading to cost savings, increased sales volumes, and enhanced operational efficiency in large-scale operations.

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David Walker McInstCES AssocRICS avatar