Skyward recently released Mapping & Modeling, powered by Pix4D, which is integrated with Skyward’s Drone Management Platform and enables customers to process drone photos into 2D maps and 3D models. This type of drone photogrammetry can offer rapid return on investment by digitally visualizing assets, locations, and structures — and enabling stakeholders to quickly take accurate measurements.

When photogrammetry produces maps and models with a high degree of accuracy, measurements taken on the digital model reliably reflect the real-world object. Skyward Mapping & Modeling first launched with tools to calculate length, elevation, and area. Now, we’re adding volume measurements to rapidly assess cut and fill quantities for stockpiles and other topographical features.

How to create a volume measurement in Skyward Mapping & Modeling

To take a volume measurement in Skyward Mapping & Modeling, start by creating a model. When your data has finished processing, access the 2D map and locate the object that you wish to measure.

2D map of gravel stockpile in Skyward

Next, select the new “Draw Volume Polygon” tool. Draw an area around the perimeter of the feature you’re measuring. Skyward will automatically calculate area and elevation measurements, and it will prompt you to select your base surface.

Selecting base surface for volume measurements of stockpile

The base surface is the plane above which and below which volume is calculated. You can think of the base surface as “ground level.” To accurately calculate the amount of material above or the empty space below a surface, the photogrammetry engine needs to understand where that surface is. The material above the base surface is called “cut,” and the open volume below the base surface is called “fill.”

Your base surface options are:

  • Triangulated – A surface calculated by drawing triangles using all of the points of the polygon surrounding the stockpile. This option is best used when all sides of the stockpile are clearly visible.
  • Fit plane – A plane that is oriented in a way that tries to get as close as possible to all points of the polygon.  This type of base surface will have less error when the real-world surface is flat or has a constant grade.
  • Lowest point – A flat plane with the elevation of the lowest point of the polygon. This base surface is useful when measuring stockpiles that are piled against retaining walls.
  • Average – A flat plane that is the average elevation of all points in the polygon.
  • Custom – Allows you to enter a custom elevation to serve as the base surface when the exact elevation of the surface is known.
  • Highest Point – A flat plane with the elevation of the highest point of the polygon.

After selecting your base surface, click “Calculate Volume.” Your volume measurements will be calculated in seconds, and the data will include the margin of error.

Stockpile volume measurements in Skyward

Using photogrammetry-based volume measurements for stockpile surveys

One of the most common use cases for photogrammetry-based volume measurements is to calculate stockpile volumes. A mining company, for example, may have large piles of ore, but it may be difficult to calculate how many truckloads will be required to haul it away. A construction company may have huge stockpiles of building materials, but they may need to know if the quantity they have on hand will meet a project’s demands.

Traditionally, estimating these volumes required workers to physically climb on top of piles to take measurements. This method was time consuming, labor intensive, and dangerous. Shifty footing and unstable materials make stockpiles a hazardous environment.

Drone photogrammetry can make this process faster, cheaper, and safer — while maintaining accurate results. A drone pilot can set up an automated survey or orbit flight. Within a few minutes, the drone collects enough photos to build an accurate photogrammetric model of the stockpile. Back in the office, a crew member uploads the images to a photogrammetry engine like Skyward Mapping & Modeling, powered by Pix4D. When finished processing, the stockpile can be calculated in a few seconds from the 3D information in the model.

This isn’t just a theoretical possibility. Skyward’s customers are already using stockpile surveys today. The West Virginia Department of Transportation, a Skyward customer, has been using drones for stockpile surveys of road building materials like rocks and gravel. In a single month, the DOT saved $343,000 by using drones in place of traditional stockpile surveying methods.

Try photogrammetric volume measurements for yourself

Want to see Skyward’s integrated drone photogrammetry solution in action? Start a 30 day free trial, or go watch the Skyward’s webinar introducing Skyward Mapping & Modeling, powered by Pix4D.

Skyward Mapping & Modeling Webinar