As technology and software capabilities improve, businesses are able to pivot away from traditionally manual processes to digital ones. Depending on the industry, this move results in greater efficiency, improved safety, more accurate data, streamlined processes or, in the case of aggregates using drones for stockpile surveys, all of the above.


Why should aggregates companies turn to drone technology?

Historically, stockpile surveys have been a manual process. Measurement methods range from the ultra-basic – bucket counts and visual guesses – through to more informed yet more time-consuming terrestrial surveys.

And although these methods are known to be prone to inconsistencies, incorrect assumptions, and data entry errors, companies persist with them – often because it’s all they know.

They shouldn’t – bad data brings poor decisions, which causes a negative ripple effect through the entire operation, and can at worst lead to unexpected costly write-offs and reduced profits. But all too often, they don’t realise there is another way – commercial drones.


The many benefits of commercial drones in stockpile surveys

Businesses are increasingly focusing their attention on driving inefficiency out of their workflows, and this has been brought into even sharper focus following Brexit and the COVID-19 outbreak as the labour pool shrinks and social distancing rules impact the number of staff allowed on site.

Digitising certain processes has been key to this streamlining, allowing aggregates and construction companies to get more done with fewer resources. But that’s not the only benefit, as this automated process also brings with it better data currency, a reduction in paper-based records and business decisions based on real-world data rather than guesswork.


Choosing drones for stockpile surveys

Although drones can have numerous uses on a quarry, stockpile volumes has been the number one use case. Traditional methods make it difficult – and in some cases, impossible – to take into account the fact that all stockpiles are a unique shape and size. Even the use of Total Stations and GNSS rovers can only very roughly account for intricacies to the stockpile surface, which of course has an influence on the measured volume. Drones, on the other hand, can capture and render data that is a true, digital representation of each and every stockpile. 

Businesses not only save time, they are also able to start making decisions based on reliable aerial intelligence.


Benefits of drones for stockpile volume measurement:


Enhanced efficiency

Aggregates companies who have made the switch to drones report greater efficiency in their inventory measurement processes. Where traditional stockpile measuring techniques can take weeks to compile and process, dealing with one pile at a time, drone technology can accurately map and produce a digital twin of an entire site in a matter of hours. This means that company-wide inventory can be gathered and processed, with all data available in just a couple of days, allowing companies to make more frequent measurements as well as more accurate ones.


Increases production output

By removing much of the manual intervention from stockpile surveys, companies can relocate their labour resources to other tasks that can’t be easily automated, such as managing worksites and improving production processes. When workforces are already tight, this is vital to ensuring a smooth and profitable operation.


Risk removal

By measuring more accurately and more often, companies are able to identify issues in their inventory accounting before it becomes a major problem. Errors like the incorrect entry of paper scale tickets will become a thing of the past, eliminating the risk of large end-of-year write-offs. Companies are also able to more accurately forecast material usage trend, providing better insights into crusher production rates and enjoying a more granular insight of the stockpile material flow.


Increased profits

A clear advantage of having a greater insight into material usage is the reduction of the risk of running out of inventory. Businesses often run with excess inventory to avoid this risk, but that ties up hundreds of thousands of pounds in stagnant material. That money could be better spent on investment that leads to profit growth – like new machinery or more modern plants – rather than sitting there doing nothing.


Enjoying the ROI

It’s clear, then, that the cost of implementing a drone programme is rapidly offset by savings inefficiency and waste, and in the ability to focus spend where it matters. Speak to us today to discuss implementing a drone programme at your quarry.