DroneDeploy

Volume Measurement with Drones

How to use DroneDeploy to analyze volume in real-time on your maps in the browser.

Volume measurement with DroneDeploy is an extremely fast, accurate and cost-effective method to analyze volumes on your maps from any device. User tests have found that when following best practices DroneDeploy's volume measurements are accurate within 1-2% of traditional ground-based laser measurements.

Below we'll walk you through best practices for how to use the tool, what the calculations mean, and how to provide feedback.

Adding volume capabilities to a map

The volumetric analysis tool is available to all Pro, Business, and Enterprise customers. Learn more about our paid subscription plans or start your Pro trial today.

Browser compatibility

Internet Explorer will NOT allow you to create volume measurements. Please use Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with DroneDeploy.com instead.

Video Tutorial

Selecting an area and measuring its volume

In order to define a volume to measure, you first need to select an area for which to compute the volume. To do this, use the polygon tool located in the lower, righthand side of your map.

First select the Area of Interest tool in the bottom right corner:

Next, define the area for which you would like to calculate the volume.

Take note of where you click

As you'll see in the following section - the volume is calculated by creating a surface which fits within the area you define (see below). This means that the elevation of the points you select is very important. For example, accidentally selecting a point on a pile of rocks, as opposed to on the ground, will change the volume calculation and its accuracy. More on this below.

Choose the Volume icon from the Annotation and Measurement options.

The tools in the lower right allow you to undo, or complete your polygon.

The tools in the lower right allow you to undo, or complete your polygon.

Add points around the stockpile for which you want to compute the volume.

Add points around the stockpile for which you want to compute the volume.

Adjust the points until you are happy with the area of interest. Here is an example result:

Example volumetric calculation. Units can be displayed in the Metric or Imperial system.

Example volumetric calculation. Units can be displayed in the Metric or Imperial system.

Using the cross arrows in the middle, you can shift the area of interest in order to automatically recalculate the result.

Selecting the right baseplane

There are two options available for volume calculation. The graphic below demonstrates the difference:

"Lowest Point" base plane should let you calculate the volume of benches or stockpiles on flat ground with walls or neighboring piles easily.

"Best Fit" is more suited for stand-alone features.

Best Fit versus Lowest Point Base visualization

Best Fit versus Lowest Point Base visualization

Best Fit Baseplane volumetric calculation

Best Fit Baseplane volumetric calculation

Lowest Point Baseplane volumetric calculation. Notice the difference in calculations.

Lowest Point Baseplane volumetric calculation. Notice the difference in calculations.

Measuring on different layers

It is very important to define the base of the pile well when measuring volume. Sometimes it can be difficult to see the base of a stockpile when looking at the Orthomosaic, due to shadows or similarly colored surrounding areas. To more easily see the nuances in terrain we recommend using the Elevation Toolbox as the base layer of the map when computing volumes.

Below is an example that demonstrates why using the Elevation Toolbox is a best practice when calculating volumes. In the Orthomosaic (on the left) it is difficult to see the small pile of rocks to the left of the stockpile. Defining the base layer on top of the small rock pile would lead to inaccurate volume calculations. Using the Elevation Toolbox (on the right), the small pile becomes easily viewable, enabling you to avoid defining a point of the base on top of the rocks.

Notice the pile to the left of the main stockpile which is nearly invisible in the orthomosaic. Here, the Elevation Toolbox is useful when defining perimeters.

Notice the pile to the left of the main stockpile which is nearly invisible in the orthomosaic. Here, the Elevation Toolbox is useful when defining perimeters.

Understanding the calculations

In order to calculate a volume, we need to define the base so we can calculate the volume between the floor and the stockpile's surface. This also helps us understand the volume that would need to be removed (in the case of a stockpile) or added (in the case of a hole) in order to flatten the surface so that it's the same as the surrounding ground.

Cut vs. Fill

Cut is the volume we would have to remove from the area (a pile) in order to flatten it (e.g., you're cutting off the pile).

Fill is the volume we would have to haul in, in order to fill a hole, in order to flatten the area.

Cut and Fill volumes are automatically shown on the map when calculating volumes. The actual volume measurement calculation is Volume = Cut - Fill.

How the plane is constructed?

We create a surface from the vertices of the polygon (the places you clicked when defining the area). This surface is intelligently created to match the surface of the surrounding land, meaning we're able to compute accurate volumes even if your stockpile is large, and resides on a hill with some curvature.

We then extrude the surface of the pile down to the surface defined by the polygon in order to create the volume. This means that if you want to measure a standalone pile, you should select points on the flat area close to the edge of the pile. If you want to split a large pile made up of two stockpiles, select points on either side of the piles, but be sure not to click on the area between the two piles (i.e., on the surface of the pile). Below is a visualization of splitting two piles by selecting points on either side:

A 3D model showing how two stockpiles are split by selecting points on either side of the two stockpiles.

A 3D model showing how two stockpiles are split by selecting points on either side of the two stockpiles.

Do Ground Control Points need to be used?

Early users have found our volumetric measurements are remarkably close to ground-based professional surveys even without the use of Ground Control Points (GCPs), which is consistent with 3rd party industry studies.

Volume Measurements Over Time

Within DroneDeploy's App Market, you can download the "Stockpile Analysis App" to see how the volume of your stockpile has changed over time. Simply download the app and then conduct a volume measurement around your stockpile. DroneDeploy will then look for stockpiles in the same area of previous maps that you've flown and show you the cut, fill and volume measurements of that pile. You can even download the data as a CSV file.

Volume Measurement with Drones

How to use DroneDeploy to analyze volume in real-time on your maps in the browser.