Drone Collected
Stockpile Solutions


  1. Dense Image Matching (DIM) using highly redundant images acquired from a low flying small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS). This is the method employed in the AV-900 MMK. The images are processed through an algorithm called “structure from motion” (SfM) that reconstructs a three-dimensional (3D), very dense point cloud as well as an ortho image mosaic. The Pros are – personnel are out of harm’s way, the stockpiles are very accurately modeled since, unlike ground-based methods, no part of the pile is occluded from the data collector, the method is very fast and the cost is generally less than competing methods. The cons are that some unusual surface types may not be amenable to the SfM algorithm (although we have not yet encountered this problem in our many tests).
  2. Traditional survey techniques such as the use of Real Time Kinematic (RTK) Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS): There are no real pros except that the service is relative easy to perform or contract. The cons are – personnel are in harm’s way, the method is not very accurate since a small number of survey points are used to construct a 3D model, the tops of piles and interior sections are usually not well modeled since they are occluded and the method is very labor intensive.
  3. Ground-based laser scanning: The pros are that it can be more accurate than traditional surveying because more sample points are included in the model. The cons are similar to traditional surveying - personnel are in harm’s way, the tops of piles and interior sections are usually not well modeled since they are occluded and the method is very labor intensive (even more so than traditional surveying since multiple scan locations must be occupied).
  4. Model reconstruction from ground-based images. This is a method wherein some sort of scale is constructed (for example, placing two traffic cones a known distance apart) and a series of hand-collected photos (or video) is taken of each stockpile to be modeled. A popular cloud-based service can use the camera of an iPhone. The only real Pro for this method is that the equipment needed for data collection is very inexpensive (although, in a cloud-based services model, the service can be rather expensive). The Cons include: The method provides only a relative model. That is, it is not tied to a real world coordinate system. Thus even if the volume computation were accurate, the location in the real world is unknown. This means that time series analysis cannot be performed nor can a site orthophoto be generated. In addition, it has all of the cons of ground-based surveys - personnel are in harm’s way, the tops of piles and interior sections are usually not well modeled since they are occluded, the dependence of the system on cameras with low signal to noise ratios means that textures from shadow areas/dark materials are not well modeled and the method is very labor intensive.
  5. Aerial Photogrammetry. This method involves the use of manned aircraft to image the stockpiles using stereo model reconstruction. It has the advantage of keeping personnel out of harm’s way and having the potential of being more accurate than ground-based methods (this depends on how many stereo points the service provider extracts). It has the disadvantage of high cost (as a service and very high cost for an owner/operator model). It has an additional disadvantage of suppling only point and line features for elevation modeling as opposed to a dense point cloud.
  6. 6. Aerial laser scanning (LIDAR). This method uses a manned aircraft (or an sUAS) to collect a 3D point cloud of the stockpile area using an airborne laser scanner (LIDAR). The advantages are – personnel are out of harm’s way, if the data are densely collected the results are quite accurate, the data are absolutely positioned. The Cons include – high cost (as a service and very high cost for an owner/operator model).

A summary of the pros and cons of the various techniques is provided in the figure below:

  1. Volumetric Analysis
  2. A complete orthophoto mosaic of the site area
  3. Stockpile surface area
  4. Profiles and cross sections
  5. Contours
  6. Digital Elevation Models (DEM)

In the workflow, we generate (or could generate) data in the following formats:

  • Point Cloud – LAS (could be converted to ASCII, of which PNEZD is a flavor)
  • Control and Check Points – ASCII and 3D Shape (Shape is a very common format for points, lines and vectors that virtually all software can import)
  • Ortho Mosaic – TIFF, JPEG compressed TIFF (virtually all software can read these formats)
  • Volume Polygons – 3D Shape with volume results as attributes
  • Volume Data – DBF (this can be directly read into Excel and exported in any of the many Excel formats such as CSV)
  • Cut/Fill analysis imagers - TIFF

Other data that LP360 sUAS can create and export:

  • Model Key Point (MKP) reduced surface model (point cloud thinned by an accuracy criteria) – LAS, ASCII
  • Gridded digital elevation model – ASCII, GeoTIFF float (nearly all software can read a GeoTIFF float file)
  • Various analysis images such as shaded relief, elevation aspect, elevation color maps and so forth - TIFF
  • Cross-sections – 3D Shape, DXF
  • General vector attributes – 3D Shape with attributes

If accurate ground control is used, the accuracy achievable with any of our MKs is as good as or better than controlled aerial photogrammetry. We routinely achieve accuracies on the order of 4 cm in both horizontal and vertical, even with difficult surface materials such as cold mix asphalt and kaolin.

We recommend a high end laptop computer (so it can be used for field processing) containing an NVidia Graphics Processing Unit, GPU (this is used to accelerate the point cloud extraction processing). We have a recommendation for a laptop that has performed very well for us on our knowledge base. This laptop costs about $2,750.

All drones supported by our mapping kit fly via an automated program for data collection. All systems include a set of automated reactions to critical events such as low battery, loss of telemetry link, exceeding a 3D geofence and so forth. Thus no flying skills are needed for routine missions and most anomalies. The software process is quite straightforward. It is very helpful if the user has knowledge of basic mapping and is comfortable in learning new computer software. Of course, a more sophisticated background is helpful when diagnosing problems. For example, an unskilled user could successfully process a routine project but would have difficulty with a root cause analysis for a problem such as vertical error exceeding a threshold. Many mines/quarries typically employ personnel with basic surveying skills. These persons would be ideal for operating the MMKs and processing data.

The BYOD MK is a “bring your own drone” system. We offer web-based training (included with the BYOD MK) where we provide details on flying the drone, using our supplied mission planning and control software.

The BYOD MK collection parameters depend, of course, on the drone you are using.

The total collection and processing time, including mission planning, flying and data processing would range from 4 to 6 hours (excluding travel time) if a computer equivalent to our recommendation is employed.

The BYOD MK is a software only system. The first year of maintenance is included in the kit. The out-year maintenance is approximately 20% of the purchase price. It includes all software updates as well as access to monthly training webinars.

No problem. Check with us to see if your drone and camera are supported by our mission planning/control software. If so, the BYOD Mapping Kit is the right solution for you.

AirGon Reckon is a complete cloud-based ecosystem for hosting and delivering volumetric analysis and related site data to the end use customer.

The current version of Reckon (May 2015) provides storage for:

  • Orthomosaics of the site
  • Control Points
  • Volumetric polygon vectors
  • Redline markups (annotations)
  • General reports and documents (such as notes on a site and accuracy reports).

Reckon supports downloading volumetric report data as an Excel spreadsheet or as a printable pdf document. It also supports downloading of general files that have been stored with a site (accuracy reports, general notes, etc.).

All vector data (volumetric polygons, control points, etc.) and all files that have been stored in the “Reports” section of the site.

Yes, this is a very powerful feature of Reckon. Data can be designated as “temporal” when posted to Reckon. This allows you to view the changes of a site over time or go back in time to a point of interest to examine conditions at that time.

Yes. Reckon is hosted in Amazon Web Services (AWS). As such, it is outside the firewalls of all involved parties (the data publisher, the data consumer and AirGon). Sites of individual customers are completely isolated within AWS from one another. The system includes a self-service set of administration tools that allow end users to grant and revoke access to individual users. Reckon uses Amazon’s various storage systems for hosting data. These storage systems are maintained and backed up by Amazon. While loss of data is always a possibility, only the most sophisticated of IT organizations could match the integrity of the AWS infrastructure.

Absolutely. The two fundamental design principals behind Reckon are ease of use and scalability. Reckon is infinitely (well, within the constraints of AWS!) scalable.

Reckon includes tools for both the data publishers and the data consumers. These tools are very simple to use and are directly accessible via the web.

Reckon is a subscription service. The price is based on the number of sites that are being maintained by the customer and the total data stored by the customer.

The current pricing model is (this is subject to change):

  1. Level 1 - up to 25 GB of online data, up to 5 sites - $100/month
  2. Level 2 - up to 60 GB of online data, up to 25 sites - $200/month
  3. Level 3 - up to 100 GB of online data, up to 50 sites- $300/month
  4. Level 4 – up to 150 GB of online data, up to 75 sites - $400/month
  5. Level 5 - up to 200 GB of online data, unlimited sites - $500/month
  6. Level 5+ Each additional 50 GB above 200 GB adds $120/month

No. Reckon is hosted in Amazon Web Services and is available only as a subscription model.

The Reckon revenue sharing model is designed for service providers who are performing volumetric analysis (or site surveys) for end-use customers using the MMK and are authorized AirGon Service Providers. An example would be a surveyor who is performing volumetric analysis for a number of different mining/quarry companies. This service provider will receive a percentage of the monthly Reckon hosting fees being paid by the end-use customers. This is an excellent way for service providers to participate in annuity revenue without the overhead of managing their own storage and delivery systems.

Yes, a Service Provider can select from one of two billing methods for Reckon. If you wish to maintain all customer relationships, AirGon will bill you for Reckon and you, in turn, will bill your customers. This allows you to use Reckon in a variety of ways such as building the fees into an overall volumetrics service subscription. Your Reckon invoices will identify charges on a per customer basis.

If you do not want to become involved in the billing process, you can ask AirGon to directly bill your customers for Reckon services. You would still post data to the customer site and do other management actions on behalf of your customers but AirGon would directly bill the customer.

Absolutely. Reckon is a critical technology of AirGon with a very active development team. We will be responsive to customer needs as Reckon continues to evolve. For example, we have already had requests to use Reckon to “close” the deliver cycle between data collector and mine site operators (that is, to allow mine site operators to ‘order’ a volumetric analysis of specific areas of a site via Reckon).

Loki is a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Post-Process Kinematic (PPK) direct geopositioning hardware & software solution for low cost DJI drones as well as custom drones using digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras such as Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc. It is aimed at the high accuracy drone mapping community.