We Tested the New Mavic 2 Pro. A Great Drone But…

Updated November 26th, 2018

The long awaited update to DJI’s popular Mavic series drones have finally arrived. On August 23rd, DJI announced two new version of the Mavic: the Mavic 2 Pro and the Mavic 2 Zoom. DJI managed to make large improvements with the camera, battery life, and obstacle sensing capabilities. Within days, our clients were calling and emailing us asking if we were going to support the new drones. We got our hands on the Mavic 2 Pro and put it through our extensive tests. Before you read on, we believe the Mavic 2 Pro is a great drone but has one big deal breaker that prevents us from supporting the drone for the time being. Continue on to find out more about…

Continue reading “We Tested the New Mavic 2 Pro. A Great Drone But…”

Data, Not Distractions

The construction, agricultural, transportation and mining industries have welcomed the idea of using a drone for multiple business applications. Image of iPhone, drone, airplane data collection methods.

Stockpile Reports has been to several conferences and events during the recent months, and have noticed how many new drone exhibitors are appearing. In fact, it is very difficult for anyone NOT to notice how the interest in using drones is rapidly expanding.

We enjoy seeing technology change, and grow. During these conferences, we often ask attendees how their companies currently measure stockpile inventory, and if there is a drone strategy in place.

Some businesses already have a drone, or are in the process of purchasing one.

A few have already tried to utilize a drone, but decided that it was not a good return on their investment, in terms of both the cash spent, and the time needed to obtain accurate stockpile reporting. So they stopped using a drone.

Distractions

Some companies and managers have told us that they don’t wish to make an investment in a drone just yet. A few reasons include:

  • Avoiding the need for instructional training
  • Don’t wish to make an investment in accompanying software
  • Their site location is not conducive to drones; such as being near an airport or in a windy area
  • Their stockpiles are messy: vegetation covers the piles, the pile materials touch, there are stackers and obstructions
  • They have multiple sites, spread out so far away from the other so travel becomes a factor
  • Not a clear, compelling ‘need’ to either purchase or lease a drone yet
  • Don’t want to buy more than one drone in case one becomes damaged or flies away
  • Not certain they will get a good ROI on a drone purchase in terms of labor savings vs. other survey methods over a period of time
  • Wary about FAA regulations

Generally, Stockpile Reports has found that the construction, transportation and mining industries prefer to avoid new investments that require massive training. Companies are interested in results that are accurate, safe, simple, legal, and of course, cost-effective.

Data

To drone or not to drone? We aren’t able to answer that question. Every company has different needs and concerns. Drones can be a very good way to gather data for stockpile volumetric reporting!

We can, however, authoritatively state that our clients really want answers. They want accurate perpetual inventory, and want to avoid write-offs.

Stockpile Reports has a patented platform that processes data gathered from a drone, from an airplane or via iPhone. It also doesn’t matter what type of drone is flown. Clients have the choice to use one image collection method, or all three!

In other words, BYOD. Bring your own drone, we’ll process the data. Don’t want to do that? No problem, we’ll provide the most cost effective flight survey solution in the market— we’ll fly your site and process the data. Or you can use an iPhone and we’ll process the data from your smartphone.

As you can see, it doesn’t matter what solution you choose. If you want to invest in a drone in the future, we’re here for you. Your company won’t need to also invest in a system to process the data, or to warehouse it. Our subscribers already receive those benefits. And even better— our clients receive accurate reports in hours with minimal training, no extra hidden fees, and no other distractions.

 

 

 

100 Companies in 12 Countries Have Used StockpileReports.com to Measure Over $2 Billion of Construction Aggregates Inventory

Over 4 Million Images Captured by Drones, iPhones and Airplanes for Physical Inventory of Stockpiled Materials

StockpileReports.com, an online image-based stockpile inventory management platform, today announced it has secured over 100 customers worldwide since the launch of its service in 2013. Marquee customers include the Texas Department of Transportation, CEMEX, Quikrete, and Lane Construction.

“Congratulations,” said Bruce Chattin, of the Washington Concrete and Aggregates Association. “Stockpile Reports has helped our members recognize the value of the ‘cash on the ground’ that stockpiles represent. Stockpile Reports provides the information necessary for inventory management, production forecasts, confirmation of production (and quantities) delivered, made, sold and financial analysis. For the very large or smaller producer, they provide a simple and easy tool that creates reports in real time, in real and accurate quantities.”

Image of Stockpile measurements and contour maps are derived from data collected by drone, iPhone or plane. The variety of measurement options is enabling over 100 customers to to reduce multimillion dollar write-offs.
Stockpile measurements and contour maps are derived from data collected by drone, iPhone or plane. Having a variety of measurement options is enabling clients to reduce multimillion dollar write-offs.

“Technology is changing the way we do business. With the capabilities and variety of management tools Stockpile Reports offers, stockpile management can now become a routine task,” said Chattin.

John DeLong, President of Hawaiian Cement agrees, “For the first time, our supervisors and managers have a tool to quickly, inexpensively and accurately measure stockpile tonnage at the end of the month or even at the end of their shifts. Gone are the days of costly inventory adjustments or production shortfalls.”

“Our incredible progress proves there’s a large market demand for the ability to perform quarterly or even monthly physical inventory counts to reduce multimillion dollar write-offs. Historically it has been too time consuming and expensive to perform physical inventory counts of thousands of stockpiles distributed across hundreds of locations so physical inventory counts were limited to once per year resulting in large financial swings,” said David Boardman, CEO of Stockpile Reports. “We are thrilled that our solution is attracting enterprise subscribers from around the world. They have the ability to choose to measure stockpiles by flying their drones, using our fly-over service, or even their iPhone.”

The recently patented StockpileReports.com platform leverages large-scale 3D reconstruction from the team at URC Ventures. The platform was developed by a team of industry-leading computer vision scientists, collectively holding 32 prior patents. The same technology has been used to derive a 4 billion-pixel point cloud of the Himalayas from 130,000 images. More recently over 12,000 landmarks were reconstructed in 3D from 100 million crowd-sourced images from Yahoo. URCV presented “How 12,903 of the World’s Most Beloved Landmarks Were Virtually Reconstructed in Six Days” at the Capturing Reality Forum in Salzburg, Austria, November 23-25.

“It’s very rewarding to see large scale computer vision begin to make an impact on every day business problems”, says Dr. Jan Michael Frahm, Chief Science Advisor at URC Ventures. “We have been processing over a 100 million images from cell phones and other cameras in an academic context for years. Our team has built an amazingly robust set of engines capable of processing 100s of millions of images. Having DOT workers, quality control engineers, quarry managers, and others use advanced computer vision techniques on a day-to-day basis to do their work is incredibly validating.”

Stockpile Reports will be exhibiting at Booth N3247 in Las Vegas during the World of Concrete show, February 2-5, 2016.

David Boardman will be presenting “Transforming Big Data into Big Results” at AGG1/World of Asphalt in Nashville, March 22-24, 2016. Look for Stockpile Reports at Booth 2851.

Photogrammetry and UAVs

Technology can sometimes seem too abstract to completely appreciate. Clients often don’t know what to expect after their first stockpile measurements, even after we explain it to them. That’s why the Stockpile Reports Sales and Support team often gives new clients a peek behind the scenes about what happens after their data is uploaded to our system. They are usually very delighted when they view their first 3D stockpile model online, and see the results of photogrammetry. As the saying goes: Seeing is believing!

What is Photogrammetry?

Photogrammetry is the art and science of obtaining precise mathematical measurements and three-dimensional (3D) data from two or more photographs. The term “photogrammetry” is derived from three Greek words: ‘photos’ meaning ‘light’, ‘gramma’ meaning ‘which is drawn’, and ‘metron’ meaning ‘to measure’. It is the science and technology of generating 3D information from 2D measurements.

It is astonishing to think that this science has existed since the 1860’s! Employing photogrammetry for commercial usage has become much more popular recently.

Current Usage

Who hasn’t heard or read about drones? It is difficult to avoid news about UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), commonly referred to as ‘drones’. Although the use of drones in photogrammetry and lidar mapping is still in the very early stages, interest in utilizing drones for various applications has exploded.

An example of a site point cloud, images taken by UAV. The data was processed by Stockpile Reports, and resulting stockpile volume results provided the client with measurement details and corresponding contour line drawing.
An example of a reconstructed site point cloud, using images taken by UAV. The data was processed by Stockpile Reports, and resulting stockpile volume results (click for details) provided the client with measurement details and corresponding contour line drawing.

The broad definition of a UAV covers balloons, kites, gliders, airships, rotary and fixed wing types. These have the capability for photogrammetric data acquisition in manual, semi-automated and automated flight mode.

Aerial photogrammetry is achieved by drone and by plane. This is done by mounting a camera either to, or inside an aircraft and is usually pointed vertically towards the ground. Multiple overlapping photos of the ground are taken as the aircraft flies along a flight path.

However, it isn’t just the flight path that matters to obtain a good photogrammatic result. If the photo imagery isn’t sharp, then the quality of a rendered 3D model suffers. Small features would be blurry if you were to zoom in on an aerial photo.

There is also close-range photogrammetry, where the camera is close to the subject, with an object-to-camera distance of less than 300 meters. Traditionally, this has applied to photographs using hand-held cameras, on a tripod, or on a vehicle.

The maximum flying height by commercial drones with a Section 333 license above populated areas, as required by the FAA is below 300 meters, so measuring by UAV would also be an example of close-range photogrammetry as well.

The same basic principles apply to photographs taken from a camera mounted on a tripod (terrestrial) and also to UAVs and cameras suspended from light sport aircraft (low level aerial). The photo imagery must be sharp to provide the basis for a good 3D output.

As of October 22, 2015, there are currently 2020 petitions for Section 333 Exemptions that have been granted by the FAA.

Applications for UAV photogrammetry

The most common use is for mapping. Examples include:

  • Orthophoto’s (geospatially corrected aerial images)
  • 3D Building Models
  • Contour Maps
  • Planemetric features such as road edges and heights, signs, building footprints, etc.
  • 3D vegetation modelling
  • Volumetric Surveys

Industries that benefit from having 3D models include:

  • Forestry Management and Planning
  • Flood Modelling
  • Pollution Modelling
  • Mapping and Cartography
  • Urban Planning
  • Coastline Management
  • Transport Planning
  • Oil and Gas Exploration
  • Quarries and Minerals
  • Archaeology
  • Cellular Network Planning

Stockpile Reports is experienced at processing the data collected from flying an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).  We’ve been measuring stockpiles by UAV since 2013, in countries where this method is already accepted and regulated.

We are happy to assist clients with stockpile measurements taken via UAV, ensuring that the data captures optimal imagery, generating excellent results. We are also very experienced at piloting and operating various UAS models.

Contact us for more information about our reporting using UAVs. If you’d like to read more about photogrammetry in everyday life, check out another blog post.

 

Weather Your Seasonal Measurements

rainysite

This time of year is shoulder season, when temps and weather conditions are extremely changeable. Rain, wind, snow, sleet, storms, sunshine, dust, fog, heat and hail happen!

It doesn’t matter what is happening outside, though. Companies throughout the world still need to track inventory. Our clients in Europe, North America, South America, Australia and South Africa all share the same inventory challenges, despite how different the weather is at those locations.

Frequency, Safety, Efficiency

Make a measurement plan and be prepared for the weather.rainbow

Monthly: Utilize aerial measurements for site-wide inventory purposes each month.

Keep your boots off the ground. Measuring a site, or multiple sites, by plane is the fastest and safest method to gather data of all uncovered stockpiles. Here is how easy and fast the process is:

Step One: Client requests an aerial flight.
Step Two: Client tags the piles with material.
Step Three: Client view the results online.

Our customers typically spend 20 minutes of internal labor time per flight.

Online access to site and stockpile reports are available within hours after the flight. There is no action needed from clients other than tagging the outlined stockpiles online after the flight.

Daily: Go outside and make spot-checks onsite during operations. Simply use the iPhone in your measurement mix.

It only takes minutes for one of your team to measure an individual stockpile. You can also use the iPhone for inside and outside bunker measurements. If you’ve got a break in the weather, go outside and measure. There’s no need to wait for a third party to arrive and pay them to do the measurements.

Complement your ground-based imagery by drone. If you’ve got one and are certified to fly it, go for it! This might be a great solution if you have a few hours available to measure a smaller site, or very large stockpiles. Upload the data to us and we will process it and provide reporting.

The Best of Ground and Air

Whatever method you choose for measuring the piles on your site(s), the report results will be ready online in hours.

Your quarry will have the information needed to make operational business decisions on a weekly or monthly basis, and the CFO will have the numbers to manage inventory.

A Big Year for Drones

This has been a big year for UAVs. At the start of 2015, only about a dozen companies droneflighthad been granted special exemptions by the FAA to fly drones, and most of those were for filming on a closed set.

Now there are well over 1000 commercial exemptions to fly drones, for varying businesses such as agriculture, construction, security services, mining, oil and gas, utilities, emergency and disaster responses, and more.

In fact, in early August of 2015 Forbes reported that the FAA was approving applications at a rate of 50 per week.

Here is an excellent series of maps illustrating the geographic spread of the industry. As you can see, drone usage and interest from businesses is widespread throughout the US.

Commercial-Exemptions
Commercial Drone Exemptions Map, from the Center of the Study of the Drone

As a further illustration of industry interest, Stockpile Reports has begun meeting with new Drone/UAV Managers. They work in several companies that use our iPhone as a stockpile inventory management tool. Our top aggregate, mining and construction customers are very excited by drone surveying technology. They are interested in how data from drones can be integrated into a safe and automated workflow for stockpile measurements.

These companies ask us a lot of questions.

The UAV is not a new a surveying tool for our team. We’ve worked with various drone models throughout the world, in many environments and business applications since 2013. Our clients have measured stockpiles of varying material ranging from coal to gravel via UAV. These sites around the world continue to have a range of challenges that include wind, water, are extremely busy, are highly regulated, encompass large areas, have visibility issues, etc.

In addition to our senior support team, we also have a Senior Engineer who used to work for Boeing Aerospace R&D on staff. He is also a pilot, and continues to test and research UAVs and works with aerial data and imagery.

Stockpile Reports is best known for our patented platform utilizing iPhone imagery for stockpile measurements. The platform is also available for imagery collected from drones for subscribers. This truly gives your business the best of ground and air for stockpile measurements.

We believe accurate monthly inventory measurements are derived from a combination of tools. Using a drone alone doesn’t work for every business need or measurement scenario, nor does the iPhone, nor aerial flight measurements. Do you have a drone strategy and want site measurements, or are curious about utilizing a UAV? Contact Us.

BYOD: Bring Your Own Drone

The Past

The technology might seem new, but the concept is not. chasThe earliest recorded use of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for warfighting occurred on August 22, 1849, when the Austrians attacked the Italian city of Venice with unmanned balloons loaded with explosives.

Later on, balloons were flown in the U.S. Civil War in 1862, with both Confederate and Union forces using them for reconnaissance and bombing sorties.

Although balloons do not generally meet today’s definition of a UAV, the concept was strong enough that once winged aircraft had been invented, the effort to fly them unmanned for military purposes came quickly. The first pilotless aircraft were built during and shortly after World War I.

The Present

Did you know that you can process drone imagery using our company?

Our team has been working closely with drones and remotely piloted vehicles for nearly a decade.  We have seen the ease of use and capabilities increase – while the size and price has dropped dramatically over the past 10 years.

Stockpile Reports has been supporting Australian clients by providing uavblogstockpile reporting from drone/UAV flights in Australia for nearly 2 years. Our clients’ quarry sites are busy, and spread out geographically across the country. This limits the amount of stockpiles and locations that can be surveyed by more traditional methods in limited time periods. Clients use our iPhone Application for spot-measuring stockpiles, but is often impractical and sometimes dangerous to walk around a large site for monthly or quarterly stockpile measurements.

Many of our clients utilize planes for aerial stockpile measurements. However, factors including lower costs, longer-lasting and lighter-weight batteries, powerful processing, more accurate GPS, and updated FAA regulations, are increasing the desire for drone surveys from our American customers. They are buying many models, including the eBee, the Aibotix, DJI Phantom, and 3D Robotics IRIS.

Fly Your Drone

Stockpile Reports works closely with our customers, ensuring that the data gained from drones captures optimal imagery, generating excellent results. We are experienced at piloting and operating various models and are available for consultations. This includes helping you with flight patterns and camera angles.

After your flight, simply upload the data captured by your camera into our system for processing via computer.

Clients receive the fastest results in the industry — online access to site and stockpile reports from drone flights typically are available within hours after the data upload. You can easily download, view and share the resulting stockpile volumes of your site online!

StockpileReports.com is the only solution to enable enterprise inventory measurements of thousands of geographically disparate stockpiles in hours.  Our support for phones, drones, and planes provides your company the ability to develop a Stockpile Measurement Strategy to meet your business goals.

Drones will play an important role in your strategy for providing rapid turn production and inventory measurements. Contact us for more information—we’d be delighted to tell you more about recent site and stockpile measurements using UAVs.

Achieving the Goal: Stockpile Inventory Management

2015 is already half over. You only have six more months left to achieve your year-end targets. If you made a resolution last January to lose 10 lbs in 2015, there is still time remaining to make your goal— if you make changes to your habits.

A combination of measuring by iPhone and by aerial methods is the solution for gathering stockpile measurements for inventory.
A combination of measuring by iPhone and by aerial methods provides stockpile measurements for inventory.

Speaking of losses… how are your inventory numbers tracking to your 2015 plan? Are you afraid that the company will need to write off millions of dollars again at the end of the year?

Maybe you are assuming that this year will be “different”, and inventory numbers will come close to reconciling, without making changes in current stockpile measurement methods.

Stockpile inventory management is often a real source of ongoing frustration for the companies that have approached Stockpile Reports for help. The challenges of measuring the volume of stockpiled materials are many.

Accessibility, safety, costs, schedules and competing priorities make it difficult for the quarry manager to measure stockpiles as often as the accounting department would prefer. We hear managers say, “Do they want me to make rock— or measure rock?”

The CFO wants to ensure that production levels remain in alignment with the year’s accounting plan. Accounting departments often struggle with various data entry sources from multiple people. Measurement information comes in from voice, email, paper and spreadsheets. Too often there are data error issues, and sometimes the information arrives late.

Is it unreasonable to want stockpile inventory tracking available on a real-time basis? 

No. Our clients have discovered that utilizing a combination of iPhone and aerial (airplane or drone) imagery provides a complete solution.

The benefits of using an iPhone and aerial combination include:

  • Measuring with an iPhone is easy enough to use that anyone can measure stockpiles with minimal training
  • Using an iPhone on the ground enables frequent measurements
  • Using aerial data by plane or drone provides regular quarterly measurements
  • Aerial stockpile measurements provides inventory information for hard-to-reach, or dangerous stockpiles
  • Stockpile Reports arranges and provides certified aerial photographers to fly your site, and are trained to collect optimal imagery
  • Stockpile Reports has the platform to process your data, regardless of aerial, drone or iPhone collection methods
  • Measurement results are automatically processed and available to corporate with no data entry
  • The measurement results meets the consistency and accuracy requirements of the company
  • iPhone and aerial measurement methods meet safety requirements
  • Competitive subscription pricing gives the company the freedom to measure year-round

Learn from what hasn’t worked before: don’t assume that this time things will be “different” when it comes to your monthly inventory results. Make an action plan that will get you to your target. Contact us today for more information and ask about a demonstration— we can help.

Should Your Company Measure by Aerial or iPhone?

Your company may want to measure stockpiles by both: aerial and iPhone!

Here are a few reasons why we recommend adding aerial measurements:

  • Stockpiles are very hard to walk around. For example, they might touch an adjoining pile, run into bushes, trees or be located next to water.
  • The piles are tall, and one is unable to see the top of the pile from the ground. The top might be quite bumpy.
  • Stockpiles are located in a high-traffic area
  • There are many multiple stockpiles located in a wide-spread area
  • The company has stockpiles located in various locations or across multiple U.S. States
  • The financial team and CFO requires regular measurements of stockpiles across the enterprise monthly, or quarterly, with results available online for every pile within 24-hours of data uploadobstruction
  • Allows for remote site management and accountability, to avoid end of the year write-offs

Here are a few reasons why using an iPhone is great for measuring stockpiles:

  • Appropriate in large or small sites
  • Can easily use in light traffic areas
  • Works best measuring stockpiles that don’t touch are are easy to reach
  • Great for quickly measuring very large stockpiles with flat tops
  • Great for small or large stockpiles having viewable, bumpy tops
  • Reduces third party expenses related to measurements, with lower-internal labor costs
  • Gets the CFO regular measurements and online documented inventory within 24-hours of data upload

busyandbigThe Best of Ground and Air for Your Business

Your company will benefit by measuring by either iPhone or by augmenting your subscription by aerial or by drone. Our affordable subscription plans and 24-hour turnarounds from data collection to stockpile reporting is unsurpassed in the industry.

Customers have the opportunity to get 12 monthly measurements for the typical price of only one fly-over by other services, which makes Stockpile Reports’ aerial solution the most cost-effective aerial survey solution available.

 

Measure stockpiles on the ground with an iPhone or Water-Hazardmeasure your site by air. The choice is yours. To find out more about our service contact Stockpile Reports now.

The New FAA Rules for Drones

The FAA recently announced new safety regulations for small unmanned aircraft systems (under 55 pounds) conducting non-recreational operations. The proposed UAS rules limit flights to daylight and visual line-of-sight operations. It also addresses height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits.A DJI Phantom hovering above a stockpile.

These new rules don’t affect recreational users, or ‘hobbyists’. They are still free to pilot their model planes around their backyards. The policy for recreational use has not changed.

Operators

Under the proposed rule, the person actually flying a small UAS would be an “operator.” An operator would have to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautical knowledge test and obtain an FAA UAS operator certificate. To maintain certification, the operator would have to pass the FAA knowledge tests every 24 months.

Operators are required to maintain a visual line of sight of a small UAS. The rule would allow an operator to work with a visual observer who would maintain constant visual contact with the aircraft. The operator would still need to be able to see the UAS with unaided vision (except for glasses).

We at Stockpile Reports are very excited with this progress from the FAA, which encourages safety and responsible use. Imagery from UAS, or ‘drones’ will benefit mining, construction and aggregates industries, and should support rapid turnarounds for on-demand volume measurements here in the USA.

Stockpile Reports currently utilizes drone imagery from certified fliers in Australia and generates measurement reports for our clients ‘down under’. Drones are called RPAs in Australia, which stands for “Remotely Piloted Aircraft.” The guidelines for RPA usage have been in place for some time, and continue to be revised due to increased popularity of usage and various safety incidents.