Tips for Measuring Stockpile Inventory in the Winter

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Winter time in the northern hemisphere always means less construction and paving activity, however, keeping an ongoing stockpile inventory is still crucial. Our clients often ask whether it is too cold, snowy, etc. to measure their inventory with our iPhone app or a drone. Read on for all the answers to your winter related stockpile measurement and management questions…

Can I Measure In the Snow?

Yes! You certainly can measure stockpiles in the now. However, here are a few factors to consider before measuring.

Complete Snow Cover – Just because we can measure a pile on the ground using an iPhone or drone, when it is covered in snow, keep in mind that we cannot see the pile surface through the snow. Regardless of what service or software you use, measuring stockpiles with cameras will always assume the topmost material as the top of the pile surface. If there is only an inch or two of snow, the impact to the pile volume will be minimal. Several inches or more will add significant volume to the pile measurement and recommend waiting for the snow to melt prior to measuring.

How much snow is too much? A rule of thumb: if it’s a dusting then you are okay.

Snow Drifts – Snow drifts against the side of a stockpile have the same impact as complete snow cover. If the snowdrift is small in relation to the total volume of the pile, the impact may be minimal. However, you will still be adding extra material to the total. Remove as much of the snow drift as possible with a loader prior to measurement for the most precise result.

Small snow drifts tend to have little impact in stockpile measurements.

Below are other factors to consider before measuring your pile when snow and ice are present:

Safety – Measuring stockpiles with our iPhone app will have the added safety concern if ice has formed on the ground. In this occasion, we recommend having a second person walk ahead of you and spot potential fall hazards. Also, ice can form within the stockpile causing the surface of the pile to be hard packed and difficult to walk on.

Be careful when walking around your quarry in the winter. Puddles turn to ice!

Allot More Time – Everything takes more time when the temperature is close to freezing. You may be used to flying your site with just one battery, however, cold temperatures can severly shorten battery life. Also, if you are planning on measuring several sites in one day, travel time can take longer due to poor road conditions. Shorter winter daylight and longer drive times might mean that measuring inventory takes extra days. We suggest using our pilots to fly for you, helping you get your inventory done more quickly, without having to fight against poor weather and road conditions.

Driving in snow and ice can extend the time it takes to drive between sites.

Winter Tech Tips

Electronics and freezing temperatures don’t mix well. Over the past 7 years, we have learned the best tips for handling drones, iPhones, and tablets in the cold temperatures.

Keep Your Batteries Warm – Nothing is worse than setting up your drone for your measurement to find out that the battery is too cold and the drone won’t take off. The key here is to keep your battery warm as long as possible before the flight. Place your batteries on the floorboard of your vehicle with the heat on high. If you don’t have a vehicle with you, keep your battery tucked under your jacket until you are ready to fly.

Keep Electrons Flowing – Anyone who has tried using an iPhone in freezing temperatures has seen their phone spontaneously turn off even when there is plenty of battery life left on the device. There is an easy solution to prevent this no matter how cold it gets outside: connect your iPhone to an external battery charger. We don’t know the exact science behind why this works, however, we’ve used iPhones for hours in the low teens without the phone turning off once.

We trained 50+ users in sub 20s weather and not a single phone turned off due to cold weather while using an external charger.

Know Your Weather – Be extra mindful of the weather during winter when flying a drone. Moist cold temperatures can cause freezing fog to move into your area. The icing on your propellers from freezing fog will quickly decrease your lift and increase drag causing the aircraft to quickly descend to the ground.

Skip the Winter Hassle

Production doesn’t stop when it gets cold, why should your measurements stop?

Stockpile Reports is here to help during winter months. We have built a full solution that gives you the flexibility to measure using the right tool for the job. Using your own drone or iPhone during spring, summer, and fall might make the most sense. Winter is more challenging and is a great time to try our network of pilots who are trained on how to fly drones in cold temperatures.

We have flight bundles that start as low as $250 a flight. If you feel you could use the help, need a vacation, or want to skip winter challenges altogether, let us know how we can help.