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  • Writer's pictureAZ NavTeq

Revolutionizing Mineral Deposit Volume Estimation with Drone-Based Surveying and Mapping

In the dynamic world of industrial operations, accurate measurement and estimation of mineral stockpiles are essential for efficient resource management and planning. Traditional surveying methods often fall short in terms of accuracy and efficiency, especially when dealing with complex terrains or geological formations. However, advancements in technology have paved the way for more sophisticated approaches, such as drone-based surveying and mapping coupled with advanced GIS (Geographic Information System) techniques, revolutionizing how volumetric calculations are performed.

Benefits of Drone-Based Surveying & Mapping for Volumetric Calculation

The benefits of using drone-based surveying and mapping for volumetric calculation include:

  1. Cost-Effectiveness: Drone-based volumetric calculations are more cost-effective compared to traditional methods, reducing labor costs and time spent on site.

  2. Accuracy: Drone surveys offer high levels of accuracy in measuring volumes, providing reliable data for various industries.

  3. Efficiency: Drones can rapidly cover large areas, significantly reducing the time and effort required for surveys.

  4. Safety: Drone technology enhances safety on job sites by eliminating the need for personnel to climb or traverse hazardous terrains, reducing the risk of accidents.

  5. Data Visualization: The 3D models generated offer visual representations of stockpiles and landscapes, making it easier to understand and analyze the data.

  6. Improved Precision: Drone-based volumetric calculations can provide precise measurements of stockpiles, landfills, and natural resources, which is crucial for industries such as mining and construction.

  7. Flexibility: Drones can be used to survey a variety of terrains, including difficult-to-reach areas such as steep slopes and cliffs.

  8. Time-Saving: Drone surveys are faster than traditional methods, allowing for quicker turnaround times and more frequent monitoring of change.

  9. Reduced Risk of Injury: By eliminating the need for personnel to climb or traverse hazardous terrains, drone surveys reduce the risk of injury to surveyors.

  10. Enhanced Data Analysis: Drone-based volumetric calculations can be used to track changes in near real-time, providing more accurate data for decision-making.

Drone-Based Surveying for Volumetric Calculation

Enterprises like AZ NavTeq have embraced the use of drones equipped with RTK (Real-Time Kinematic) GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) technology for aerial surveys. RTK GNSS enables centimeter-level positioning accuracy, allowing drones to capture detailed, high-resolution imagery of mineral stockpiles and their surroundings. This data is then processed to create precise 3D models of the site.

Accuracy with RTK GNSS Technology

RTK GNSS technology ensures that the drone's positioning data is extremely accurate, down to centimeter-level precision. This accuracy is critical for volumetric calculations, as it minimizes errors and discrepancies in measurements, leading to more reliable results.

As-Built 3D Models for Volume Estimation

The foundation of accurate volume estimation lies in the creation of detailed as-built 3D models. These models represent the physical reality of the mineral stockpile or deposit, capturing its shape, size, and contours with exceptional fidelity. By leveraging these models, estimations of volume become significantly more accurate and reflective of real-world conditions.

Utilizing Advanced GIS Technology for Volume Estimation

The application of advanced GIS technology further enhances the accuracy and flexibility of volume estimation. One notable technique involves slicing the 3D model with an inclined plane at a specified dip angle. This method is particularly valuable in geology, where precise volumetric measurements above or below a specific dip angle are essential for mineral deposits estimation.

Significance of Dip-Strike Based Volume Estimation

For industries like cement production, understanding the volume of mineral deposits based on dip-strike calculations is crucial. Geologists use the dip-strike method to determine the dip angle of mineral layers within a deposit. This angle is then used to create an inclined 3D base plane that accurately cuts through the deposit, enabling precise volume calculations.

Here's how it works:

  1. Geologists use the dip-strike method to determine the tilt of the mineral layers.

  2. Advanced GIS software then creates an inclined 3D base plane based on this dip angle.

  3. This plane virtually slices the stockpile model, allowing for precise volume calculation of the mineral deposit above or below the specified angle.

Case Study: AZ NavTeq's Innovative Approach

AZ NavTeq, an emerging player in drone-based surveying technologies in Pakistan, recently conducted an exercise to estimate the volume of a mineral deposit within a cement industry setting. By leveraging high-precision drone technology and advanced GIS tools, AZ NavTeq developed a detailed 3D model of the mineral stockpile.

Dip-Strike Volume Estimation:

Using GIS methods and techniques, we conducted calculations as the incline plane moved through 3D space, intersecting with the stockpile and dividing it into sections for volume estimation. Through thorough validation and testing, we honed our approach to reduce errors and uncertainties.


Plane Height


Area 2D

Volume 3D

Whole Stockpile

53.10 m



20490.76 m3

Cut Stockpile with 3D Plane

53.10 m



10668.02 m3

Highlights of AZ NavTeq's Approach:

  1. High-Precision Drone Technology: Utilized drones equipped with RTK GNSS for accurate data capture.

  2. Digital Replica Creation: Developed a precise digital twin of the mineral stockpile.

  3. Dip-Strike Method Integration: Incorporated dip-strike requirements to account for the tilt of mineral layers, ensuring accurate volume calculations.

  4. Digital Twin Volume Estimation: Used the digital model to calculate the total volume of the mineral stockpile.

  5. Slice-Based Volume Analysis (Optional): Employed advanced GIS techniques to slice the digital model based on measured dip angles for detailed layer-by-layer volume estimation.


In conclusion, the integration of drone-based surveying, RTK GNSS technology, and advanced GIS methodologies represents a transformative approach to mineral deposit volume estimation. AZ NavTeq is at the forefront of this technological revolution, delivering precise, actionable insights that empower industries to optimize resource management and decision-making processes. By embracing these innovative solutions, enterprises can unlock new levels of efficiency and accuracy in volumetric calculations, ultimately driving sustainable growth and development.

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