Drones used for woodchip count

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A WA plantation timber company has started using drones to calculate its stockpile volumes

Drones used for woodchip count
Bunbury Fibre Exports wood chip stockpile at Bunbury Port, Western Australia.


Bunbury Fibre Exports, which provides harvesting and processing services to the plantation timber industry in the south west of Western Australia, has started using drones to undertake volumetric surveys.

The company has hired Terra Drone Australia to conduct a volumetric survey of its blue gum wood chip export stockpile located at the Port of Bunbury – a process that Terra Drone Australia says is between 60 and 80 per cent faster than conventional survey methods, leading to lower costs, higher productivity and improved safety.

Terra Drone launched in Australia in September. Check out our story here

In the past, like most stockpile assessments, the stockpile volumes have been calculated from traditional real time kinetic surveys, requiring surveyors to climb over stockpiles, taking a number of spot measurements with conventional GPS equipment.

However, this method can be slow, costly and inaccurate due to the limited number of sampling points and the inference of heights between sometimes sparse points.

Further, climbing over stockpiles can be physically demanding and hazardous for survey crews and injuries such as sprains and strains have been common, says Terra Drone Australia.

Terra Drone Australia now undertakes the annual stockpile survey using a multirotor drone. The drone is fitted with a multiband Global Navigation Satellite System and a calibrated camera is used to take hundreds of downward looking images across the stockpile.

A Digital Elevation Model (DEM) produced through drone imagery and photogrammetry processing. Accurate elevations are used to compute volume.

A dense point cloud is computed from the image data using Agisoft Metashape photogrammetry software.

The point cloud is then cleansed of above ground features (conveyors) and noise using geometric filters, before having a high resolution surface digital elevation model produced. From here a volume accurate to less than 0.5 per cent can be produced.

"This is a real-world example where drones have made a significant improvement to business processes. The vast majority of businesses that stockpile materials such as aggregates or minerals, or in this case wood chips, are now computing volumes from drone surveys," Terra Drone Australia says.

"Stockpile survey by Terra Drone is fast, safe, accurate and provides others benefits like a 3D model of the stockpile with such detail that you can clearly see the dozer tracks. It is the future," Bunbury Fibre Exports operations manager Brett Humble says.


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