Aerial Image and Data Acquisition for Aggregates Producers

Rock Products caught up with David Boardman, CEO of Stockpile Reports, and Dan Burton, co-founder and CEO of DroneBase, to talk a little bit about aerial image and data acquisition. The partnership makes full-service inventory with drone flights affordable, accessible and efficient. Stockpile Reports has seen 60 percent growth in we-fly vs. you-fly since this time last year.

RP: Why are aggregates producers taking advantage of Stockpile Solutions’ services?

BOARDMAN: Aggregate producers are looking to reduce financial surprises and to improve their day-to-day operational decision-making. Stockpile Reports makes it possible for customers do counts more frequently with little to no touch.

What does it bring to the table for them?

Stockpile Reports provides easy, click-to-order image acquisition to its customers. Today that includes aerial images planes and drones, and later in 2018, we will add image acquisition services for ground-based imagery capture including 360 cameras, mobile devices and DSLR cameras.

Since adding DroneBase to our image acquisition service in 2017, DroneBase has allowed us to scale our business at an extremely high rate. They’ve been a great addition to our image acquisition service, providing even greater bandwidth for more frequent image acquisition at a lower cost – saving customers more money. Aerial acquisition costs are being cut in half, year over year, and we’re very curious to see just how low image acquisitions costs will get.

How many people make up DroneBase?

BURTON: The DroneBase team itself is 45, and we also have the largest global pilot network made up of tens of thousands of highly skilled drone pilots. Our drone pilots are located in all 50 states and over 70 countries, and through this network, we were able to expand Stockpile Reports’ offering to construction sites nationwide.

What type of services are aggregates producers looking for from a drone pilot?

Aerial imagery and data provides aggregate producers with new information to make better, real-time decisions about their inventories and assets. Before, only the largest aggregate producers could afford airplane surveys ­– but Stockpile Reports and DroneBase are democratizing this mission-critical data to every site.

Why are aggregates producers moving away from ownership and gravitating toward contracting out drone services? Isn’t this more expensive?

Typically we’ve found that there’s one or two people at an aggregate producer that is the designated drone guy or drone girl, and produce innovative aerial images. The decision makers then see the value of the aerial images and data, but it’s not ROI-positive or feasible to scale to every worksite. That’s when we get a call from a customer.

We have a profound belief that just like companies don’t have a closet full of servers, it’s not scalable for aggregate producers and other companies to have a fleet of drones, pilots, and everything else that comes with it. Most companies tap into the latest server that’s valuable to you, and we believe the same will happen for acquiring drone imagery and data.

Many aggregate producers have had success with internal drone programs, measuring quarterly at a few locations. But when it comes time to scale up the operation, the economics quickly deteriorate.

It is still very appropriate to own a drone for specialized on-demand GIS work, but to perform inventory management at scale, the economics don’t make sense. It’s too expensive to perform at scale. A small or medium-sized company can perform their own drone measurements at up to eight sites and might have a slight savings. But with increased frequency or increasing the locations being measured, the costs quickly escalate and take more time and money. By relying on the Stockpile Reports aerial acquisition service, companies can control costs and infinitely scale to any size.

Lane Construction is one company utilizing this new technology. “When we have to evaluate an issue at a site, we can all go on the website, and see a large amount of data, and all the month-to-month changes. Any issues are resolved much quicker. This is invaluable to us,” said Mark Crain, operations controller, Lane Construction.

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