Leonard Toenjes, CAE, president of AGC of Missouri.
Recently, I attended a convention session about the uses for drones in the construction industry, which turned out to be an unexpected opportunity to learn about the complexities of the quarry business.
The talk that I thought would be about photographing real estate and photos related to building information modelling (BIM) was, in fact, a presentation related to the process of measuring rock piles. Quarry operators need accurate and timely systems for tracking inventory and calculating the volume of their rock piles.
For years, this duty was assigned to an individual who would survey each rock pile and — with a tape measure, pencil and pad — calculate the circumference and height of the piles, by hand.
Today, technological advances have made this task far less arduous. The presentation began with a photo of a four-propeller drone that communicates with a box about the size of a small cooler.
Instructions are provided by the operator via the communications box, and the drone starts its flight. The drone flies autonomously, taking a series of measurements. This process takes a couple of hours, after which the drone lands at the same spot from which it started. The information collected during its flight is downloaded into the communications system, including geometric measurements and rock volume, which is displayed on the system computer. Then, the information is ready for inventory entry and use by the quarry operator.
Drones offer accuracy, safety and the ability to take more frequent inventory calculations in different locations on a regular basis, which translates into and cost savings for quarry operators. This presentation opened my eyes to the future ahead of us as our businesses and those of all our industry partners change around us. —CEG