Coming to a Project Near You Soon: Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Map and Survey Services.

AEG firm Woolpert Uses drones and manned aircraft to help safely and effectively manage mining, land development and other operations and assets.

DAYTON, Ohio (Dec. 17, 2019) — Woolpert, one of the premier architecture, engineering and geospatial (AEG) firms, has been selected to perform aerial mapping and surveying via manned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for two global mining operations under two separate contracts (see Editor’s Note).

The imagery is being collected to assist in volumetric calculations, provide digital terrain information for autonomous hauling trucks, enable change detection analysis and validate the locations of drill holes for blasting, while providing a safer, more frequent and accurate accounting of mining progress.

Woolpert UAS Technology Manager and Program Director Aaron Lawrence said UAS is the most appropriate tool for the safe and effective collection of spatial data, used alone or in concert with traditional survey technologies and manned aircraft data collection, within this often difficult, unstable and dangerous environment.

“Mines and their materials are in constant flux due to the nature of the business, and they are subject to the elements year-round,” Lawrence said. “A heavy rain event, for example, requires a site evaluation to ensure that the site is safe for operation. This often means reinforcement of haul roads, pumping of water and re-stabilization of vertical structures.”

Implications for Residential and Commercial Markets

But mines aren’t the only use of UAS that the company has seen. Woolpert  was contracted by a land development company in Houston, Texas, to develop a Proof of Concept for developing an enterprise GIS system to improve and advance business functions and communications. Phase One of this contract was recently completed, and the second phase is now underway. The land development company manages a nationwide commercial, residential and mixed-use properties using a wide range of tools, from paper markups to using spatial data locally through desktop GIS and CAD software.

In fact, last May Woolpert hired Architect Jason Golub as a project manager in its Facilities market as it expands this application of technology. Golub has close to 20 years of architecture experience on projects that have spanned the industry, including commercial, mixed-use, hospitality, mixed-income multifamily, historic preservation and high-end residential. However, his primary focus has been on retail architecture, where he has worked on numerous high-profile projects for some of the world’s leading companies.


Coverage-area polygons in this image represent the data from three individual mapping tools: UAS, MMS and statewide lidar. Courtesy of Woolpert

The company says that UAS provides critical and precise measurements for all the complex surfaces in a mine, from oblique imagery to inspect the composition and structural integrity of its vertical walls to the survey data collected to assess pre- and post-blast estimates.

Lawrence said the ability to deploy UAS, both on scheduled flights and in response to immediate needs, aligns with the operational needs of companies across the country.

“Mines are a lot like our coastal environments,” he said. “They have stability, erosion and flooding problems. It’s all about identifying issues and marrying them with the right technologies to produce solutions. UAS is the right technology to cost-effectively manage a mining operation.”