Customer Story

How BURNCO Streamlines Stockpile Measurements & Verifies Work with Drone Insights

March 9, 2021


cost difference discovered over inaccurate stockpile measurements


ton quarry bench 3D modeled in DroneDeploy


tons removed from total stockpile volume

BURNCO Rock Products Ltd. isn’t your conventional family business. Founded in 1912 in Calgary, AB, Canada, its innovative practices and tight-knit company culture skyrocketed growth in the early 20th century and has remained steady ever since. Currently, BURNCO occupies over 60 locations across the country, with additional mines in Colorado and Texas. While their high-quality aggregates and environmental sustainability practices set them apart from similar corporations, the mining and construction conglomerate struggled with the same issues that we hear from so many of our customers in the industry: inaccurate reserve and asset management, difficult stockpile measurement, and the struggle to attract new, young talent.

By utilizing drone technology, BURNCO can verify accountant work, provide documentation for reclamation purposes, and streamline their stockpile measurements. In a highly-traditional, manual industry, this is no easy feat and directly results from the determination of an outspoken Land & Resource Supervisor with experience in the drone world.

If you’re interested in starting a drone program or are having difficulty garnering executive support, this customer testimonial serves as the help you need to take the next step.

Exploring Drone Data with Stockpile Inventories

Jaimie Addy is a U.S. Land & Resource Supervisor for BURNCO, with an extensive geology and mine engineering background. As the primary contact for securing new land to mine or use in concrete production, tracking reserves and stockpile inventory is a crucial part of his day-to-day workflow. But soon into the job, he realized that BURNCO was running into problems common in the industry: measuring stockpiles by hand was dangerous and frequently inaccurate compared to accountants’ figures.

In early 2015, Jaimie identified generating stockpile reports as a prime use case for drone technology and set to work on proving to his finance team that the insights gained were worth the price. Jaimie began with flying entire mine sites, mapping exact boundaries of mining sequences before, during, and after performed work – a pivotal piece of information for reclamation purposes. After each flight, he would show his finance team the tens of thousands of data points he collected per stockpile, as compared to the 20-50 they received manually. When measuring the opportunity cost of physically crawling around stockpiles and finding new sites, the results were clear, and he received the go-ahead to start BURNCO’s internal drone program.

There’s nothing about DroneDeploy that isn’t better than our old process.

Jaimie Addy picture

Jaimie Addy, U.S. Land & Resource Supervisor, BURNCO Rocks Ltd.

Initially using Pix4D and a supercomputer to process imagery at a previous organization, Jaimie chose to work with DroneDeploy at BURNCO for the fast, high-quality, and on-demand data provided in the cloud. For anyone looking to bring drone technology into their business, Jaimie says, “stockpile inventories with drone imagery are your foot in the door.”

Utilizing Drone Insights for Decision-Making and Work Verification

Today, BURNCO uses DroneDeploy to verify accountant work and measure stockpiles. After utilizing a third-party drone service provider to survey their sites quarterly, the data is then used to check against accountant numbers. If they don’t match up, Jaimie reflies the site to confirm his accuracy before bringing it up to the team.

Often, accountants’ books come with numbers that are already inaccurate, as it’s difficult to measure these stockpiles to begin with. Drone surveying ensures a correct figure, which is why it’s so essential to BURNCO’s operations today. Recently, Jaimie was able to identify three groups of stockpiles that were inaccurately recorded – at 10,000 tons off of the total – a $200,000 cost difference.

At BURNCO, DroneDeploy is also used to gather topographic data and measure volume and elevation for 3D modeling. As a regular user of 3D models, Jaimie created a replica of a 443,000-ton quarry bench, full of depth and volume measurements provided by QC data. Combined with geophysical data, this presents unprecedented information as to what material is actually in the ground. To receive texture qualities, bench tonnage, and minute details like this is rare, and Jaimie estimates the technology has saved tens of thousands of dollars for this site alone.

Embracing Drone Technology in Mining

Jaimie strongly believes that the drone imagery he works with changes people’s minds and allows employees in-the-office to see the mine as he does in-the-field. By flying sites, gathering volumetric data, and putting a price point on these stockpiles, he’s creating a visual, defensible record of proof of work done. To integrate drone technology into your organization, Jaimie recommends emphasizing the scope and purpose of drone insights to decision-makers. This is likely radically different from anything they’re used to. Still, by continually exemplifying the benefits of drone software and educating yourself on changing FAA rules and regulations, they’ll likely give the green light.

In the short-term, Jaimie is working on getting Texas DoT certified for their largest quarry in Bridgeport, Texas. Long-term, he’s looking forward to continuous innovations in drone technology that will provide fully autonomous flights and BVLOS standardization. Jaimie, like us, fully believes that drone insights radically improve the mining process, and are the next step in the digital transformation of the industry. We’re excited to see how BURNCO will further automate its processes in the coming years.

If you’re interested in drone software for mining, refer to our solutions page, or watch our free webinar on what’s next for drones in mining.

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