Estimating earthwork volumes through use of unmanned aerial systems

Xi Wang, Zamaan Al-Shabbani, Roy Sturgill, Adam Kirk, Gabriel B. Dadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Unmanned aerial systems (UASs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have become increasingly attractive for numerous surveying applications in civil engineering, agriculture, and many other fields. The unmanned systems and vehicles are capable of performing photogrammetric data acquisition with equipped digital cameras that allows for converting images to highly precise, georeferenced three-dimensional models. However, more studies are needed to demonstrate practical applications of UAS systems and UAVs on construction sites. In this project, UAS systems and UAVs and digital photogrammetry technology are introduced to estimate the earthwork volume of a highway extension project. The georeferenced images were processed by the photogrammetry software, Pix4Dmapper, which is a tool for converting images into an accurate and applicable three-dimensional point cloud model. Progress models were created over the course of several weeks. The volume of earth was computed by comparing the point cloud of the progress models after model processing. To ensure reliability, the accuracy of the UAS and UAV photogrammetry was verified by comparison with conventional ground survey methods and the results from different flights. The project presents the feasibility and effectiveness of using UAS systems and UAVs in estimating earthwork volumes on the basis of the results of an accuracy test and the efficiency of the survey.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalTransportation Research Record
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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