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Using CloudCompare for Precise Stockpile Volume Assessments: A Guide

Using CloudCompare for Precise Stockpile Volume Assessments: A Guide


This article highlights the use of LiDAR-driven drone data combined with the opensource software CloudCompare, a freely available software renowned for its robustness in handling point cloud data, to navigate the challenges of measuring non-standard stockpile volumes.


The Challenge of Non-Conical Stockpile Measurements

Typically, stockpile volume assessments are straightforward when dealing with isolated, conical piles. However, complications arise when the stockpiles are integrated with other landscape features, such as being adjacent to walls or other structures. Our tutorial will show you how to address these challenges in CloudCompare by creating a stockpile which is backed into a box-shaped space.

Key Steps in the Process:

Remember the importance of frequent saving, particularly in the `.bin` format for efficiency and space conservation. This step is crucial to avoid data loss during the processing.



  1. Initial Setup and Data Management:
  • Opening and Saving Data: Begin by loading the LiDAR-derived point cloud data into CloudCompare. It's crucial to frequently save your progress to prevent data loss, preferably in the `.bin` format which is space-efficient and quick to load or save.


  1. Segmentation of the Point Cloud:
  • Selecting the Area: Use the segmentation tools in CloudCompare to isolate the area of interest within the larger point cloud. This could be a specific part of a stockpile or a section of terrain adjacent to infrastructure. 
  • Editing and Refining Selections: Employ the scissor icon tool to select and remove unwanted portions of the point cloud. You can refine this by adding or subtracting areas from your selection to ensure only the necessary data is included for volume calculation.



  1. Modeling for Excavation and Slope Stability:
  • Defining Excavation Boundaries: Use the polyline tool to trace and set boundaries where the excavation will occur. This is essential for determining the volume of material to be removed and for planning the excavation phases.

  • Ensuring Slope Stability: Adjust the traced polyline to model a safe slope angle (45-50 degrees), which is critical to maintaining the structural integrity of adjacent features like roads. This step involves visualizing and adjusting the slope directly in the point cloud interface.



  1. Creating and Adjusting Planes for Volume Calculation:
  • Plane Creation: Based on the boundaries set by the polylines, create geometric planes that will simulate the physical limits of the excavation. This involves using the ‘Edit’ menu to fit a plane to the traced lines.



Plane Adjustment: Fine-tune the orientation and angle of these planes to ensure they precisely represent the intended excavation geometry. This may include rotating the planes and adjusting their angles to match the desired slope, ensuring the safety and feasibility of the excavation plan.



  1. Calculating and Analyzing the Stockpile Volume:
  • Combining Geometric Features: Merge the created planes with the original point cloud to form a complete 3D model of the excavation zone. This model will represent the volume before and after excavation.



Volume Measurement: Use CloudCompare's volume analysis tools to calculate the difference in volume between the pre-excavation and post-excavation models. This step is crucial for accurate reporting and planning.



  1. Final Review and Export of Data:
  • Review Adjustments: Before finalizing the analysis, review all changes and adjustments to ensure accuracy and completeness of the model. This includes a final check of all planes and boundaries.

  •  Exporting Results: Once verified, export the volume data and any relevant 3D models for reporting or further analysis. Ensure the data is saved in formats compatible with other software tools or for client presentations.

Practical Applications and Benefits

This approach to stockpile volume assessment increases the accuracy of volume calculations and enhances operational planning. By creating a detailed 3D model of the excavation area, stakeholders can make informed decisions that optimize resource utilization while maintaining safety standards.

For those involved in resource management or interested in the practical applications of drone technology and LiDAR in industrial settings, understanding and utilizing tools like CloudCompare can transform data into actionable insights, driving efficiency and safety in operations.

Our services team has decades of experience collecting and processing LiDAR point clouds. If you require LiDAR data capture or data processing reach out to our team today at One of our drone experts will be able to assist you in finding the perfect solution for your specific needs.

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