Advances in sensing and imaging technologies have enabled new levels of accuracy in the measurement of bulk-solid materials stored in piles, silos and bins. BinMaster (Lincoln, Neb.; www.binmaster.com) and Stockpile Reports (Redmond, Wash.; www.stockpilereports.com) have collaborated to introduce the industry’s only proprietary inventory-measurement platform that includes capabilities to process images from drones, smartphones and fixed cameras, combining robust level-sensing technologies with advanced image-processing software.
According to BinMaster, the technology is less expensive and easier to implement than sensing based on light detection and ranging (LIDAR), a commonly used measurement technique. The platform can also provide a confidence interval for measurement accuracy by considering obstructions, such as the presence of standing water, vegetation or extraneous equipment around piles. It can also provide guidance on the effects of these anomalies and recommended maintenance tasks. Typically, pile inventories involving such obstructions require imprecise approximations. Since drones collect images by following a pre-programmed path, taking measurements is streamlined and errors are reduced. In addition to piles and bins, inventory inside of storage bunkers, which are commonly used for fertilizer components, can also be measured.
BinMaster is currently working on enhancing the technology to measure inventory of bulk materials within flat storage warehouses, which typically pose many challenges for sensing and measuring technologies. The warehouse-measurement solution will likely employ a series of synchronized fixed cameras or cameras affixed to conveyors, and is expected to become available in the first quarter of 2019.