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Open-Pit Mine Engineering-grade Mapping: Satellite Mapping vs. Drone Mapping

Updated: Jun 30

Recurrent mapping allows site managers to track tailings and overburden volumes and location, as well as mine pit geometry.

Satellite Mapping has been mostly based on the photogrammetric processing of very-high-resolution, stereo optical imagery.


Drone Mapping has also been mostly based on optical imagery (but with structure-from-motion algorithms). While a few satellite images may cover an entire mine site, 100s or 1000s of Drone photos may be needed to cover a large mine.



Advantages of Satellite Mapping over Drone Mapping include:

  • A small number of images covers entire mine sites.

  • No field work is necessary other than for establishing ground control.

  • Only a relatively small number of ground control points is necessary.

Disadvantages of Satellite Mapping over Drone Mapping include:

  • Satellite imaging is not possible in overcast conditions.

  • 3D model resolution may not be sufficient to map and measure certain features.

  • Satellite tasking may not always be possible for the desired dates.

Drone Mapping is more versatile and produces more detailed 3D models than Satellite Mapping. Additionally, a number of Drone platforms have engineering-grade Differential Positioning, reducing or eliminating the need for other ground control.


Lightweight LiDAR platforms are revolutionizing Drone-base topographic mapping, but aren’t necessarily advantageous for bare-ground areas such as Open-Pit Mines: slower flight speeds; typically require lower flight elevations and thus longer mission time; costly.


In remote areas, where access to Drone services is difficult, Satellite Mapping may be the best option for Open-Pit Repeat Mapping. But where Drone Services are available, these are likely more cost-effective and will lead to more detailed deliverables than satellite data. Liability of ground work can be reduced by shifting flights to weekends and holidays.


At XYINTEL we provide both Satellite-based and Drone-based mapping of Open-Pit Mines throughout the year.



#satellitemapping #dronemapping #minevolumetry

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