Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Civil Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Gabriel B. Dadi


Earthwork operations are often one of the major cost items on infrastructure construction projects. Because earthwork is largely influenced by unstable construction conditions and organization plans, it becomes the emphasis and difficulties of the cost control in the construction process. Therefore, precise estimates of actual earthwork volumes are important for both owners and contractors alike to ensure appropriate payments are made. However, measuring work on site requires lots of time and labors because of various and irregular site conditions. Conventional measurement methods, such as planned quantities from the drawings or estimates from equipment activity, are rough estimates with significant opportunities for errors and safety concerns.

Recently, unmanned aerial systems (UAS) have become popular for numerous surveying applications in civil engineering. They require less cost and time consumptions compared with traditionally manual methods. Also, they are able to perform photogrammetric data acquisition with equipped digital cameras in hazardous, complex or other conditions that may present high safety risks. However, UAS photogrammetry for research applications is still in its infancy, especially in construction management, and research conducted on UAS photogrammetry for earthwork volume estimation are very limited.

Therefore, this research intends to investigate and validate the feasibility and efficiency of utilizing the UAS photogrammetry surveying technique to estimate earthwork volume. The research is conducted into three steps based on distinct case studies: firstly, adapting a basic analysis through a case study to preliminarily prove the effectiveness of the UAS photogrammetry method in earthwork volume measurement; also providing an analytical foundation for further utilizations; secondly, Quantitatively assessing the impact of flight parameters and environmental factors on the accuracy of UAS photogrammetry in earthwork volume measurement and identifying the most influential individual or combinations through observations and a statistical multiple regression analysis; at last, comparing volumes calculated by using the UAS platform and other two conventional methods which are Average-End-Area method and grid method in AutoCAD to further validate the feasibility of using the UAS technology in the process of earthwork volumes estimation.

The results indicate that the UAS is an effective method for earthwork volume measurement. According to published standards, practice experience, and literature, the measurement errors are in an acceptable range when parameters are under control. In addition, the UAS demonstrates its advantages in balancing between the accuracy and efficiency compared with conventional earthwork volume measurement methods.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)