How Are Drones Used in Surveying?

The Role of Drones in Surveying

Drones, or UAVs, do not generate deliverables but enable the various types of software that do.  Simply put, they collect raw data and lots of it, giving drone surveyors the opportunity to work with a heretofore unimaginable volume of images and measurements that can then be downloaded and manipulated to do such things as provide ALTA/NSPS surveys, generate maps and models, and create georeferenced digital true color orthomosaic images to visualize flood stages and design roads, bridges and infrastructure.

Surveying drones are actually FAA-registered aircraft piloted by FAA-licensed pilots. They fly over the targeted area quickly and unobtrusively, collecting a massive amount of data using either UAV photogrammetry or a LIDAR sensor, which employs a laser to measure a target.

In the case of photogrammetry surveying, a camera mounted on the bottom of the drone captures images from all angles. Survey grade ground control and fixed wing and quadcopter drones acquire latitude, longitude, and elevation (x, y, and z) data accurate to within +/- 3 – 6 cm (1.2 - 2 in).  This information can then be downloaded and employed by software programs to produce the required maps, models and images.

To a lay person, the huge amount of data collected by drone might seem like overkill, but it actually creates a world of options and drastically reduces the necessity of a repeat visit to a site for more data collection.

Mary Darling interviewed on drone safety

More Advantages of Using Drones in Surveying

Traditional surveying techniques take far longer to collect data, produce less information, and cost more than surveys done by drone.  A job that would take traditional surveyors five or six hours can be accomplished by a drone survey in one.

Traditional surveying can be hazardous, sometimes taking place in rough, remote areas or busy highways and railways.  Surveying the top of a cell phone tower is child’s play for a drone but immensely dangerous for a human!  A drone pilot can photograph or take measurements of targets that would be hazardous or impossible for a human to reach.

To protect surveyors, work on a construction project must often be halted.  Since drone surveying is accomplished touch-free using a pilot on the ground and out of harm’s way, it can be done safely and without interruption to work or traffic flow.

Drones also offer unprecedented flexibility.  Because of their size, they can go many places humans cannot and get close to the target.  They can also move about freely, capturing data from every angle.

Interested in Learning More?

Darling Geomatics has over two decades of experience in the surveying industry, serving construction, engineering, mining, energy, airport, healthcare and sports clients worldwide.  Trust us for on-time, efficient, accurate, cost effective deliverables every time.

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