Nowadays, drones are widely used for various purposes and surveying using drones has its own benefits. Firstly, let us understand two very important scenarios. “What are the benefits of using a Drone for Surveying” and “What purposes is a Drone used in Surveying”.

Before diving deep into the key benefits of drone surveying, we will look at the history of drone surveying.

History of drone surveying

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are one of the most game-changing technologies to appear in recent years. They are a hot topic of discussion and the subject of some debate. One of the fastest growing applications for drones is UAV surveying. Since land surveyors can use these devices to quickly and efficiently survey large areas.

With drone technology becoming increasingly affordable, it’s no surprise to see more people using it, both for commercial and recreational purposes. We are certainly living in exciting times, as the possibilities surrounding drone use seem practically endless.

benefits of drone surveying

When this idea of UAVs first surfaced, the United States military was using the concept to identify mines in Afghanistan. Tudor Thomas, an aerial-imagery specialist behind the concept, took his knowledge and transformed it into a lucrative business model.

Using the single-frame images from the photos, Thomas and his team developed software to correct those images, blending them into a single consumable. Known as orthorectification, this process created a geo-referenced map though real-world location data based on the GPS reading of ground control points.

uses of drones in surveying

Land surveying / cartography:

Land surveying involves measuring and determining property boundaries. Drones, while surveying such lands, generate high-resolution orthomosaics and detailed 3D models of areas where no data is available or low-quality & outdated data, are available. 

land surveying using drones

These maps, images or 3D models could be used for all property transactions including buying, selling, mortgaging and leasing.

Surveyors can also extract features from the images, such as signs, curbs, road markers, drains, trees, commercial/residential buildings and build a Object Identification Map.

Using Drones for surveying, we can also create a map for Identification of Crops.

After post-processing these same images can produce very detailed elevation models, contour lines and 3D reconstructions of land sites or buildings.

Stockpile volumetric measurements:

This is a classic adaptation of drone use by construction companies. 

Using drones to measure stockpiles makes it easy to compare your current stockpile volumes to previous surveys in order to track site progress. You can also compare stockpile surveys to a final grade design file to calculate how much material you have left to add or remove.

With 3D mapping software, it is also possible to obtain volumetric measurements from the very same images. This fast and inexpensive method of volume measurement is particularly useful to calculate stocks in mines and quarries for inventory or monitoring purposes.

With georeferenced images taken from a drone flying above your worksite, you can use photogrammetry to generate a 3D visualization of your site with measurements accurate to 1/10ft (3cm). 

Leveraging that level of accuracy, you can use a drone survey visualization platform to take a variety of measurements, including stockpile volumes. 

Urban planning:

As urban areas are getting more crowded and falling increasingly short on future development potential, development of new self-sustaining cities are emerging as an alternate solution to these problems. Technology is at the heart of these new self-sustaining cities enabling automation and real-time integrated city monitoring and management through a network of sensors, cameras, wireless devices and data centers.

urban planning using drone surveying

Ground-based survey tools are used to collect data (Traditional Method). But owing to low maintenance expenses, rapid deployment times and different types of installable cameras, drones can do the job faster, cheaper and safer compared with collecting data with satellites, manned aircraft, or road crews. Drones are suited for mapping road, highway, and railway infrastructures.

The images produced in this way allow planners to examine the existing social and environmental conditions of the sites and consider the impact of different scenarios. 3D models, buildings can also be easily overlayed onto their environment, giving planners and citizens an experimental perspective of a complex development project

Automated Mapping:

Automated mapping is the process by which maps are drawn in real time during a drone flight. With the support of control points like known coordinates or placed markers, the drone is able to fly autonomously a calculated fly path at a given altitude. 

As the drone flies, it records images of the area below in both high resolution and infrared. The imaging is then transmitted remotely and layered to map the arc with extreme precision.

Depending on the equipment, the drone can take common high-resolution color and infrared pictures. The drone pilot is able to see everything in real time.

Cadastral Surveying:

Cadastral surveying is a process that is essential to real estate and construction and development industries.

cadastral surveying map

A further benefit is the identification of boundaries and land features with drone-generated pictures.

This way of mapping boundaries and property assets can have an essential impact on the real estate and appraisal industry owing to the low costs of data collection.

Lidar Mapping:

Lidar is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth.

A drone equipped with a laser measuring tool shoots beams at distant objects and collects the reflected light with a sensor.

It is possible to create a virtual high-resolution map of the surrounding area with Lidar. It creates a precise digital representation of objects, buildings, and the ground more detailed than common pictures.

Lidar is a surveying technology that measures distances by emitting beams of light in all directions from a laser source. It collects the reflected light with a sensor. By measuring the required time for a round trip of the laser light, distances can be calculated.

benefits of drone surveying

Below are the benefits of drone surveying in GIS.

drone surveying in fields

Reduce field time:

Capturing topographic data with a drone is up to five times faster than with land-based methods and requires less manpower.  Land surveying requires long hours and carrying heavy equipment from one location to another. You ultimately deliver your survey results faster and at a lower cost.

Larger sites can take days – if not weeks – for surveyors to compile information in the field. Collecting this same data via a drone saves days (sometimes weeks) of time. Instead of days or weeks, drone mapping takes minutes to complete a site survey with the same amount of accuracy as you would on foot.

Drone mapping makes it possible for ad hoc flights of entire sites or specific areas of projects to gain easy access to the most up-to-date information on a site on regular basis.

Cost effective:

Cost, Budget-is one major consideration for everyone. The ability to make efficient use of a budget is at the forefront of most folks’ minds. Drone mapping can fit seamlessly into your pre-existing budget allocations and can also decrease company budget and time to spend on other tasks. A traditional ground survey team may need a month to map a dangerous 100-acre site. However, a mapping drone can complete the same task in less than half an hour.  The increased speed and automation that drone mapping provides, permit companies to safely take on and complete more jobs for more clients, on more sites, in less time.

Due to its money efficient nature, using a survey drone allows for a budget-wise saving than traditional or aerial surveying. By investing traditional mapping budgets into a autonomous drone and mapping software, one can get faster, more accurate data at a much lower cost.

Surveying with a drone makes it possible to acquire data/surveys of the same quality as a highly accurate measurements collected by traditional methods but in fraction of time which reduces the cost of a site survey and workload of specialist in the field.

Increased accuracy:

Total stations only measure individual points. One flight produces thousands of measurements, which can be represented in different formats (orthomosaics, point cloud, DTM/DSM, contour lines, etc.) Each pixel of the produced map or point of the 3D model contains 3D geo-data. It provides a better quality of image. The data is clear and convenient.

In addition, the use of drones also has benefits for surveying clients. This is because the data is captured in an incredibly detailed and accurate visual. This means, any jargon or complicated statistics are clearly illustrated for the consumer.

Visuals matter! The data looks more realistic. The videos and photos can also be a great resource during public outreach related to a project.

Map inaccessible areas:

An aerial mapping drone can take off and fly almost anywhere. Drones, allow surveyors to view areas of a property that, up to this point, they have been incapable of reaching. This includes: Rooftops, roadways or any property situated in a congested city.

You are no longer limited by unreachable areas, unsafe steep slopes or harsh terrain unsuitable for traditional measuring tools. You do not need to close down highways or train tracks. In fact, you can capture data during operation without an organizational overhead. Helps in capturing images of areas in which the man can’t pass through.

Safety of Employees:

From an organization’s point of view, safety of employees is a major aspect that must be taken into consideration. Their work does not always consider weather conditions or physical fatigue.

Land surveyors’ work is always outdoors regardless of weather and consists of a lot of stamina and potentially long commutes. There is also an additional danger of tough or unexpected terrain. Having a drone mapping solution allows for autonomous flights eliminates several risks associated with land surveying. Heavy equipment and hazardous injuries being some of them.

The user of drone surveying eliminates this risk and ensure and safety of the surveyors. With a simple push of a button, a drone can survey a site and obtain valuable and accurate information in order to obtain a complete aerial map of the site.

The entire process does not put anyone at risk of serious injury.

In conclusion, these are some purposes and benefits of Drone Surveying, but these are not enough. There are many other applications that use drones. Film makers, Videographers, Photographers and many such industries make use of drones. Benefits of drone surveying can also be seen in wildlife management.

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