The geospatial industry undergoes a revolution. Earlier, it was total stations, then came GPS, laser scanners and robotics. Now, professionals and companies are adopting another tool, surveying drones, which boast quick data collection times, excellent positional accuracy and a safe operator experience.

Drones can be used to make topography maps, contour elevation maps, volume measurements, both 2D and 3D models, and much more. There are several benefits to using drones in this line of work such as decreased time in the field and in the post processing, help keep workers out of potentially dangerous environments, and improved accuracy.

Photogrammetry has been around for over 150 years and has played a valuable role in mapping and land surveying but can have certain limitations with regards to dense vegetation or tree covered environments. With Light Detection and Ranging, better known as LiDAR, drones can better assist in high vegetation areas. What used to require traditional surveying can now be done with LiDAR equipped drones.

Photogrammetry combines images that contain the same point on the ground from multiple vantage points to yield detailed 2D and 3D maps.

What are drones used for in surveying?

Land surveying

Survey drones generate high-resolution orthomosaics and detailed 3D models of areas where low-quality, outdated or even no data, are available. They thus enable high-accuracy cadastral maps to be produced quickly and easily, even in complex or difficult to access environments. Surveyors can also extract features from the images, such as signs, curbs, road markers, fire hydrants and drains

After post-processing with a photogrammetry software, these same images can produce very detailed elevation models, contour lines and breaklines, as well as 3D reconstructions of land sites or buildings.

Land management and development

Aerial images taken by drones greatly accelerate and simplify topographic surveys for land management and planning. This holds true for site scouting, allotment planning and design, as well as final construction of roads, buildings and utilities.

These images also provide the foundation for detailed models of site topography for pre-construction engineering studies. The generated data can also be transferred to any CAD or BIM software so that engineers can immediately start working from a 3D model.
As data collection by drones is easily repeatable at low cost, images can be taken at regular intervals and overlaid on the original blueprints to assess whether the construction work is moving according to plan specifications.

Topographic Surveys

How Drones Help Conduct Topographic Surveys

Generate 1:500 scale maps without using GCPs while meeting centimeter-level accuracy requirements.

Improve the efficiency of data collection and processing up to 10 times, acquiring deliverables quickly and shortening project lifecycles.

Gain industry-standard outputs like DOM, DSM, 3D reality models and more.

Small teams can cover large areas quickly by operating multiple drones with a single remote controller.

Precise measurements

High resolution orthophotos enable surveyors to perform highly-accurate distance and surface measurements.

Stockpile volumetric measurements

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 a drone, surveyors can capture many more topographic data points, hence more accurate volume measurements. They can also do this in a much safer way than if they had to manually capture the data by going up and down a stockpile. Since drones are capturing the data from above, operations on site won’t be interrupted. The short acquisition time enables capturing a site snapshot at a specific point in time.

Slope monitoring

With automated GIS analysis, it is possible to extract slope measurements from DTMs and DSMs generated by drone imagery. Knowing the steepness of the ground’s surface, the areas can be classified and used for slope monitoring purposes, including landslide mitigation and prevention.

Urban Planning

The development of increasingly dense and complex urban areas requires intensive planning and therefore time-consuming and expensive data collection. Thanks to drones, urban planners can collect large amounts of up-to-date data in a short period of time and with far less staff. 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

Corridor Mapping

Surveying drones and software solutions combine multiple types of geographic information to create 2D orthomosaics and 3D models to help with classification and planning.
Drones can be operated in complex terrains, with intelligent features that follow the terrain to ensure flight safety without compromising data accuracy.

The 2D maps and 3D models generated are compatible with a variety of GIS software, so results can be quickly visualized for timely adjustments.

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