Drones have become indispensable tools for many industries in the past 10 years. One of those industries is in the field of surveying, making it far easier to reach inaccessible areas, collect high-resolution photography and provide insights with that data. They not only allow current surveyors to increase their efficiency in the field, but also complement the existing data surveyors collect on the ground. In this guide we explore the impacts drones have on surveying, the applications, benefits, and possibilities they offer for the future.
Drones in Surveying
Drones complement traditional surveying methods by offering faster data captures, with high accuracy, and enhanced safety. For example, surveying a badly deteriorated road comes with risks to surveyors who also need to use the same road to traverse, with drones this isn’t an issue anymore since everything is done from above ground. Drones like the DJI Matrice 300 can be equipped with the DJI Zenmuse L1 LiDAR sensor which enable detailed and precise data capture for surveyors to then analyse. Sometimes all that is needed is just a quick photogrammetry solution which instead of using LiDAR to create a 3D model, uses high resolution photographs stitched together to create a fairly accurate 3D model using sensors like the DJI Zenmuse P1.
Applications of Drones in Surveying
- Topographic Mapping. Drones can quickly and accurately capture aerial imagery and terrain data, helping to facilitate the creation of detailed topographic maps for land development projects, infrastructure planning, and environmental assessment. When GCPs are strategically placed in the survey area, post-processing from software can accurately align drone captured data with real-world coordinates for reliable geospatial positioning.
- Construction Site Monitoring. Drones can provide regular updates on construction progress, assisting project managers monitor site conditions, track changes, and identify potential issues before they escalate.
- Asset Inspection. Drones which offer highly advanced sensors which allow unparalleled accessibility to inspect infrastructure assets such as bridges, powerlines, and pipelines.
- Land and Real Estate Surveys: Whether required for pre-purchase or to understand land topography, drones are efficient at surveying properties and surrounding lands to assist in boundary identification, and property assessments.
Benefits of Drone-based Surveying
We already touched upon some of the benefits above, but the ease and speed at which drones capture data far surpasses traditional ground based means. Drones can cover large areas within a fraction of the time reducing the need for ground equipment and time spent on site. A great advantage for both survey companies and surveyors themselves with less time and money spent. This makes surveying more accessible to a wider range of projects with quicker turn around times for clients.
Drones eliminate the need for surveyors to access or stay in hazardous areas such as steep slopes, unstable platforms, or dangerous environments. Drones can fly at various altitudes, capture survey data from multiple angles, and with some drones navigate complex terrain automatically, providing surveying companies with flexibility to survey areas otherwise deemed too difficult.
Drones offer much faster surveys to occur, provide flexible coverage, and reduce hazards to surveyors in the field. Software that allows post processing with GCPs which offer the required precision that surveyors need, also reduce the complexities of piecing together ground based surveys. Coupled with the drone’s ability to capture data with very little setup time, drones have become valuable tools in the arsenal for surveyors and surveying businesses.