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Sunny evening view from drone towards Breiddon Hill

6 reasons why a drone land survey is a good idea

Drone land surveys are an excellent idea for your business. If you distil it right down it is a simple matter of perspective. From the air, you can see and measure far more.

Here are 6 reasons why a drone land survey is a good idea:

  1. Quicker
  2. Cheaper
  3. Safer
  4. Accuracy
  5. Repeatable
  6. Comprehensive

1 Faster

Capture survey grade data very quickly. Using drones to carry out land surveys is far quicker than a traditional land survey. Using traditional theodolites / total stations a surveyor would traverse a site with control points located where they can see the features being measured. A line of sight is needed to measure the data points. More stations are needed to reveal obscured features or hidden details like land behind a tall wall or hedgerow. A drone-based Lidar or Photogrammetry survey requires fewer ground control points and can survey a far larger area at the same time.

For example, a typical survey could have 12 to 20 control points to have enough positions to see all of the required data for a survey. A drone survey could have as few as 5 depending on the shape and size of the survey. Many hectares can be flown in less than an hour.

Topographical Survey of a farm dwelling and adjacent land
This traditional land survey measured in under 2 days with 12 control points.
By comparison a drone survey measured inside 2 hours with 6 control points.

2 Cheaper

More cost-effective than a traditional survey. A traditional land survey could take days to complete. The largest could take weeks. Each day a survey crew is on-site Costs mount up with expensive equipment, travel, accommodation and other expenses. A drone survey measures a site in a fraction of the time, reducing or eliminating many of these costs. This makes large surveys more affordable than ever before. For many large sites, a comprehensive survey would have only been possible with a helicopter or a plane measuring a site, which doesn’t come cheaply. Productivity gains are passed onto the client in cost savings for them too.

3 Safer

Fewer boots on the ground in risky or inaccessible locations. The built and the natural environment can be a very dangerous place for staff working on foot. Cliff surveys, quarry and landfill sites, construction sites and even surveying a road pose many hazards for our surveyors as well as the client’s site staff. By using a drone the risks to our staff from plant and machinery are much reduced. For the client, a survey can be undertaken without any need to stop operations while surveys are measured, improving safety and reducing costly safety stoppages. Conversely, the impressive safety record of drones generally, coupled with our working practices, mitigates the risk of personal injury from a drone. As GVC-qualified pilots with a CAA-approved operations manual the safety of everybody on site is a paramount concern.

4 Accurate

High relative and absolute accuracy. For a surveyor accuracy and precision is always key consideration to deliver what a client needs in their survey – Accuracy and precision aren’t the same. Approached properly a drone survey can output survey-grade data with high relative and absolute accuracy. Many entrants to drone mapping don’t have a strong background in surveying and don’t appreciate the steps needed to ensure their data is accurate. Flying your missions at the correct altitude or offset to achieve the desired ground sampling distance is just one of many considerations to achieving a good survey. Proper use of ground control and check points ensures surveys aren’t distorted

Improved accuracy in Drone Mapping with Ground Control Points

Adding ground control is essential for accurate scale and positioning, as is measuring quality control check shots. RTK drones can reduce this need.

5 Repeatable

Targeted and repeatable data acquisition. Advances in drone technology and robust methodology now make drone surveys repeatable. This is a huge plus for surveyors where you are comparing data from before, during and after a project, monitoring progress, erosion or defects on site. Exactly the same flight path can be flow time after time allowing the survey to be repeated with accuracy and quality comparisons made.

Conversely, unnecessary return visits to capture missing data are avoided. The amount of valuable data gathered is quite staggering, both on-site and off-site. If a client wants to know something new the data has already been captured in fine detail. The new information just needs extracting without a return visit.

6 Comprehensive

Reaching the places other surveys cannot reach. Planning applications off-site/overlooking features and the surrounding setting can be important factors in determining an application’s success.

As mentioned above even with high accuracy laser scanning, if you can’t see the detail above, behind or around a structure from the ground the laser scanner/surveyor can’t measure it. This results in gaps or shadows in your point cloud data. Tall objects like a church where critical roof measurements can remain beyond reach present a particular problem. An integrated approach with data collected from the ground and the air is comprehensive without any of those lines of sight gaps or holes in your data.

It used to be true that a drone couldn’t measure details under tree cover, underground or indoors. Now autonomous drones can now fly amongst trees, through culverts, indoors and underground filling in all of the data gaps whilst still retaining all of the other advantages of drones listed above.

Perspective is why a drone land survey is a good idea

The above 6 reasons why a drone land survey is a good idea are about maximising efficiency, data coverage and deliverables to the client. Line of sight issues impacts data obtained from a total station, laser scanner, GPS receiver or drone. Taken together the Cost-Benefit Analysis for clients is easy to see. What would you do if you could get a far better product from us at a fraction of the cost of a traditional survey?

If you have a project that you feel could benefit from a drone land survey then please feel free to contact us for more information and a quote.