Drone creating a point cloud using slam lidar

Exploring the Benefits of Drone Surveying in 2024

Short Summary

Understanding Drone Surveying

image from an aerial survey with a drone

image from an aerial survey with a drone

So, how does this innovative process actually work, and what types of drones are best suited for surveying tasks?

How Drone Surveys in 2024 Work

Drone surveying involves flying a drone over a survey site to capture images and LiDAR data. This data is then processed using photogrammetry software or LiDAR software to generate maps, digital surface models, and 3D models. These data outputs provide valuable information for decision-making and planning in various industries, such as construction, agriculture, and environmental monitoring. The key components of drone surveying include drone hardware, surveying software, data processing, and analysis, as well as GIS technology.

Apart from imagery and LiDAR, drone surveys can also produce geospatial information, which can be leveraged to optimize return on investment and improve decision-making. The combination of high-resolution cameras and advanced software not only allows industry professionals to acquire large amounts of data efficiently but also eliminates the laborious process of traditional land surveying methods.

Types of Drones for Surveying

Factors to consider when choosing a drone for surveying

When selecting a drone for land surveying, several factors must be considered. These include:

Benefits of Drone Surveying

Drone Surveying DJI M300 drone with L1 lidar scanner

Drone Surveying: DJI M300 drone with L1 lidar scanner

The advantages of drone surveying are manifold, with benefits ranging from significant time and cost savings to improved safety and enhanced data quality. By capturing highly accurate and detailed data, drone surveying enables better decision-making, reduces the potential for human error, and increases operational efficiency.

Let’s delve deeper into these benefits and see how they translate to real-world applications.

Time and Cost Savings

One of the most appealing aspects of drone surveying is its ability to save both time and money. Drone surveys can be up to five times faster than traditional land-based methods and require fewer personnel. Additionally, with PPK geo-tagging, the need to place multiple ground control points is eliminated, thus reducing time and cost even further.

By providing accurate data in a more expeditious manner, drone surveying has become a cost-effective alternative to traditional aerial and ground-based surveys.

Improved Safety

Drone surveying greatly enhances safety by allowing surveyors to conduct land surveys away from hazardous terrain and construction equipment. This not only minimizes the risk of accidents and injuries for surveyors who would otherwise have to work at heights or in hazardous areas but also reduces potential downtime caused by accidents.

A quarry with many dangers for a traditional survey crew measuring volumes and site progress

By eliminating the need for personnel to access hazardous terrain and conditions, drone surveying provides a safer and more reliable alternative to traditional survey methods.

Enhanced Data Quality

Another significant benefit of drone surveying is the enhanced data quality it offers. With the use of high-resolution cameras and advanced software, drone surveying yields highly accurate and detailed data, surpassing the quality of data obtained through traditional surveying methods.

This increased accuracy and detail enable better decision-making, more precise planning, and improved overall project outcomes. Moreover, the use of Real Time Kinematic (RTK) technology further improves the precision of the data collected by the drone.

Key Components of Drone Surveying

Clogworks drone with Riegl laser scanner payload

Clogworks drone with Riegl laser scanner payload

To fully appreciate the potential of drone surveying, it is essential to understand its key components. These components include drone hardware, surveying software, and data processing and analysis. Each of these elements plays a crucial role in the successful implementation of drone surveying and the accuracy of the data obtained.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these components and their significance in the drone surveying process.

Drone Hardware

Drone hardware comprises various components such as the drone itself (fixed-wing or multirotor), camera, GPS, power supplies, actuators and motors, sensors, computing, and flight controller. The performance and quality of these components directly impact the accuracy and efficiency of the drone survey.

For example, the use of a high-resolution camera and a D-RTK base station can significantly improve the accuracy of the survey results.

Surveying Software

Surveying software plays a vital role in the drone surveying process by enabling the processing, analysis, and visualization of the data collected by the drone. Popular drone surveying software options include Pix4D, DroneDeploy, Agisoft, Reality Capture and Esri Site Scan for ArcGIS. These software packages offer various features and capabilities, such as real-time mapping, autonomous flights, and support for different types of data outputs like orthomosaic maps and 3D models.

Specialized software is available to serve different industry-specific applications. These include Pix4Dinspect for industrial inspection, Pix4Dfields for crop analysis, and Pix4Dreact for emergency response. By choosing the right software for their specific needs, drone surveyors can ensure the most accurate and efficient data processing and analysis.

drone land survey for a planning application- initial process and point cloud classification

Data Processing and Analysis

Data processing and analysis are crucial for achieving accurate results with drone surveying. The data collected by the drone needs to be processed and analyzed to construct detailed maps, models, and other outputs that can inform decision-making and planning.

Tools like WebODM, an open-source platform, can be used to create maps, point clouds, digital elevation models, and 3D models from aerial drone images. By employing the right tools and techniques, drone surveyors can ensure the highest level of accuracy in their survey results.

Real-World Applications of Drone Surveying

Construction progress monitoring: structural steelwork

Construction progress monitoring with a drone: structural steelwork

Drone surveying has made a significant impact on various industries, offering innovative solutions to age-old challenges. Some of the most common real-world applications of drone surveying include construction and infrastructure, agriculture and land management, and environmental monitoring.

In each of these sectors, drone surveying has proven to be a powerful tool for improving efficiency, accuracy, and safety.

Construction and Infrastructure

One of the most notable applications of drone surveying is in the construction and infrastructure sector. By integrating drone surveying with Building Information Modeling (BIM) software, construction professionals can acquire high-resolution 3D maps during each construction step and compare them with BIM objects to identify and address discrepancies. This not only helps in monitoring project progress but also aids in detecting errors early, minimizing costly rework and delays.

Drone surveying also proves beneficial in construction site monitoring and inspections. By capturing accurate data in a secure manner, drone surveying eliminates the need for personnel to traverse hazardous stockpiles or access building sites. This not only reduces the potential for accidents and injuries but also provides project teams and clients with a unique perspective on the progress of a project that would otherwise be unobtainable from the ground.

Agriculture and Land Management

In the realm of agriculture and land management, drone surveying has emerged as a game changer. The use of multispectral drone mapping provides valuable insights into crop health, allowing farmers to monitor and inspect crop growth, create a more comprehensive understanding of their fields, and enhance overall productivity. With the ability to generate orthomosaic maps and analyze fertilization strategies, drone surveying helps farmers optimize their resources and maximize their outputs.

Moreover, LiDAR mapping technology has proven to be advantageous for forestry, agriculture, landscaping, and public safety industries. By providing highly accurate and detailed data, LiDAR mapping enables better decision-making and planning for land management and environmental monitoring.

Environmental Monitoring

Drone surveying also plays a crucial role in environmental monitoring, helping organizations collect data on temperature, humidity, air quality, and other environmental factors. This data can be used to assess changes in the environment over time, identify potential hazards, and inform policies and strategies for environmental preservation.

Furthermore, drone surveying can be utilized for slope monitoring in landslide mitigation and prevention, providing valuable data for risk assessment and management.

Achieving Accurate Results with Drone Surveying

Drone creating a point cloud using slam lidar

Accuracy is of paramount importance in drone surveying, as it directly impacts the quality of the data and the effectiveness of the decision-making process. To achieve accurate results with drone surveying, it is essential to understand the factors that affect accuracy and follow tips for improving accuracy.

Let’s explore these factors and tips in more detail.

Factors Affecting Accuracy

The accuracy of drone survey mapping is influenced by many factors. These include the performance and type of drone, the quality of its components, camera resolution, altitude, vegetation and the geolocation technology used for aerial images.

In crude terms, the accuracy is considered to be twice the Ground Sampling Distance (GSD). WingtraOne, a high-end surveying drone, is capable of achieving maximum absolute accuracy of 1 cm (0.4 in) and 0.7 cm/px (0.3 in/px) GSD provided conditions are favourable.

Tips for Improving Accuracy

To optimize the accuracy of drone surveying, several steps can be taken. Ensuring sufficient overlap, employing a high-resolution camera, flying at a lower altitude, utilizing a mechanical shutter camera, and incorporating ground control points are all techniques that can be employed to enhance the accuracy of drone surveying.

By following these tips and using the right tools and techniques, drone surveyors can achieve highly accurate results that can be used to inform critical decisions and improve project outcomes.

Arial photograph from a drone roof inspection showing cracked tiles and undercloak

Arial photograph from a drone roof inspection showing cracked tiles and undercloak

As with any technology, drone surveying is subject to legal considerations and regulations that must be adhered to. These regulations, which may vary by country or region, ensure the safe and responsible use of drones for surveying purposes.

In this section, we will discuss the certification requirements and the importance of adhering to local regulations when using drones for surveying.

Certification Requirements

To become a drone surveyor, requirements may differ depending on the country or region. In the UK, a combination of academic qualifications in GIS and remote sensing, drone operation training, and industry certifications, such as GVC or A2 CofC, is necessary.

Furthermore, a Flyer ID and a Remote Pilot Certificate are essential for flying a surveying drone. It is important for drone surveyors to obtain the necessary certifications and training to ensure they are operating within legal parameters and maintaining the highest standards of safety and professionalism.

Adhering to Local Regulations

Complying with local regulations when utilizing drones for surveying is critical to ensure the drone is operated safely and within legal parameters. Not adhering to local regulations can result in fines, legal action, or other repercussions. In the UK the CAA are the airspace regulator and sets out the framework for registration and safe drone operations.

Commercial operations need suitable insurance cover for drone operations. This should include professional indemnity insurance and public liability insurance.


In conclusion, drone surveying has revolutionized traditional surveying methods, offering numerous benefits such as time and cost savings, improved safety, and enhanced data quality. By understanding the key components of drone surveying and their applications in various industries, professionals can harness the power of this cutting-edge technology to make better decisions, optimize resources, and achieve greater success. As drone surveying in 2024 continues to evolve and advance, the possibilities for its impact on industries around the world are truly limitless.

Frequently Asked Questions


David Walker McInstCES AssocRICS avatar