Buxton drone survey - First of 2 surveys last Friday

Fabulous Friday: double drone surveys

For us, there is no doubt that using drones for Land surveying is a game changer. The productivity gain from using drones is colossal. Over the years we have seen incremental change as technology changes but using drones for surveying is a massive step change in productivity. Hopefully, the following breakdown of our day will illustrate that for you.

The day started at 4 am, including site visits and travelling, and concluded by 2 pm. Leaving time to have a Zoom meeting with a supplier and a physical meeting with a survey rep in Shrewsbury before heading back to the office to start processing the data.

Survey One: Buxton – 6am > 8 am

Buxton drone survey - First of 2 surveys last Friday

Site survey for a planning application using a drone in Buxton

Last Friday our day started early as the moon rose, with a 4 am departure from the office. We were on site from 6 am in Buxton. We started with a client safety briefing at 6:30 am, before establishing ground control and preparing for the drone flight. The drone flight itself lasted for 23 minutes and all of the required land survey data was in the can. A short flight followed to get some shots for the client for their publicity materials. A traditional land survey would have taken all day and gathered far fewer data points for our client. The next stage is to extract the topographical survey of the site from the model.

Buxton land survey with a drone point cloud model

Point cloud model of the site derived from 500 photos. Flight time: 23 minutes.
Length: 6.5km. 1 image every 0.7 seconds with the drone travelling at 12m/s.

Survey Two: Candy – 11:00 am > 2 pm

Site survey with a drone in Candy

Site survey for a planning application using a drone in Candy

The second site in Candy was more of a challenge with a deep narrow wooded valley needing a different approach. The lack of mobile signal on any network was the chief problem. The Ground Control took an hour to establish using PPK rather than the usual quick RTK GPS survey. Getting RTK corrections to the drone had to rely on the client’s wifi network rather than a mobile signal.

Terrain following was set on the mission plans to enable the drone to follow the terrain of the site. Extra missions were also needed at lower altitudes over the principal area of interest. Without terrain following the mission would have been harder still with different scales and accuracy within the survey data. The missions allowed the drone to huge the terrain ensuring a consistent data set throughout the survey.

The photogrammetry missions were principally to provide some context for the application site. Setting can be a critical factor in a successful planning application. You can read more here about how a drone land survey can help secure planning permission. We will return to this site for another hour or so next week to survey under the tree canopy around the principal areas of interest.

point cloud derived from photogrammetry survey of site in Candy

Point cloud model of the site derived from 1,700 photos. Flight time: 1 hour.
Length: 24.6km. 1 image every 0.7 seconds with the drone travelling at 12m/s.


Both of the surveys were completed in less than 1 day. A traditional ground-based land survey for both of these sites would have taken us 3 days in total on site… more if we gathered the same amount of data. That is a huge gain for us and our clients.

If you would like to find out more about how our drone land surveying services can help you then please get in touch.



David Walker McInstCES AssocRICS avatar