Get More Accurate Data in Less Time With Aerial Surveys

There already exists an impressive list of use cases for drones across a diverse set of industries.

Some UAV applications are seeing positive but limited use, such as drones designed for planting trees. Other UAV solutions are becoming more widespread and commonplace. One of the most prevalent UAV solutions is aerial surveying.

Surveying is essential to many of the largest sectors of the global economy. Construction, mining, oil and gas, real estate, and several other industries rely on accurate survey data for building, project management, and other onsite operations.

Traditionally, these industries have used ground survey methods to collect the data needed to create outputs, such as 3D models, topographic maps, volumetric estimates, orthomosaics, and other photogrammetry products.

Drones are more cost-effective for the task than land-survey crews. And, for many businesses, they’re the best option available.

The benefits of aerial surveying are fueling greater adoption of UAV technology. If you’re looking for a faster, safer way to conduct surveys, then drone-use might just be the solution.

How Aerial Surveys Work

Drone aerial surveying is a form of photogrammetry, or measuring distance using pictures.

There are several programs on the market that make planning and executing aerial survey flights almost automatic. 

When conducting an aerial survey, remote pilots fly the drone  over the subject area, with the camera pointing downward. As the drone flies on a predetermined course, pictures are taken at different angles and in an overlapping fashion.

Additionally, the drone’s GPS receiver records coordinates for the center point of each photograph.

After photos are uploaded to photogrammetry software, the data is converted into any number of products, such as topographic maps or 3D models.

How Accurate Are Drone Aerial Surveys?

So, how accurate are they?

The short answer is that, with the right drone and additional equipment, they’re just as accurate as ground-based surveys. And, they cover more areas, such as dangerous terrain.

Aerial surveys include both relative and absolute accuracy. Relative accuracy is the accuracy between two images or points the drone collects. Absolute accuracy is how accurate the aerial survey is to the Earth’s surface.

Drones use GPS receivers to record the coordinates assigned to a given image they collect. GPS receivers. on most drones, have high relative accuracy but are not as accurate in absolute terms.

That means the data they collect can quickly be processed into 3D maps and other products, but some calibration is necessary to align with the Earth’s surface and yield survey-level absolute accuracy.

To achieve this, tools called Ground Control Points (GCPs) are added to the aerial surveyor’s kit. GCPs are markers on the ground whose location is recorded using handheld or built-in GPS receivers with a very high absolute accuracy level.

When the coordinates for these points are compared to the drone’s data, the relative data points are calibrated, and highly accurate survey data is produced.

The Benefits of Aerial Surveys

There are several significant benefits to using aerial survey platforms, as opposed to land-based survey teams.

If your business uses land-based teams, switching to aerial surveys can produce a noticeable difference in your bottom line.

Additionally, It saves you a substantial amount of time. UAVs cover a large amount of ground in a short time frame. Some drones are capable of completing surveys 80% faster than traditional methods.

Also, many environments that require surveys are dangerous. Construction sites, open-pit mines, or even areas affected by natural disasters pose severe threats to humans looking to survey the area.

Drones offer standoff from the immediate danger while still allowing for accurate surveys to be completed. Additionally, drones typically do not require an active site to be shut down for your survey team’s safety.

Land-based survey teams often require advanced scheduling and several days or even weeks to complete a project.

And, the low cost of capable UAV platforms allows for most operations to have in-house drone capabilities. This convenience means surveys can be conducted whenever needed, without the hassle of scheduling surveyors or using outside resources.

Aerial surveys with drones are quickly becoming the standard. As technology continues to improve, UAVs will likely command a larger share of the survey market. If you are currently using traditional survey methods, invest the time to investigate aerial survey options further with a qualified consultant.

Bringing It All Together

Aerial surveys with drones are quickly becoming the standard.

As technology continues to improve, UAVs will likely command a larger share of the survey market.

Are you looking to a better way to conduct your surveys? We’re here to help. Whether you want to outsource or create your own in-house program , Consortiq offers Drones-as-a-Service, a full complement of training, and continued operational support.

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David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly - Contributing Author

David Daly, is an award-winning photographer/writer and licensed (FAA) Commercial sUAS pilot. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, David is a former Marine Corps officer with a BS in Oceanography and has earned his MBA from the University of Redlands. David has worked for Fortune 100 companies and has a background in aerospace, construction, military/defense, real estate, and technology.

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