How to Get the Most Accurate Aerial Surveys

Drones are quickly finding their way into many services within the industrial sector.

While there is sometimes hesitation to implement new technology, early adopters are often richly rewarded. One such use case has been the utilization of UAVs to conduct aerial surveys.

The art of surveying has been around since people first switched from nomadic hunter-gathers to agriculture-based societies in permanent settlements. As structures were built, people needed to understand the position of objects on the ground accurately.

Drones represent the latest advancement in this field.

While you may be exploring drones for your own survey needs, it’s likely that you have some concerns. That’s understandable.

You might be wondering, “how do drones complete a survey?” And, “are aerial surveys accurate?”

A better understanding of how aerial surveys are conducted, what type of equipment is necessary, and which UAV capabilities are needed for greater accuracy, can help alleviate those concerns.

Let’s break it all down.

How Aerial Surveys Work & How to Prepare For Flight

Drone aerial surveys produce many useful products.

Some of the more common include 2D and 3D orthomosaic maps, 3D models, thermal maps, LiDAR point clouds, and multispectral maps. The process for collecting the raw data needed to produce aerial survey products, such as those listed above, is pretty straightforward.

Before drones take off, the deliverables for the mission must be clearly defined. Determining which products (3D models, 2D orthomosaics, etc.) need to be produced is essential for the planning process.


Once those deliverables are identified, it’s a important to investigate the site.

Before drone use became an option, aerial survey teams would often work in dangerous areas, such as active construction sites or treacherous terrain. While using drones significantly reduces that risk, you’ll still want to conduct a thorough site investigation to ensure a safe working environment.

In order to achieve a high level of accuracy, you’ll want to use Ground Control Points (GCPs), or other similar precision location identification tools. We’ll discuss these in a bit, but your site investigation should help you select the best locations for each GCP and/or base station.


Next, plan out your mission.

The drone’s flight path, camera angles used to collect data, and the amount of overlap in images is determined and set into the flight plan. Once loaded, the mission is flown, and the first half of the aerial survey process is complete.


The second half encompasses the processing of the data collected by the drone.

When using precision survey tools (GCPs, RTK, PPK), the drone becomes part of a Position & Orientation System (POS). The images collected are each given reference points on the ground.

When the images are matched up with the highly accurate data from GCPs/RTK or PPK, an accurate survey is collected.

The accuracy level depends on all the equipment used in the remote pilot’s UAV system.

In 2019, DroneDeploy, a leading app for drone surveys, independently tested a DJI Phantom 4 RTK and achieved 2cm relative vertical accuracy and 1.20 cm relative horizontal accuracy. With precision, RTK and PPK or specialized GCPs, such as those manufactured by Propeller Aero, survey level accuracy is attainable.

GCPs, RTK, and PPK

GCPs used in combination with RTK or using PPK are the key to getting survey-level accuracy from a drone.

Here’s a brief introduction of each asset:

Ground Control Points (GCPs) are points on the earth’s surface of known location used to geo-reference Landsat Level-1 imagery.

Typically, these points are squares placed around the ground of the survey area. As these are known, surveyed points, they can be used to align the images collected by the drone with locations on the surface.

Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) is a tool that uses range-based measurements to make corrections to the GPS location recorded by the drone.

A drone with GPS alone cannot provide survey-level accuracy. Range measurements essentially recalibrate the data of the GPS to give the exact location for each image collected.

Post-Processing Kinematic (PPK) is another method for correcting GPS location errors that allow for survey-level accuracy.

Flights typically take more time if you’re using PPK, as is the post-processing of data once the mission is complete. PPK does not need a radio link between the drone and the base station to work, nor does it need GCPs.

So, if you need survey-level measurements with a drone, you will either need to use RTK and GCPs (which corrects during the flight) or PPK (correcting in the cloud post flight) to obtain that level of accuracy need.

Bringing It All Together

The surveying needs of industry will become more complex over time.

Drones offer a highly efficient, cost-effective solution for providing accurate survey products to meet those needs. 

Are you looking to conduct aerial surveys with drones on your own? You’ll need training and consultation.

Are you looking to hire a company to produce the data for you? You’ll want an experienced remote pilot with a proven track record.

At Consortiq, we offer the full solution. We’ll help you build internal drone programs and train your pilots. Or, we’ll do the work for you, either independently or alongside your team.

With drones, there’s always a better way, and it’s our goal to help you find it! With hubs in North America and Europe, we’ll come to you, wherever you are in the world!

Schedule your risk-free consultation by completing the form below.

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.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

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.

Ready to get started? Just complete the form below!

Or, click here to learn more about aerial surveys by Consortiq!

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.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

How Total Uses Drones to Enhance Oil & Gas Operations

Using drones within the oil & gas sector isn’t always about inspection and surveying.

The number of applications are limitless, especially within an industry that has multiple sectors. All three major sectors (upstream, downstream and midstream) utilise UAV technology to assist with becoming carbon neutral; to reduce emission; and to become smarter & greener whilst enhancing preventative measures to reduce the total environmental cost. 

The major and super-major players all understand that they don’t always have the answers. However, they’re also receptive to new technology. But, the tech and subject-matter experts need to demonstrate the issue it will solve and the value it will bring.

Earlier this year at the Oil and Gas IoT Summit in Lisbon, it was stated that ‘the O&G industry needs new leaders from Generation X, and they need them now’ – citing that the major companies are being shown up by other large organisations, such as Google and Amazon, due to their lack of willingness to adopt new tech and their level of data understanding. 


So, how can UAS technology be used to bridge the gap between implementing new tech from smaller organisations and improving the collection of data, regularly, repeatedly and reliably? 

The Case of Total: Drones and Data Acquisition

Total, one of the supermajor oil companies in the world, has been pushing these boundaries within this space for over five years. 

Total has their Multiphysics Exploration Technology Integrated System (METIS®), a system that aims to improve the quality and speed of data acquisition through real-time quality control and processing. An example of this uses autonomous drones and a ground vehicle to drop off and retrieve seismic sensors without human intervention.

METIS® technology is said to reduce the environmental footprint for onshore exploration and appraisal campaigns in harsh environments — such as the desert — which are tough on people and equipment.

Total focused on innovating seismic acquisition data back in 2016 to minimise surface impact of petroleum activities and improve the quality of sub-surface images. 

Smaller organisations ultimately help crunch the data,  produce ‘digital twins,’ or plan for preventative maintenance using software where the data has been collected by multiple means, including drone technology. These companies all work together to enable the oil and gas giants to reduce their total environmental cost. 

Another application that Total has been working on is HELPER, which stands for Human, Environment & Life Protection Emergency Response. It claims to be the world’s first autonomous multitasking drone dedicated to safety at sea, which can be deployed as a ‘local’ solution for responding immediately, 24/7. The specifications could give a manned aircraft a run for its money! 

Integrating Drone Technology into Your Business

Consortiq has first hand experience of being there for oil & gas companies who are attempting to explore new ways of using drone technology.

Recently, we trained a team in the United States to assist them in capturing the health of their seismic nodal sensors, similarly to Total. These sensors are out in oil and gas fields across the globe and, traditionally, this would have been a manual task of vehicles and people collecting the same data. The process is  labour-intensive, and it comes with high overhead costs. 

Around two-thirds of the world’s daily oil production comes from mature fields, and around 80% of these fields are located in the Middle East and North Africa. Understanding how to collect seismic data efficiently is important to oil and gas extraction and transportation, especially in the Middle East, where in this area alone has had 751 earthquakes over the past calendar year. Reducing time spent in receiving the data or understanding device status/health in an environment like this could save organisations thousands of dollars per year. 

From our experience, Consortiq believes that any organisation should be open to new ideas, share best practices within industry, embrace new ways, say “yes”  to new tech, and listen to the smaller companies. As it’s said, ‘if everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.’

About Consortiq

We are made up of experienced and passionate aviation and training professionals with both civil and military flying and ATM experience. As a UK CAA National Qualified Entity (NQE), soon to be a Recognised Assessment Entity (RAE), and an AUVSI Trusted Operator Programme (TOP) Level 3 organisation, we have a proven history of excellence in training and consultancy services. Safety is at the heart of everything we do.

Consortiq is the Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) division of The Diplomat Group of Companies (TDG), a 40-year-old company providing innovative logistics and transportation solutions to governments, commercial companies and NGO’s globally. Consortiq helps organizations throughout the world innovate with a specific focus on utilisation of UAS. We combine consulting, internationally-recognised, award-winning training and Drone as a Service (DaaS) model to enable our clients to safely scale their UAS operations from proof of concept to program roll out.

Consortiq maintains offices in the United States and the United Kingdom, and our clients are worldwide including the US, UK, South Africa, Canada, Ireland, Eastern Europe and South America. We also have support from the TDG Offices in Dubai, Djibouti, Somalia and other locations around the world.

Need expert-level support? Just complete the form below, or call us at 1-855-203-8825 (Americas) or +44 (0)208 0450 322 (Europe) to get started!

Lee Barfoot - Sales & Marketing EMEA at Consortiq

Lee Barfoot - Sales & Marketing EMEA at Consortiq

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Should You Use Drone as a Service or Start an In-House UAV Program?

Choosing between a Drones-as-a-Service (DaaS) provider and starting your own program

Many organizations benefit from utilizing UAV technology.

In fact, drones have established themselves as essential tools in numerous industries. Construction, real estate, agriculture, oil & gas, education, and many other sectors are seeing decreased safety incidents, lowered costs, and enhanced efficiencies.

One of the first questions you might have while investigating how drones can improve your operation is: Should we hire a drone service provider or create an in-house program.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. But, before exploring these points, there are a few considerations to discuss.

You’ll need to start with identifying your specific needs to determine which option works best for you.

What to Consider

First, how do you plan to use drones?

This is most crucial consideration. Will the UAV primarily be used for aerial photography, or for more complex tasks such as three-dimensional modeling as an extension of Geographic Information Systems (GIS)?

While some organizations have relatively simple drone needs, you may require sophisticated data collection and processing. In general, more complex needs require commercial drone pilots with specialized training and equipment. Some of the more technical payloads, such as LiDAR, can cost well over $100,000.

Next, how often do you plan to use UAV services?

Depending on the task, continuous use will point you toward the right option in terms of cost and availability.

Alright, so what’s your budget?

Investing in UAV technology should not be viewed solely as a one-time purchase. Drones require regular maintenance, and they include consumable parts such as batteries and propellers.

Equipment breaks, and upgrades will be needed from time to time. Furthermore, remote pilots require time to practice to maintain their skills.

Then, you’ll have administrative costs, such as insurance. UAV insurance can be purchased at an hourly rate or on an annual basis. The type of coverage needed will significantly change the cost per policy.

Also, more complex drone operations will require specific software, along with data processing capabilities. Data processing services for applications such as GIS can run as high as several hundred dollars, per user, each month.

Finally, you’ll need to consider the personnel commitment and training required for in-house UAV operations.

In the United States, any commercial drone usage requires a Part 107 remote pilot certification from the FAA. That license must be renewed every two years.


Related: Schedule Your Onsite Part 107 Essentials Enterprise Training Course Today


In the UK, the new General VLOS Certificate (GVC) must be renewed every five years, and an annual operational authorization from the CAA is required.


Related: Schedule Your GVC Training Course Today


Specialized equipment, such as thermal cameras, reaches full potential only when trained personnel interpret the collected data.

And, a healthy drone program includes extensive, continuous training, along with the adoption of standard operating procedures. In fact, those are essential to producing professional results while remaining safe & compliant.

UAV Drone Engineering Course - Drone Solutions - Construction -Consortiq

Drones as a Service: Pros & Cons

Drones as a Service (DaaS) — or, as we refer to it, unmanned data services — is essentially the outsourcing of an organization’s UAV needs.


Pros for choosing DaaS over building your own UAV program include: Ease of scalability, lower upfront cost, and incurring less liability.


The cons often associated with DaaS are: The potential for less flexibility, lower response time, and rigid pricing structures.

If your UAV needs are more complex, and you don’t have the in-house compentency necessary to achieve your goals, then DaaS is the ideal choice. Established service providers have both the expertise and equipment needed to provide whatever deliverables are desired.

Also, in most cases, data processing for significant projects is also best handled by DaaS.

And, if you’re working for a larger organization, you’ll also appreciate the reduction of potential risks from possible litigation and in dealing with human resource issues.

Drone Program - Drone Integration Course - Industry workers flying drone at construction site

Creating Your Own UAS Program: Pros & Cons

When you create your own in-house UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) program, you have full control. You’ll have a team of trained remote pilots available at all times. Along with that, though, you’ll take on all of the associated responsibility & risk.


Benefits include: Maintaining full control of the operation, immediate response time, and designing the program to fit your organization’s needs perfectly.


Disadvantages to this option are: Increased exposure to risk, upfront and on-going costs of maintenance & equipment replacement, potential lack of resilience, and you’ll need to stay up-to-date on all legal requirements and regulations.

If your need for UAV technology is small in scale and complexity, but requires regular drone use, starting an in-house program is ideal. You’ll have the ability to maintain the drone program’s full control, from both an operational and fiscal perspective.

Having a drone and pilot ready to move at moment’s notice certainly has its perks.

Bringing It All Together

The decision to work with a DaaS provider or start an in-house drone program is an important one.

Whichever choice you make, it’s important to consult with UAS experts prior to getting started.  Experienced consultants will help you to identify your specific needs and explore the best fit to meet those needs. You’ll also get support on creating operations manuals, safety guidelines, and regulation requirements.

No matter what you choose, Consortiq has a solution for you. From unmanned data services that include aerial surveys and mapping, to extensive global remote pilot training and  drone consultancy, we’ll help you put the right plan in place.

Need expert-level support? Just compete the form below or call us at 1-855-203-8825 (Americas) or +44 (0)208 0450 322 (Europe) to get started!

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.

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

Drone Mapping in The Case of Ordnance Survey

Mapping terrain is critical for many industries.

Data and discoveries gained from mapping enhance preventative measures and provide details to ensure the feasibility of a project. Many organizations — Consortiq included — are using industry leading tools and innovative ways to accurately and efficiently capture this data.

Drone Mapping

Back in June 2019, Ordnance Survey, the UK’s national mapping agency, announced a framework agreement to provide different types of UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) services to enhance their capability.

This was to include over 500 sites to survey, each using different techniques. However, one thing remained universally consistent … drone deployment.

Using the correct methods, unmanned vehicles ably capture and present the findings in many ways. For example, orthomosaics, digital terrain models (DTM) & digital surface models, and techniques & sensors can allow for accurate photogrammetry and LiDAR (Remote Sensing) output. 

Combining LiDAR and GIS to analyze and quickly manage the data, while also maintaining very high accuracy, saves time and improves efficiencies… a common goal that all surveying and mapping agencies work to achieve.

All of the above can be realized by using technology that is widely available now, so what about the future?

Last year, the BBC reported that the Astigan, a solar-powered drone, will be used to fly higher than commercial airliners (67,000 ft (20,400m)). Incredibly, the aircraft could circle the Earth for 90 days before it needs to land, capturing data on demand.

According to the article, Ordnance Survey told the BBC that the existing mapping satellites orbiting the Earth cannot provide enough high resolution detail for its maps.

While this remains a massive aspiration for companies like Ordnance Survey to develop new ways and future-proof their offering, they have concerns and challenges which need to be addressed today. One of those, in particular, is to accurately map and record Britain’s coastlines.  

Erosion and landslides can change the coastline daily. Thus, to ensure that these changes are captured quickly, and that their data reflects the current coastline, drone technology is utilized.

The UK has over half a billion geospatial features that need to be kept up-to-date. The UAV plays a critical role in helping to map features in rural and urban areas all year around.

New Tech, New Data?

LiDAR systems on crewed aircraft and drones are revolutionizing what researchers can find out about data previously unseen using photography and point cloud models.

LiDAR can remove the vegetation and show what lies underneath, something that was unimaginable just a few years ago. 


Drone Mapping - LiDAR Coastal Shot

LiDAR systems have been specifically designed for use in challenging environments. It can provide uniform and dense data in even the shallowest water. By using this remote sensor with a fixed-wing UAS aircraft, you’ll ably cover large areas which are otherwise difficult to survey with more conventional tools.

The average LiDAR sensor is typically a costly investment, and ensuring that the right data is captured can be challenging. Consortiq and its sister company, Argentech, have been using this solution for a number of years. 

We now provide state-of-the-art UAS-based imaging and analytics to markets as diverse as agriculture, digital mapping, and oil & natural gas

High-resolution photos, combined with LiDAR data, create geospatially accurate maps and models. Without LiDAR, the photos can still be stitched together to create orthomosaics, or used individually for inspection or documentation and planning purposes. This photo is from a bridge inspection in Columbia, South America.

Drone Mapping - aerial view of a bridge

“Aerial LiDAR provides the highest quality data for a wide variety of applications. Argentech (AgTS) offers LiDAR services on both manned and unmanned vehicles allowing us to meet the needs of our customers in the most effective and efficient means possible.” Rita Castonguay Hunt AgTS UAS Commercial Services

Even with drone technology, the techniques which enhance how we are presented with usable data advances over time, and UAS-mounted LiDAR is a great example of how blended technologies enable organizations to stay relevant, while collecting the most accurate, detailed information available to them.

With unmanned data services, Consortiq can provide this level of service without any organization having to invest heavily for the technology or platforms.

Our UAS pilots gather the information for you, and they provide the key results and data you need to fully understand what’s really going on.

Whether you’re looking to start a program, train your team, or simply get the data, we’re here to help you reach your goals. To get started, complete the form below!

Lee Barfoot - Sales & Marketing EMEA at Consortiq

Lee Barfoot - Sales & Marketing EMEA at Consortiq

Ready to Integrate Drones Into Your Organization? Contact Us Today to Get Started!

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