What Is Drone Surveying?

Drones have many benefits when it comes to surveying and mapping, here we take a deeper look at drone surveying and how they can assist in your mapping and monitoring projects.

Drone surveying (also called drone mapping, UAV surveying or aerial surveying), is the process of using unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to capture aerial data. These vehicles use downward facing sensors, such as cameras and LiDAR payloads, to capture this data and record it. 

In a drone survey, the UAV is launched and guided to the site. Depending on the drone, it may be guided remotely in real time, or navigate autonomously based on coordinates entered. 

Once there, it takes a series of high-resolution images from multiple vantage points. These images can then be stitched together into an orthomosaic image. Each pixel of this orthomosaic image contains an X/Y axis and colour information.

The powerful Parrot ANAFI USA drone, purpose built for search and rescue.

What Is a UAV?

UAV stands for unmanned aerial vehicle. These vehicles are commonly known as drones. As might be expected, they do not carry people on board, and are guided either by remote control, autonomously, or a combination of both. UAVs are able to take off and fly above the ground, making them incredibly useful for surveying large or inaccessible areas. 

Is Drone Surveying Accurate?

The accuracy of your drone survey will depend on many factors, including weather, type of drone, camera quality and altitude, as well as the requirements of the project.

As with surveying in general, there are two types of accuracy that come into play for drone surveys: relative accuracy and absolute accuracy. Relative accuracy refers to how accurate a particular data point is within a model, in relation to the other data points in the model. 

Absolute accuracy refers to how accurate a data point in the model is when compared to its real-world counterpart (as measured by survey instrumentation). For some projects, relative accuracy is sufficient. For others, absolute accuracy may be needed. In these cases, some of our UAVs, such as the eBee Geo, are also available with RTK (real time kinematic) positioning, for greater data precision. 

The eBeeX fixed-wing drone for aerial mapping

Why Use Drones for Surveying?

Drones have many benefits when it comes to mapping and surveying:

  • Allow data collection even in dangerous or inaccessible areas, such as cliff faces, steep slopes, or unstable sites
  • Reduce time in the field, and therefore costs, as little manpower is needed and data is captured remotely
  • Provide highly accurate data – each survey results in thousands of data points 
  • Fly at low altitudes, so can collect data even when there is cloud cover
  • Capture sharp and detailed images

Drone Survey Applications

Drone surveys have a range of applications, across all areas of surveying and mapping, from topographical surveys to monitoring crops, to surveying hot spots at fire and accident scenes. The possibilities are almost endless. 

Fixed-wing drones are particularly useful for survey applications making it safer, faster and less expensive to collect geospatial data especially in hard-to-reach and even potentially dangerous sites, such as mines, construction zones and quarries. 

Rotary drones are particularly useful for applications requiring inspection work (they can hover) and those that require vertical take-offs and landings.

Not sure which drone for surveying is right for your needs? Get in touch and our experts will be happy to talk through your options.