How are Drones Used for Surveying?

Drones are effective instruments for mapping and surveying. By flying over the ground, they may efficiently carry out tasks for 3D mapping, land surveys, photogrammetry, and topographic surveying.

What is a drone survey? 

In general, surveying is the science of figuring out the separations and locations between two points, whether in a 2D or 3D space. The planning of development sites, defining property lines, and maintaining infrastructure all benefit from the use of this data in making important decisions. When doing a drone survey, you follow the same fundamental guidelines but employ a drone to obtain the data. The drone will fly above the points and capture all of that data for you.

How Do Drone Surveys Operate? 


The drone employs multispectral and RGB cameras with downward-facing sensors to take pictures while it flies above the ground. In addition, many drones have LiDAR payloads to aid in data collection. The RGB camera will be used by the drone to take pictures of the ground from various perspectives as it surveys the area. The precise coordinates are labeled with each angle.

How Do Drones Gather Information? 

Drones use Geographic Information Systems to gather data (GSI). They mapped out locations and visualized them using this knowledge. Although the GIS is the main instrument for data collection, the drone can be outfitted with additional tools. Drones were once employed to acquire data but not transmit it. The operator had to retrieve all of that data. Drones can now interrupt data in real-time thanks to new technologies. While the drone is still in the air, you may use GIS technology to convert all that raw data into useful information.

What Types of Drones Are Used for Surveying? 

There are many commercial drones available nowadays. Make sure the one you choose has a few key features if you’re seeking one that can perform surveying. A fixed-wing motor can be useful for mapping surveys even though many drones have multirotor. Although multirotor drones are simpler to fly, those fixed-wing types will shine when you need them to survey a few hundred acres at a time. Fixed-wing drones soar in the air and hover for a longer period of time than multirotor drones.

Finding a drone that can be programmed for an autonomous flight may be a good idea because aerial mapping necessitates several flights of the drone over a certain area. You will need to employ software to establish a flight path if you are unable to just launch an autonomous flight. You can then send the data to the drone’s remote control for a pre-planned flight after that is completed.

How Reliable Are Drone Surveys? 

These devices are highly accurate if that is anything you are worried about with a drone survey. Drone surveys are frequently expected to be within two centimeters of the actual location. Even more precise than those measurements are the majority of drones. These kinds of outcomes are what you can anticipate if you deal with an experienced drone surveying business. Keep in mind that they have access to better equipment, which always produces results that are more accurate. In addition, the type of drone, camera quality, an altitude at which it is flown, and ground cover can all affect the survey results.

How Does a Drone Get Mapped? 

Hours are often spent arranging the flight patterns of surveyors. For a good survey, they want to make sure that all the coordinates and perimeters are precise. All of the data must be entered into the software system, depending on the drone. After that, the operator must make sure that no structures or other potential risks are blocking the flight route. The drone will launch for its survey after the coordinates have been entered. In some circumstances, the drone’s operators can operate it remotely, or the machine may be able to choose its own flying path.

What Kinds of Deliverables Are Possible Through Drone Surveying? 


The deliverables that a drone can produce vary depending on the surveying software and data sensors.

1. Orthomosaic 2D maps 

Orthomosaic maps are one type of 2D photogrammetry mapping for which many drones are used. The drone can take hundreds of pictures while it is flying over the earth. A 2D Orthomosaic map is made from the photographs by stitching them together. The map has an X/Y axis and color information for each point. These maps have unformed scales and can be used to calculate the separations between particular locations. These maps are regarded by many experts as a reliable portrayal of the earth’s geological surface.

2. 3D Orthomosaic Maps

The 2D projection has been an issue since the first maps were produced. These 2D graphics flatten the image on the surface, distorting certain areas of the map. Some of the problems can be solved with 3D orthomosaic mapping. A 3D map created from the hundreds of photographs they gather aids in providing better topographic information. Drones are compatible with Building Information Modeling (BIM) software in the construction sector. A high-resolution 3D map is taken at each stage of the construction process and contrasted with the BIM items. This makes it possible to find and fix any discrepancies.

3. 3D Models

Drones are also useful for gathering information to create 3D models. The datasets relating to huge things, such as buildings and construction sites, are collected using these devices as aerial scanners. Once the information has been gathered, a model can be produced using 3D software for a more thorough site investigation with BIM.

4. Thermal Maps

An aerial drone’s imagery can be utilized to spot places with unusual characteristics. These thermal images can be surveyed by the drone inspection in cities, universities, complexes, and military bases. A drone survey can be used to accurately monitor hot water lines, supply water mains, supply steam pipes, and condensation return lines. Leaks can be fixed when a problem is identified, preventing energy loss.

4. LiDAR Point Cloud

A drone’s ability to see through foliage, including trees, is aided by LiDAR. During this method, lasers are fired at a predetermined target in order to see in total darkness or around barriers. A high-density point cloud for the survey site is created when the drone is outfitted with this software by gathering data.

5. Multispectral Map 

Multispectral maps are a different kind of data that can be gathered. That allows photographs to record electromagnetic spectrum data at a particular wavelength. Those who require help managing their crops and agriculture might gain more knowledge from these maps.

What are the Advantages of Drone Surveys?

1. Increase Speed, Lower Costs

Most people place a high priority on their capacity to utilize a budget effectively. You probably already have the budget, which is one of the benefits of drone technology. Drone mapping can effortlessly fit into your present budgetary allotments, as well as boost the company’s budget and free up more time for other activities.

A 100-acre location that is unsafe may take a traditional ground survey crew a month to document, but a mapping drone can do it in less than 30 minutes. Drone mapping’s accelerated speed and automation enable businesses to securely accept and finish more jobs for more clients, on more sites, in less time.

2. Safety and Accessibility

Using a drone mapping solution enables autonomous flight and removes various hazards connected to land surveying, such as the use of heavy machinery and dangerous injuries. A drone can autonomously survey a site at the push of a button, gather an accurate aerial map of the site, return to its launch location, and upload its model and data to a secure cloud in a couple of minutes. Plus, nobody is in danger of suffering significant harm during this entire process.

3.  Accuracy and Precision

Drones produce hundreds of precise data points, such as georeferences, elevation points, and colors, by combining a variety of sensors at various angles. The surveyor or customer can then examine the project from a unique perspective after incorporating these data points into a 3D Point Cloud.

4. Single Tool

With the stroke of a button, land surveyors may now utilize drones that can fly themselves instead of theodolites, infrared reflectors, and GPS. These drones can accomplish the same tasks as the aforementioned items without strain and heavy lifting. The surveyors would then be able to be safer, spend less time on each site visit, and save or re-budget money as a result.


The requirement for a surveyor to physically visit a certain spot might be replaced by drones. Drones, however, should be viewed as an additional tool in the surveyor’s toolbox. Although these robots are fantastic, a person will still be required to pause the information and use it to address the requirements of their clients.