What is a drone survey?

What is a drone survey?

A drone survey is the use of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) equipped with RGB cameras, multispectral cameras, or LiDAR payloads to collect data. And then this data is transmitted to special equipment on the ground near the UAV operator. The end result of drone surveying is a finished map of detail at a given scale, presented in digital format.

Drones can fly at much lower altitudes than traditional techniques like manned aircraft or satellites, providing high-resolution, high-precision images faster and cheaper, and independent of weather conditions such as cloud cover.

Drone surveying

Benefits of using a drone for mapping

Benefits of using a drone for mapping

Even the most novice user knows that drones can be used for photography. The availability of unmanned aerial photography has led to its use in many sectors and produced incredible images. But is it good enough for your next mapping or surveying job?

Save time and money

The economic advantage of drone land surveying comes primarily from its low operating costs compared to its main competitors, airplanes, and helicopters, which are up to 10 times more expensive than drone topography. Besides, recent studies show drone surveying is up to five times faster than traditional land-based methods.

Provide high data accuracy

Drones have extremely high accuracy, with aerial mapping reaching centimeter-level accuracy and mapping accuracy generally reaching 1:1000. In addition, aerial mapping also has a wealth of 3D geographic information, which can capture the data of large-scale terrain.

Map inaccessible places safer

Drone survey allows us to obtain extensive and reliable data from inaccessible locations, unsafe steep slopes, or hazardous terrain. This means that surveyors can create a 3D computer model of the object under study and take a series of measurements in the office, without necessarily needing to be in the field or in a hazardous area to obtain data.

What are drones used for in surveying?

What are drones used for in surveying?

Many industries require surveyors to provide maps of land areas. From determining the overall grade of an area to creating detailed maps of each square foot, drone mapping makes the surveyor's job easier, faster, and safer. Among the many industries that use drones for GIS surveying, some of the most important include:

Topographic Surveying

Drones greatly reduce the human cost of topographic surveys, making them more efficient and accurate. Survey drones can produce high-resolution orthophotos and detailed 3D models. Even in complex or difficult-to-access environments, they can still produce high-precision maps quickly. Surveyors can use these maps, combined with expertise, to produce extremely accurate maps for their clients.

Road construction surveying

Road construction drones help councils, transport agencies and civil engineering companies create accurate, large-area linear maps quickly and accurately. By carrying LiDAR, they can measure earthwork and soil precisely.

Road construction survey

Dam surveying

The measurement of dams and other large structures can be a challenging task due to varying static water levels and hard-to-reach areas. Combining advanced sensor equipment, flexible communication systems, and compact designs, UAVs can be successfully applied to dam surveys and visual assessments of large structures and hard-to-reach areas.

Drone surveying for dams

Urban planning

Drone for a smart city is being tested and deployed to rapidly collect, aggregate, analyze and provide highly accurate topographic maps of urban areas, the foundation of a smart city. This data facilitates applications that improve operations, engage residents, and support communities.

Forestry management & monitoring

The sheer size of natural forest lands makes forest management and monitoring very labor-intensive, resulting in time-consuming, tedious, and often dangerous work for the staff. The drone is equipped with LiDAR and imaging sensors to accurately reproduce the forestry environment in 3D format (e.g. photogrammetry and point clouds). Through powerful analysis software, inspectors can extract metrics such as tree height, diameter, volume, and number.

Drone land surveying for forestry management & monitoring

Geological hazard monitoring

In the event of a geological disaster, technical workers can use drone mapping technology to take panoramic photos of the geological disaster area in the shortest possible time, and image into the system to achieve 3D visualization, greatly reducing the difficulty of rescue.

Power grid inspection

Drones can be used to inspect power lines and power towers for lightning strikes, rust/corrosion, and damaged bolts. The power line inspection solution provides detailed and accurate data on all parts of the grid, automating inspections, enabling timely repairs, and reducing downtime.

Mining mapping

Drones in mining enable professionals to obtain specific aerial data on mining sites to improve productivity, planning, safety, inventory management, and more. In the mining industry, drone mining surveys include drones equipped with RGB cameras that take photos of the site from different angles.

Drone survey in mining

What kinds of results can you achieve with drone surveying?

What kinds of results can you achieve with drone surveying?

A drone survey can produce a variety of results, depending on the camera and sensor used for the measurement, and the software used for post-processing:

Orthomosaic maps

An orthomosaic map is sometimes referred to as an orthophoto or ortho-imagery. It is a drone image that has been corrected for lens distortion, camera tilt, perspective, and topographic relief (i.e., elevation changes on the Earth's surface) and stitched together in post-processing to create a large map-quality image with a high level of detail and resolution.

Orthographic maps of drone mapping

3D point cloud

3D point cloud data, each point contains three-dimensional coordinate information, i.e., X, Y, and Z elements. Sometimes it also contains color information, reflection intensity information, echo count information, etc.

3D point cloud of drone power line inspection

Digital surface models (DSM)

A digital surface model is a ground elevation model that includes the height of surface buildings, bridges, trees, etc.

Thermal map

Survey with a thermal camera and quickly identify targets with abnormal heat signatures.

Thermal maps of drone surveying

Digital line graph (DLG)

A digital line map (DLG) is a map feature represented as a digital vector. A DLG depicts information about the geographic features of the terrain. In addition, it includes administrative, hydrography, transportation, and man-made features.

Digital line map of drone surveying

Multispectral map

Multispectral images are a very effective tool for assessing soil productivity and analyzing plant health.

Multispectral map of drone survey

How accurate is drone mapping?

How accurate is drone mapping?

The accuracy of drone surveying depends on the performance of the UAV, the quality of the camera, weather factors, flight altitude, etc. 

Generally, drone maps produced using quality UAV equipment, careful flight planning, commercial-grade GPS ground control points, and commercial-grade processing software have the potentiaFal to be accurate to about 2-3 cm horizontally and 5-6 cm vertically. 

To meet the higher requirements of surveyors, JOUAV UAV's aerial mapping accuracy has reached 1 cm horizontally and 3 cm vertically, which is far more accurate than other competitors.

What are the best drones for surveying?

What are the best drones for surveying?

JOUAV provides a comprehensive drone surveying solution, which has released drones that can carry different functions according to the different needs of users.

CW-15 survey drone

Vertical take-off and landing (VTOL)

JOUAV VTOL drone (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) represents a hybrid approach that combines elements of quad-rotor and fixed-wing designs. They take off and land vertically like quadcopters, which means JOUAV drones can take off and land smoothly in narrow areas such as cliffsides, woods, or mountainous areas. Meanwhile, the drones have the advantages of long endurance and fast flight speed of fixed-wing aircraft, making them suitable for mapping large areas.

Up to 10 hours endurance/maximum load of 20kg

Through various methods such as aerodynamic optimization, power system optimization, and customized high energy density batteries, the JOUAV UAV has a flight time 5 times longer than its competitors and can meet the aircraft's maximum 10h flight under heavy load conditions.

JOUAV can take orthophoto cameras, multi-cameras, pods, hyperspectral cameras, multispectral cameras, atmospheric sensors, aeromagnetic and other mission equipment, and supports secondary development. The carrying weight is from 0.8 to 20kg.

Down to 1cm (0.4 in) absolute accuracy

The JOUAV UAV uses both RTK and PPK modes. RTK is primarily used for precise centimeter-level autonomous vertical landings, and PPK is primarily used to output high-precision POS data to ensure a large reduction in image control points. the JOUAV provides best-in-class absolute accuracy with vertical positioning accuracy down to 3 cm and horizontal positioning accuracy down to 1 cm, which allows the JOUAV UAV from high altitude to fly over and still provide low GSD images.

Flying in harsh environments

Through continuous power system optimization analysis and testing, the JOUAV UAV can fly efficiently at an altitude of 4,500 meters despite the thinner air. The drone is waterproof, ensuring that the aircraft can fly in light rain and snow. They can safely fly and collect data in winds of up to 12m/s 28 mph.

The easiest drones to fly

After pressing the take-off button, the drone takes off autonomously on a planned course, captures images, and then lands where it started. The operator does not need to do anything else during this process.

JOUAV drones' forward and backward sensors have a detection range of up to 240m and a wide field of view. So you can be sure it will catch all obstacles in its path and avoid them effectively, guaranteeing a safe flight. The downward sensors allow a measurement range of 50m that can be performed to avoid dangerous landing sites.

JOUAV drones also support a Terrain Following Mode based on a high-precision digital 3D map. With this feature, they can automatically generate a variable height route based on the measurement area and maintain a consistent ground resolution for better data results.

LiDAR vs photogrammetry for GIS surveying

LiDAR vs photogrammetry for GIS surveying

Nowadays, survey drones can carry both LiDAR sensors and photogrammetry, which one should we choose?

This depends entirely on the specific use. In the field of forestry mapping, LiDAR is a significant advantage. Photogrammetry can only produce high vertical accuracy if the site is sparsely vegetated, while LiDAR can map denser vegetation and large areas of trees. But when it comes to the broader surveying needs of the construction, mining, and aggregates industries, photogrammetry is a more affordable solution with good accuracy and ease of use for most teams.

Share :