Land surveyors are among the top professionals adopting drone technology. How can you make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck with your UAV surveying program?
A simple octocopter with a 20-megapixel camera is one of the keys to realizing the greatest benefit from your drone land surveying program. Image Credit: Olivier J. Brousse
According to Skylogic’s 2017 Drone Market Survey Report, the land surveying and mapping sector is the most lucrative market sector using drones with this business line generating more than $100,000. With the broad variety of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technologies available, it is easy to overspend on complex equipment and then find the need to bring in high priced consultants to learn how to work the drone systems. In an effort to assist land surveyors to get the most from their UAV programs, Logan Campbell and Daniel Katz, cofounders of Aerotos conducted a national survey of land surveyors as well as 400 hours of field testing and training to develop benchmarks for obtaining the greatest value from their drone work as possible. What are the guidelines they found?
Invest No More than $10,000 in a Drone Program
Spending more on a drone and software does not necessarily mean your firm will get a proportional increase in values generated by your program. Image Credit: Pictures of Money via Flickr
Campbell and Logan report they found during field testing, inexpensive drones designed for general use carrying a 20-megapixel camera provided the best accuracy in the industry when compared to drones costing 20 to 30 percent more. Another advantage they discovered is that the simple drone systems cost less to maintain than their highly technical counterparts.
Some of their other findings include:
- RTK, PPK, and GNSS integrated drones tend to be less reliable than less expensive drones and processing the data is more complex and costly.
- Drones equipped with laser scanners are not only both expensive and complicated to operate but also less accurate than traditional photogrammetry.
- Fixed wing drones are also complex and expensive yet provide little to no practical advantages when compared to simple drone systems.
The Drone System Should Save Both Field and Office Time
Drone programs should significantly reduce the time needed to complete land survey projects. Image Credit: Geralt via Pixabay
Another way drones bring bottom-line benefits to land surveying firms is time savings, which reduces labor costs and the time required to bring a project to completion. Campbell and Katz found that effective UAV programs decrease field time by 60 to 90 percent. They explain that once the ground control targets are defined, the field operation set up should not take more than five minutes. Another time saver is that site visits should be eliminated if the flight checklist is effective and the operator has had sufficient training. In fact, many field staff, as long as they have FAA Unmanned Aircraft Pilot Certification, can operate the drone system. This saves money since the firm does not have to hire a drone pilot.
Regarding office time, the time it takes to process data should not take any more time than what it would take to process the information gathered using GPS total station equipment.
Some common mistakes to avoid include:
- Trying to pull 3D model data into CAD is inefficient due to software limitations
- Attempting to complete line work from a point cloud is also considered inefficient
The Maximum Vertical Error Measurement Should Be Less Than 0.1 Feet
Simple drone systems yield highly accurate surveys. Image Credit: pxhere.com
During field testing, Campbell and Katz used the guidelines established by the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing to conduct a comprehensive assessment of drone surveys. They found the simplest systems often provided measurements accurate to 0.05 feet, which beats the industry standard of 0.1 feet maximum vertical error.
By choosing a simple drone that is both dependable and reliable, along with a sturdy 20-megapixel camera, your firm’s UAV program should generate a sizable return on your investment without risk. In fact, your drone program should reduce risk to your firm due to the high accuracy rate.
What is your opinion about these benchmarks for assessing drone survey programs?