Aerotas was honored when Point of Beginning magazine asked us to follow up our article in the September issue with another in October.
In October's guest column, titled "Drone Dos and Don’ts," Aerotas co-founders Logan Campbell and Daniel Katz cover just that: what does a survey drone do well, and what does it not do well?
This topic is crucial to understand for surveyors considering starting survey drone operations. When training new clients, we pay a great deal of attention to this topic because it is essential for using mapping drones profitably and reliably. In the article, we cover not just what drones do well and poorly, but what are the right and wrong types of projects for a mapping UAV.
Read an excerpt from the article below, or the full article on the POB website. To learn more about our approach to drone mapping, visit the Aerotas Mapping System page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Drone Dos and Don’ts
What a Drone Does Well
Creating Planning and Topographic Maps
The process of mapping by drone consists of the drone collecting overlapping aerial imagery and then using photogrammetry software to stitch it into an orthophoto and digital surface model. Most affordable survey drones are capable of producing maps accurate to 0.1 foot. This means that drone-made maps are good enough for creating topographic and planning maps.
Taking Photos and Creating a Record
As a flying camera, a drone is capable of efficiently taking a huge number of photos from a perspective that was previously unfeasible for most jobs. This means that it is now easy to collect a complete aerial record of any job or site, with minimal effort and cost. This also means that features of a jobsite that previously went unrecorded can now be easily mapped and measured, such as the tops of buildings, or features that were inaccessible because of terrain.
Flying in a Standard Pattern and Clear Airspace
A drone is very effective at completing simple, and boring, grid-pattern work. Rather than a surveyor having to spend hours walking a large grid, a drone can fly overhead and complete a tighter grid significantly faster. A drone effectively eliminates the tradeoff between linework resolution and the time a surveyor spends at a site. As long as the site is in standard airspace, the flight can be easily completed using the drone’s autopilot, meaning the surveyor needs only to set ground control before the flight and then monitor the drone as it flies.
Flying Over Hazards
The risks surveyors regularly face are irrelevant to a drone. Active roadways, working construction sites and perilous terrain are all easily avoided by a drone. The surveyor can position himself in a safe location and let the drone fly high above any hazard.
Covering Large Amounts of Land
Many entry-level commercial drones can cover up to 100 acres on one battery, and even more after an easy battery swap. The ability to fly over obstacles means there are few limiting factors other than battery life to covering more acreage by drone. Many higher-end drones can even cover a couple thousand acres in one flight, with only legal restrictions preventing this sort of use right now.