What a Surveyor Needs to Know to Start Mapping by Drone: Making Value from Drone Deliverables

Daniel Katz - daniel@aerotas.com

This is the third in a series of blog posts expanding on our article in the Summer 2016 issue of California Surveyor magazine — download the magazine here, and find our article on page 37.

In the previous post we discussed the main deliverables that a mapping drone can produce for surveyors. In this post, we explore the key question for many surveyors considering using UAVs: how those mapping deliverables translate to real value. The primary sources of value for drone surveying are increasing crew efficiency, minimizing spend on aerial contractors, record-collection, and reducing crew risk.


Mapping drones provide massive efficiency gains

The single greatest benefit of a drone for surveyors is how it enables a huge leap in efficiency when creating topographic maps and planimetrics. Whereas the current approach to surveying involves sending two-man crew out on every job -- often for multiple days -- a drone enables a single surveyor to complete most jobs in a matter of just hours.

The drone workflow involves a few minutes of set-up the day before, setting aerial targets, the quick drone flight, photogrammetry processing, and finally creating a deliverable from the map data. Comprehensive solutions like our Aerotas Mapping System maximize efficiency even more by focusing on seamless integration and providing the photogrammetry processing as a service.

Many of our clients report a 60% reduction in man-hours on typical jobs, by being able to complete topographic surveys with one person rather than a two-person crew, and completing the survey even faster than a two-man crew can.


Surveying by drone frees surveyors from relying on aerial photogrammetrists

A UAV empowers surveyors to be able to complete their own aerial photogrammetry and orthophoto jobs, without having to rely on an outside subcontractor.

Many survey firms will see a substantial reduction in costs by saving the $3,000 - $5,000 per job they pay aerial contractors. Furthermore, topographic mapping by drone means that the surveyor is no longer dependent on another firm's schedule and availability -- and a drone can operate when low clouds would force an aerial contractor to cancel.

Aerial photogrammetrist contractors do provide full line-work on many projects, however software such as that included in our Aerotas Mapping System makes it efficient for surveyors to complete their own line-work on topographic and planimetric mapping jobs.


Survey drones provide records of job sites

By operating a drone on a job site, surveyors automatically create a verifiable record of what a project site looked like on the day it was surveyed. 

For surveyors whose business lives by their ability to prove the validity of their mapping deliverables, record-collecting is crucial. Getting in the habit of flying a drone at a job site and producing an aerial map provides surveyors the crucial safety net of high-quality records. If disputes arise, the surveyor can refer to a visual and measurable record of the sites.


Survey drones keep crews safe

Land surveying can be a hazardous job, and surveying by UAV can substantially reduce risk-factors to survey crews.

Mapping by drone means that surveyors can minimize their exposure to hazardous situations such as roadways or treacherous terrain. For many projects, a drone may enable a surveyor to avoid these places altogether, but, at the very least, using a drone means they can be in those hazardous location for a minimum amount of time. 


To ensure profitability, start simply

When it comes to profitably surveying with a drone, we have learned that success comes with focusing on maximizing valuable deliverables while minimizing cost and complexity. The Aerotas Mapping System was designed for success. It includes everything a surveyor needs to start producing valuable mapping deliverables by drone as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

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