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POB Column: Does Your UAV Survey Program Measure Up?

POB Column: Does Your UAV Survey Program Measure Up?

In the most recent issue of Point of Beginning magazine, Aerotas co-founders Logan Campbell and Daniel Katz lay out the basic expectations for a surveyor using a drone: what they should be getting, and what it should cost the in money, time, and staff. The key takeaways are:

  • Your program should cost less than $10,000
  • Your drone should get you to final 3D linework
  • Your drone should reduce field time by 60-90 percent
  • Your drone should cost you no extra office-time
  • Your drone should get you accuracy better than 0.1 ft.
  • Your drone program should require no special staffing
  • Your drone program should cause no risk

Ultimately what this translates to is getting the best possible cost/benefit ratio, so that the return on investment for the drone program happens as soon as possible.

Often the part of this that surveyors are most surprised by is the price-tag. Many would-be drone surveyors believe they need to spend $30,000 to $70,000 to get a "professional-grade" or "survey-grade" drone. Instead, Aerotas has proven through tireless testing that industry-best 0.1' accuracy is achievable with inexpensive technology, when used correct. Professional training and Standard Operating Procedures ensure that data collection is as consistent as possible, and expert photo-stitching processing ensures the end result is as accurate as possible.

The Aerotas Mapping System was specifically designed to produce industry-best survey accuracy at the lowest price tag and as easily as possible. Read an excerpt from the article below or the full article in Point of Beginning. If you are ready to start an industry-best drone survey program, or improve your current drone survey operations, visit aerotas.com/map.


Does Your UAV Survey Program Measure Up?

Your drone survey program should cost less than $10,000

Including the drone, training, insurance, and all the support equipment you need, an entire drone program should cost no more than $10,000. An inexpensive and non-specialized drone (e.g., small multi-rotor with a 20 megapixel camera) is good enough for producing industry-best accuracy.

We regularly talk to surveyors who spent 20 to 30 times more than the small multi-rotors we set our clients up with, and produce no better survey results. Unfortunately, more expensive equipment is also usually more complex. Given that the main benefit of a drone is time-savings, the focus when shopping for a drone should be on what is most simple and reliable for field crews, rather than what has the most impressive tech specs.

More advanced drone technologies are not yet good investments. RTK and PPK GNSS integrations on drones are often unreliable, complex to use and process, very expensive, with the only benefit being reducing (but not eliminating) the amount of ground control targets needed. Laser-scanners for drones are also extremely expensive and complex, and currently deliver far lower accuracy than drone photogrammetry. Fixed-wing drones are similarly expensive and more complex to use (as well as being more sensitive to weather and prone to damage), and do not provide any real-world benefit due to line-of-sight regulations.