In their report “8 Commercial Drone Predictions for 2018,” Commercial UAV News interviewed Aerotas Co-Founder Daniel Katz. Katz weighed in on key themes that Aerotas has been seeing in the land survey drone space. One theme that came out of this interview is how the land surveyors are now starting to demand that their drone solutions get them all the way to the finish line; to the valuable final survey deliverable they need, not just a pretty picture.
One of the key benefits of the Aerotas Mapping System for land surveyors is that it is purpose-designed to get them the final CAD-compatible topographic and planimetric surveys that surveyors are responsible for. As many surveyors have unfortunately learned the hard way, most drone hardware and software is designed to just get the user photos and video, or at best an orthophoto and some form of super-rich 3D point cloud or mesh model. While these photos, orthos, and models are interesting and great to look at, they are not what surveyors ultimately need.
What a surveyor is responsible for handing over to a designer, engineer, architect, or landowner is a topographic and planimetric survey: simple line-work accurately representing key features, either as a CAD file or a PDF. The large and rich 3D models and orthophotos most drone software produces are simply too big for any CAD software to handle efficiently. They must be reduced down to a level of density and size that standard CAD software can work with. However, this reduction must be done selectively and intentionally. The surveyor needs to make sure that the critical data remains: key spot elevations, building corners, edge of pavement, break-lines, and so on, rather than just letting software just arbitrarily select which points are reduced.
Unfortunately, many drone providers tell surveyors that they are wrong for wanting to reduce the rich drone 3D model – that surveyors and their customer should instantaneously convert their whole workflow to be able to use this super-rich data. That is not feasible, and surveyors are now demanding that their drone solution get them to what they actually need: their final survey. The Aerotas Mapping System does exactly that. Over 80 survey teams in over 30 states are using our drone solution to produce the final surveys they need faster and more profitably than ever before.
Commercial Drone Predictions for 2018
Data Will Drive Growth in Various Markets, but the Lessons and Opportunities in the Survey Space Will be Especially Significant
If we had to pinpoint the single biggest theme in the drone space in 2017, it would be about how the data is more important than the drone. It’s a theme that was and is prevalent in various sectors, but the survey space will see the ramifications of this development in a specific way in 2018. Part of that will be driven by the uniquely lucrative opportunities that exist in this sector, but also by the fact that stakeholders are generally getting more sophisticated when it comes to their expectations of the kind of data this technology can capture and deliver.
“In 2018 I expect to see surveyors starting to demand that their drone programs get
them the deliverables they actually need,” said Daniel Katz from Aerotas. “I have heard a
lot of frustration among surveyors with drone companies trying to strong-arm them into
believing that they should be happy with a pretty-looking 2D ortho-photo or 3D mesh
model. Those are nice-to-have, but they’re not what surveyors are responsible for getting their clients. This inclination to harangue customers for not being as cutting-edge as possible is a bad habit in new-technology industries in general, and many drone providers have been gratuitous offenders. I look forward to surveyors demanding that their drone providers get them what they actually need.”
Many surveyor firms get sucked into a rabbit hole of chasing tech-specs on ever-more impressive-seeming drones, only to spend too much money and time and finally deliver sub-par map accuracy. The secret is not in the drone, but how it’s used. That’s a secret driven by data which survey professionals will realize in a major way in 2018, but it’s one that we’ll see permeate other sectors as well.