What you need to get started with Drone Surveying

There are three main things you need to start surveying by drone. You need your drone equipment, your survey equipment, and a project to use it on.

Survey Equipment

In order to utilize a drone for surveying, you still need the ability to gather high precision ground data with traditional survey equipment. Both high-precision GNSS equipment or a laser total station are capable of collecting the high precision point data required for surveying. This means that if you have a high-precision dual band GNSS receiver like a Trimble R10 or Leica GS16 or similar, then you have all the ground equipment needed to survey with a drone.

Drone surveys are only as accurate as the ground data that is collected alongside, so ground based survey equipment is an absolute must for high-precision surveying.

Drone Equipment

To perform a drone based survey, you need a drone and camera capable of collecting data of a high enough quality to get survey grade results. In general, this means you need an aircraft & camera setup that:

  • Can be programmed with autonomous flight missions

  • 20MP minimum camera resolution

The most common entry level drones capable of survey grade mapping are the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, and the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, both of which are available in our Store. Lower end consumer or toy drones are typically not capable of survey-grade accuracy.

Higher end drones with custom cameras, or fixed-wing aircraft can also be used for surveying purposes, and are discussed more in depth in another article.

Project Site Requirements

Drones can be used successfully on most survey projects, however there are a few exceptions. In general, drones work best on projects that are:

  • Between 0-300 acres in size

  • Located outside of dense urban areas

  • Have moderate to low tree cover

Aerotas has helped surveyors on nearly every type of survey, including topographic mapping, ALTA, construction, location, planning, and subdivision surveys.

In our experience, the people who are most successful using drones for surveying are already land surveyors who are performing this type of work already, and want to use a drone as a tool to make their existing job faster and easier.