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Drone Surveying vs Traditional Surveying

Drones Are Taking Over!

Drones have slowly been incorporated into various fields and industries across the world, and surveying with drones is no exception! From agriculture to construction, aviation, photography, videography, defence and much much more! 


Whilst we are amazed at the breadth of use that drones are now getting, as a surveying company it is only right that we focus on the industry that is so dear to us, so let’s get straight to it. It’s no secret that drones have revolutionised surveying – for It is now quicker, easier and safer to collect a wide range of accurate data. 


This isn’t anything new – for years now automation has been creeping into every sector, and although drones haven’t completely trivialised the surveying process – they have streamlined it from what used to be an arduous process that involved spending days manually obtaining data and traversing hazardous sites. 


So join us as take an in-depth look at the advantages and comparisons of drone surveying versus traditional surveying methods on your job site


What Is Drone Surveying:

Drone Surveys, or Drone Surveying, is simply a survey that is conducted using a drone. The drone is usually attached with an RBG or multispectral camera, allowing it to capture data and images of the landscape below. During a typical drone survey, the site or location is photographed multiple times and each image is usually tagged with coordinates and points.


Since they were first used, drones have gone on to become a vital piece of kit for surveyors throughout the country. Not only can they gather data in a safe and efficient manner, but they can also reach the most inaccessible, hazardous or large scale sites – from stretches of live rail or motorway to property portfolios and harsh landscapes. In some instances, these sites may have been impossible, or extremely impractical to survey before! 

target drone surveying warwickshire

The Advantages Of Drone Surveying Vs Traditional Methods:

Drone or UAVs provide surveyors with a host of advantages, however, for this blog we are going to focus on what we consider to be the three most impactful innovations: speed, accuracy and safety. 


Drone Surveying Speed:

Drones can travel at exceptional speeds and the terrain around is no boundary for them, allowing for surveyors to collect and plot data points in a highly accurate and efficient manner. 


As Craig Matthews, of Balfour Beatty, says: “Drones are a great time saver. Take one of our recycling compounds, for example. It would take a surveyor, using traditional handheld equipment, about a day to measure the stockpiles and process the data. But using the drone, we can fly over the compound in 15 minutes and process the model in about two hours.”


Firstly, drones can cover larger areas in less time. For instance, the DJI M300 RTK drone and P1 photogrammetry camera combination can cover up to 7.5km² per day – if you compare this with how far a human, or team of humans could cover on foot each day, then there is no competition really! 


Drones also mean that teams are no longer needed to walk an entire site with a total station. Although on smaller sites this may not have been as much of an issue, on a large site it can save a staggering amount of time. Furthermore, the team is not needed to plant ground control points, which is another time-consuming job.


Drones can also process the data more efficiently, allowing clients to access it at earlier points. This can also be confident that they are interacting with relevant and up-to-date data, something which is especially important on fast-moving sites. 


Drone Surveying Safety:

As mentioned briefly above, drones can save teams time by removing the need to cover an entire site manually. This is also advantageous as it removes the need for staff to traverse sites from what could be potentially dangerous areas. 


Even what could be considered a “safe” site still poses risks to surveyors and their teams, for something as simple as the uneven or slippery ground could be hazardous.


The safety advantage of drones is highlighted further when surveying sites that are high up or on roofs. Drones remove the need for workers to manually capture data in these dangerous areas, collecting crystal clear, safe and efficient images of the sites in question. Ultimately, drones significantly reduce the number of workplace hazards that employees are exposed to.


Craig Matthews continues: “Drones take people away from places where they could be in harm’s way and it means that we haven’t got people climbing over stockpiles. Instead, the drones can fly over the site and generate a model afterwards, which we can review in the office.”


Drone Surveying Accuracy:

It doesn’t matter how quick a drone is or efficient a drone is if it’s not accurate, for data accuracy underpins everything surveyors do!


Luckily drones deliver in this area, capturing comparable amounts of data, if not more, in significantly shorter timeframes. The data drones capture is also highly accurate with meticulous levels of detail (depending on the site in question) – all in all, drones can provide high amounts of detail whilst covering large areas in a much more efficient manner, better yet – they require very little to no setup time. 

Will Drone Surveying Ever Replace Traditional Methods or Surveyors?

Despite common belief, drones are not a replacement for surveyors – instead, they are another weapon in their arsenal of tools – allowing for an individual or team of surveyors to be more productive.


Drone surveying is also an art in itself, requiring the right qualifications and skills to capture geo-spatially correct data to surveyor-grade standards. All in all, drones can complement traditional methods of surveying – but only in the hands of the right pilot! 


Target Surveys:

We think that drones and drone surveying will play an important part in the construction industry for years to come. Not only are drones becoming more accessible than ever before, technological advancements means that they are becoming faster, stronger and have a longer range and lifespan. What do you think about drones? 


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