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Drones Changing The Game For Topographic Surveying

| 28.05.2017

Drone technology is becoming a common tool in any surveyor or site manager’s toolkit. It’s ushering in a new era for topographic surveying by enabling the capture of detailed site maps, including contours and terrain, for a fraction of the time and cost of traditional methods.

Easy and legal: drone surveying is now within everyone’s reach

Government regulators are making it easier to get certified to fly a drone for commercial use. And drones’ increasing affordability means complete a survey in less than an hour can be the norm. Data turnaround happens in 24 hours.

Drone data is already being used in many land development projects. From the early stages of planning and designing land subdivisions, through to preconstruction assessments, it’s also helping with progress tracking and final as-builts.

Civil contractors are among the earliest adopters of drones. They say that drone-captured data, when used with ground control systems like AeroPoints and processing software like Propeller, provides a quicker, easier, and safer way to produce digital terrain models and aerial site maps than previous methods.

Calculating the return on investment

With conventional GPS and Total Stations it can still take a lot of time to cover even a small site. And that’s not including the office time it takes to process data into final linework and surfaces.

When you add this to conventional surveying costs (around $125/hr), traditional methods can be unfeasible to cover large sites regularly.

Using drones with a platform like Propeller is empowering site personnel to make accurate estimations, track progress, and data-driven decisions. This can save a major civil construction project literally millions of dollars.

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Better insights from rich, visual datasets

Unlike traditional topographic survey data—which is basically a set of linework—drone surveys include an orthophoto, contour map, digital terrain model, and dense point cloud. The result is a highly accurate, visual dataset. All ready for analysis.

conventional topographic surveying deliverables
A sample of conventional topographic survey. Source:
drone topographic surveying
Various drone survey visuals. From top left: an orthophoto, point cloud, digital terrain model, and contour map.

A shared view means everyone is on the same page

With measurable 3D site surveys, virtually anyone on a jobsite can access and use drone topography data on demand.

Shared securely across the project team, Propeller datasets can be used to document how a site looks before earthwork starts, and track every step of progress along the way.

Simple tools give everyone the power to map, measure, and analyze

With easy-to-use tools to measure and annotate datasets, stockpile volumes can be accurately measured in under a minute and haul road grades can be measured in seconds.

Using a surface-to-surface comparison, site terrain can be viewed against design to see where material should to be added or removed. Timeline sliders makes it easy to visually track changes in specific areas, or across the entire site, to make sure everything’s on track for successful completion.

Propeller Timeline slider

Overlaying boundary linework over an orthophoto allows to check that the construction works stay within the defined area and avoid legal issues.

Learn more about using drone data and Propeller for surveying and construction.

How to start a drone surveying program on your site

You might also like:
Using Drones in Construction: The Beginner’s Guide
Six Questions to Ask About Drone Surveying Platforms Before You Buy
How Does Better Data Capture Make the Role of the Surveyor on Site More Important Than Ever?
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