Surveying & GIS

Surveying with a drone

A surveying drone offers an enormous potential for surveyors and GIS professionals. With a drone, it is possible to carry out topographic surveys of the same quality as the highly accurate measurements collected by traditional topographic surveys, but in a fraction of the time. This substantially reduces the cost of a survey and the workload of specialists in the field.

Orthomosaic and digital surface model created from aerial images taken by the WingtraOne surveying and mapping drone

Benefits of drones in surveying

Save time and money

Reduce field time and survey costs

Capturing geospatial data with a drone is up to five times faster than with land-based methods and requires less manpower. With PPK geo-tagging, you also save time, as placing numerous GCPs is no longer necessary. You ultimately deliver your survey results faster than ever and at a lower cost.

Provide accurate and exhaustive data

Total stations only measure individual points. One drone flight produces thousands of measurements, which can be represented in different formats (orthomosaic, point cloud, DTM, DSM, contour lines, etc). Each pixel of the produced map or point of the 3D model contains 3D geo-data.

Reach difficult terrain

Map otherwise inaccessible areas

A mapping drone can take off and fly almost anywhere. You are no longer limited by unreachable areas, unsafe steep slopes or harsh terrain unsuitable for traditional measuring tools. You do not need to close down highways or train tracks, but you can capture data during operation without an organizational overhead.

Aerial drone survey applications

Main applications

Land surveying / cartography

Survey drones generate high-resolution orthomosaics and detailed 3D models of areas where low-quality, outdated or even no data, are available. They thus enable cadastral maps to be produced quickly and easily, even in complex or difficult to access environments. Surveyors can also extract features from the images such as signs, curbs, road markers, fire hydrants and drains.

After post-processing with a photogrammetry software, these same images can produce very detailed elevation models, contour lines and breaklines, as well as 3D reconstruction of land sites or buildings.

Land management and development

Aerial images taken by drones greatly accelerate and simplify topographic surveys for land management and planning. This holds true for site scouting, allotment planning and design, as well as final construction of roads, buildings and utilities.

These images also provide the foundation for detailed models of site topography for pre-construction engineering studies. The generated data can also be transferred to any CAD or BIM software so that engineers can immediately start working from a 3D model.

As data collection by drones is easily repeatable at low cost, images can be taken at regular intervals and overlaid on the original blueprints to assess whether the construction work is moving according to specifications.

Precise measurements

High resolution orthophotos enable surveyors to perform highly-accurate distance and surface measurements. With 3D modeling software, it is also possible to obtain volumetric measurements from the very same images. This fast and inexpensive method of volume measurement is particularly useful for calculating stocks in mines and quarries for inventory or monitoring purposes.

With a drone, surveyors can capture many more data points, hence more accurate volume measurement. They can also do this in a much safer way than if they had to manually capture the data by going up and down a stockpile. Since drones are capturing the data from above, operations on site won’t be interrupted. The short acquisition time enables capturing a snapshot on a specific point in time.

Urban planning

The development of increasingly dense and complex urban areas requires intensive planning and therefore time-consuming and expensive data collection. Thanks to drones, urban planners can collect large amounts of up-to-date data in a short period of time and with far less staff. The images produced in this way allow planners to examine the existing social and environmental conditions of the sites and consider the impact of different scenarios.

Thanks to 3D visualization, buildings can also be easily overlayed onto their environment, giving planners and citizens an experimental perspective of a complex development project. 3D models also allow analysis and visualization of cast shadow or outlooks/views.

Maps produced with a WingtraOne drone and Esri’s ArcGIS Urban.

Data outputs

The data outputs of WingtraOne are post-processing software agnostic, therefore compatible with any post-processing solutions and existing GIS workflows.

Orthomosaic maps

The drone images are corrected for image distortion and stitched together during post-processing to create a highly-accurate orthomosaic map. Each pixel contains 2D geo-information (X, Y) and can directly be used for accurate measurements such as horizontal distances and surfaces.

File formats: geoTIFF (.tiff), .jpg, .png, Google tiles (.kml, .html)

3D point cloud

A densified point cloud can be generated from drone images. Each point contains geospatial (X, Y, Z) and color information. It provides a very accurate model for distance (slant and horizontal), area and volume measurements.

File formats: .las, .laz, .ply, .xyz

Digital surface models (DSM)

Drone images can also be used to create DSM models of the area. Each pixel contains 2D information (X, Y) and the altitude (Z value) of the highest point for this position.

File formats: GeoTiff (.tif), .xyz, .las, .laz

Digital terrain model (DTM)

After filtering objects such as buildings, the drone images can be used to create DTMs with each pixel containing 2.5D information (X, Y, and Z value of the highest altitude).

File formats: GeoTiff (.tif)

3D textured mesh

The 3D textured mesh is a reproduction of the edges, faces, vertices and texture of the area shot by the drone. This visual depiction of a model is most useful for visual inspection or for when external stakeholders or public involvement is essential for a project.

File formats:
.ply, .fbx, .dxf, .obj, .pdf

Contour lines

Depending on the project requirements, either the DTM or DSM model, with custom contour intervals, can be used to create a contour lines map, giving you a better understanding of the surface of the area shot by the drone.

File formats: .shp, .dxf, .pdf

Best drone for surveying

How does a WingtraOne drone benefit your surveying operations?

Large surveying areas, difficult or steep terrain, great altitude differences, harsh weather conditions or the absence of flat surfaces required for take-off and landing: the WingtraOne surveying and mapping drone can overcome all these challenges of surveying mid- and large-scale projects.

Take off and land vertically (VTOL)

Eliminate dangerous belly landings, hand launches and catapults. Unlike other fixed-wing drones, the WingtraOne takes off and lands smoothly in confined areas, on gravel, between tree stands or in mountainous areas.

42 Megapixels / 0.7 cm (0.3 in) GSD

With its full-frame 42 MP Sony camera, the WingtraOne can fly at high altitudes while still providing low GSD images. This guarantees that large areas can be surveyed faster with high accuracy. Higher resolution also yields better orthomosaic map reconstruction.

1 cm (0.4 in) absolute accuracy

Using the PPK option, it is possible to reach down to 1 cm (0.4 in) absolute accuracy, previously only feasible with ground-based survey equipment. Use as few as three checkpoints on the field to verify your results.

Case studies

Explore how our customers use WingtraOne drone aerial imagery in various surveying projects.

How to start with drone surveying?

Compiled resources to help professionals get the best data out of their surveying drone.

WingtraOne Quick start guide

See the complete workflow from flight planning to image geo-tagging in this mini-series of five videos.

To the guick start guide

Achieve 1 cm (0.4 in) drone survey accuracy

How can you achieve high absolute accuracy in your next mapping project.

How-to achieve high accuracy

Best drones for surveying

In-depth comparisons of the best drones for data capture and photogrammetry.

Best drones for photogrammetry

Our experts can
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  • Advise you about drone use
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