Drones are a transformational technology, perhaps most notably so within the Surveying & Mapping industry.
Drones capture aerial data with typically downward-facing sensors, such as LiDAR payloads, RGB, thermal, & multispectral cameras.
Drones enable rich and efficient data collection for terrain mapping, topographical surveying, and volumetric analysis across a broad spectrum of mediums and sectors. Drone technology can provide not only time and cost savings but a qualitative competitive edge over traditional surveying practitioners.
Conventional surveying methods are time-consuming, labour-intensive and can be cost-ineffective, whereas drone surveys are the efficient polar opposite. They’re fast, require minimal manpower, and are extremely cost-efficient. It goes without saying, that drone technology is not a replacement for the more traditional surveying methods – drones are another “tool” in the box and can be complementary.
Adding drones into your surveying & mapping operations is a no-brainer, but which drone do you pick? Which is most suited to your needs?
We’ve covered the four best drones for surveying & mapping on the market to help you answer that question.
The 4 best drones for mapping & surveying
The Phantom 4 RTK provides an integrated flight planning GS RTK app and a new remote controller. All relevant surveying parameters can be set and the drone launched to follow a defined route.
It features a thirty-minute battery life which allows you to map large areas in a single flight. If a site is too big to map on a single charge, the Phantom 4 RTK will resume the mission from the same point it left off from once the battery has been replaced.
Most importantly, the Phantom 4 RTK has a 20MP RGB camera with a mechanical shutter, offering sharp and detailed images.
The DJI Matrice 300 RTK is the next step up from the Phantom 4 RTK. If you’re looking for a versatile drone that can handle surveying operations in multiple sectors, this is it.
The Matrice 300 RTK (M300 RTK), supports dozens of payloads, some of which are well suited for mapping. This includes the DJI P1, L1 (LiDAR), Share Oblique Cameras and many others that are plug and play. These are often high resolution (in some cases, as high as 150MP!) and optimised for mapping and surveying.
The drone also boasts on-board omnidirectional collision avoidance systems. The dual vision and ToF sensors on all six sides of the aircraft have an effective detection range of 40 metres, giving it amazing obstacle avoidance and situational awareness.
Thanks to its impressive 55 minute flight time (real world with a 1kg payload is approx 30 minutes) and 9-kilometre transmission range (in Europe), you can survey large areas in one flight. If you run out of charge, the hot-swappable battery allows you to pick up exactly where you left off.
It’s designed to withstand the harshest conditions and has an operating temperature between -20℃ – 50℃.
The Matrice 300 RTK’s built-in advanced redundancy systems help keep your critical missions going in unprecedented events.
If you’re after a robust drone that can comprehensively handle all of your surveying needs, the DJI Matrice 300 RTK is an excellent choice.
Next on our list of the best drones for surveying, we have the impressive Acecore Zoe.
The Zoe has an aerodynamic carbon fibre design which puts it in a class of its own. Its robust but slick build makes it highly weatherproof. It’s both wind and rain resistant and can operate under continuous wind speeds of 30 knots and rain up to 9mm/h. In addition, the drones hollow arms drag airflow away from its critical components, meaning it can withstand up to 50℃ heat.
Another standout feature of this drone is its versatility. The Zoe’s body is modular and can quickly be taken apart for hardware upgrades and customisations. Its payload mount is also configurable to allow for third-party payload integrations.
Whatever your survey operation’s specific goals and needs, the Zoe can be adjusted to meet them.
Acecore’s Zoe can carry out mapping missions autonomously. The operator can define the applicable surface area on their laptop, allowing the software to determine the flight path and image trigger points automatically. Then, after a manual takeoff, Zoe will complete the mission while the output is already being processed in the cloud.
The Acecore Zoe can support payloads weighing up to 5kg and has a respectable 40-minute battery life.
Sticking with the customisable theme, you can brand your Acecore Zoe drone with your company colours and logos.
The Trinity F90+ by Quantum Systems is a high performance, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) fixed-wing mapping drone.
For large scale mapping & surveying projects, this drone is an excellent pick. Compared to the other drones, the F90+ has a significant range advantage. It has an incredible max flight time of ninety minutes and up to 100km flight range.
All payloads available for the Trinity F90+ are plug & play and can be changed within seconds.
RGB, LiDAR, multispectral & thermal options are all available. PPK is standard and enhances the accuracy of the data collected.
It uses QBase 3D software for mission planning, flight monitoring and data processing. It will automatically define efficient flight paths once you’ve defined the mission’s parameters with a few clicks.
More affordable than a Wingtra Gen2 and with greater flight time and flexibility, the Trinity F90+ is a clear winner when it comes to large-scale surveying.
Benefits of using drones for mapping & surveying
Integrating drones into your surveying & mapping operations can provide remarkable efficiency gains in critical areas.
Time Savings – as any surveyor knows, completing a survey is a time-consuming endeavour. It requires planning, measuring, preparing equipment & labour – that’s not to mention however long it takes to complete the survey out in the field.
Drone surveys take that process which could take weeks, and reduce it to days, or even a few hours.
You can capture the same amount of data in a fraction of the time, and there are nowhere near as many logistical challenges.
Plus, this creates more time available to work on new projects and generate more revenue.
Reduced Costs – drone surveys can reduce your costs across the board compared to conventional methods.
Drone surveys require less equipment and less manpower. You don’t need a fleet of workers laying down ground control points or a ton of complex equipment.
Most surveys can be undertaken with a single drone and a qualified pilot.
Increased Safety – traditional survey methods can pose a threat to the health & safety of workers. Where hazardous areas need to be surveyed, sending out personnel on foot always carries a level of risk.
Drone surveys allow you to collect data from challenging terrain with minimal personnel, often reducing the total number of workers required to a single pilot. That means drone use minimises the threat to human health to a great extent.
It also allows you to map areas that were otherwise inaccessible by foot.
in conclusion ...
If you’re in the surveying & mapping industry, you need to be incorporating drones into your workflow.
They provide you with a competitive advantage you can’t afford to miss out on.
We’re sure at least one of the drones on this list is suited to your business needs and can take your performance to the next level.