Using drones to do surveying is not new, however, the technology has come a long way in the last 5 years with commercially available drones now being able to produce quality, reliable results for a fraction of the cost of using a manned aircraft.

The speed at which drones can capture the data on a site means that they can offer significant savings over traditional surveying as well as gathering data that you can’t get from the ground. Drones are fantastic pieces of technology, but like everything they have their upsides and downsides, so this is a short guide to decide whether you should be integrating drones into your projects.


Time and cost
Drones can capture data in a fraction of the time a normal surveyor can. Capturing data using high-resolution cameras and low-level flights between 35m and 40m above the ground, you can obtain 1cm sampling distances on the ground. Everyone knows the old adage “time is money” and it rings as true now as it always has. You can avoid your surveyor trudging round a site for days on end, trying to capture data accurately.

Extra data
By using photogrammetry to build the survey, you also gain a high-resolution image of your whole site. This is perfect for tracking progress at a glance, allowing clients, consultants, and contractors to see exactly what is going on at a specific moment in time. Pathfinder has a wide range of extra payloads which can be used to gather even more information from the air.

In construction, work area segregation has become standard practice to ensure proper health and safety compliance and nowhere is this more evident than in heavy earthmoving projects, where having a pedestrian walking around moving plant routes to survey them in is a major risk. The good news is that this is no longer a problem, a drone operator can stand in a designated safe zone and operate safely without being exposed to moving plant.

The big question is “How accurate can the survey be?”  This is often determined by the equipment you use and how you use it. Using an RTK mounted drone, with ground control points and a ground sampling distance of 10mm, you can get as low as 20mm on your X and Y axis, and 30mm on your Z axis.


Unfortunately, drones are still no match for the accuracy of a total station. They cannot get the 2-5mm accuracy of this equipment, however, as time goes on the accuracy levels will close in.

Setting out
Without any way of marking the ground, drones cannot mark out your dig sites, levels or slabs to pour. These still require conventional methods, and without walking round with a can of spray, that’s unlikely to change any time soon.

If you’d like to know more, drop me an email or give us a call on 07429 515173