Water Tower | La Porte City, IA

How will Drones Change Surveying

Steve Schmidt, PLS | with 0 Comments

How will Drones Change Surveying
MSA is anxious to explore how we can use drones to benefit our clients - so anxious, in fact, that one of our employees took this MSA group photo with his very own personal drone.

Technology has introduced yet another smart machine to the land surveying sector—drones, also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). These are light-weight, small, unmanned aircrafts equipped to survey large and unexplored stretches of land. This pilotless aircraft has opened a whole new world of possibilities and opportunities for civil engineering professionals. This development is significant for companies looking at working on uneven terrains, landfills and mines.
According to an article published by the Point of Beginning (POB), the spider-like copter type machines can attain heights of 400 feet in a matter of few seconds and can change direction and stop the next moment. Each are equipped with sensors to stay level and to make directional changes. Fixed-wing UAVs are also in production which are able to fly a pattern over a pre-programmed area and land back at the starting point.
High-resolution cameras or 3D scanners capture detailed images and other details regarding the terrain over which the UAV is flying. The images can be captured in real time by the remote controller or automatically by pre-programming the device. The data may then be fed in to a geographic information system or a CAD file for storage and processing.
Pall Bjarnason, a civil engineer from Iceland working with drones, mentions that increasing numbers of clients are favoring the use of these smart machines for survey purposes due to their high quality and efficiency in terms of time and effort.
Real-time data update to the server is among the best features of drones. Authorized users can view the maps and data from their servers. This facilitates quick decision-making and does not require engineers to be on-site all the time.  
Bjarnason added that a thorough understanding of the survey site coupled with effective use of ground control points can help complete surveys in a much shorter span of time.
With the world of technology advancing rapidly, the civil engineering sector is greatly looking forward to the benefits from the addition of drones. Here at MSA, we are watching the development of these devices and speaking to vendors in anticipation of the day they become available to professional surveyors in the USA.
In reading about the experiences of the European users, it is apparent that the surveying of hazardous sites, the monitoring of rapidly changing sites and the mapping of areas too small for the effective use of conventional aircraft based photogrammetry will be made faster and simpler using this technology. We look forward to learning more and exploring more ways to serve our clients in the (hopefully) near future.
MSA has a long history of providing surveying services, and our longevity is due to our commitment to technology.  Our specialists have the resources and expertise to efficiently and accurately complete fieldwork and to provide quality survey documents.  Contact MSA’s Steve Schmidt for more information.

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