If you have considered getting a topographical survey done for your property, you have probably noticed that some land surveyors have implemented drone photography as part of their services. In the past few years, drones have become vital tools for the topographic surveying process. There are several reasons for this rise of prominence, ranging from convenience to safety and accuracy. Below, we strive to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about drone photography and its use in topographic surveying—including issues of legality, customer benefits, and more.
Drone Surveying: Is It Legal?
This query tends to be one of the first questions that Hogan Land Services hears when customers find out that we have started using drone photography for our topo surveys. In a word, the answer is yes. Drone surveying is completely legal—though surveyors must hold a comercial drone license to use this type of aerial photography in their day-to-day work.
Drones—or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), as they are classified under the law—can be flown without a license for hobby purposes. However, individuals or businesses using drones for commercial purposes must be duly licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). At Hogan Land Services, all our pilots are licensed and insured in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations.
How Are Drones Changing Aerial Photography?
The biggest impact that drones have on land surveying is to make aerial photography more accessible and affordable. Aerial photography has always offered significant benefits for topographical surveying and site mapping. However, in the past, the equipment necessary to perform quality aerial photography was prohibitively expensive and difficult to use. Small, affordable UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) have put aerial photography into the hands of more people. Land surveyors have jumped at the opportunity to adopt it as a key tool for topo surveying and other types of property surveys.
Our industry isn’t the only one reacting positively to the newfound affordability of drones and aerial photography, either. Everyone from filmmakers to farmers to real estate agents have opportunities to cut overhead, improve efficiency, and increase the quality of service or product by adopting aerial photography by way of drones.
What Are the Benefits of Drone Surveying?
Aerial survey drones have become essential tools for topographical surveys and other types of land surveying, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Here are just a few of the reasons why you will see more and more aerial survey companies in the coming years—and why Hogan Land Services will continue to rely on drone technology for parts of the services we provide:
- Speed and efficiency: Particularly for large properties, it can take a while for a field team to collect all the necessary information for a detailed topo survey. Gathering that information on foot is simply a time-consuming process. Using a drone to provide an aerial view of the property cuts down on the necessary field work and allows for a faster process, which means that the client gets their topographical survey sooner.
- Accuracy: Aerial Topographic surveys are becoming the industry standard in part because of a process called orthorectification. This process essentially overlaps two aerial photos taken from slightly different angles. To be “orthorectified,” the photo has to be corrected so that the effects of image perspective and tilt are eliminated. Upon completion of this process, though, the photo presents an accurate 3D aerial view of the property—a vital resource for any surveyor trying to map the contours and elevations of your plot of land.
- Safety: Topographical surveying is often completely safe. However, when dealing with rugged terrain or remote land that’s hard to reach, it can be dangerous for surveyors to traverse the property or access the area with the equipment necessary to conduct a survey. In such situations, preparing an aerial survey map with a drone allows surveyors to minimize or eliminate time spent in the field. The surveyor avoids danger, and the client dodges some of the extra cost of a high-risk project.
Drone surveying doesn’t eliminate the need for in-field personnel. However, it does streamline the land surveying process, mapping out the property from above to help surveyors identify and focus on areas that require more attention to detail.