Surveying with a drone is a completely different process compared to a terrestrial survey with boots on the ground. A traditional surveyor tries to model the outside world by measuring as few points and lines as possible, while surveying with a drone involves piloting, an entire logistic operation, photogrammetry, and creating survey deliverables in a virtual environment.
The great thing about the entire drone surveying process is that the deliverables don't change. The deliverables that come from drone data are the same as terrestrial surveying, except using the drone data dramatically speeds up the process and still produces survey-grade results.
This article puts all these components into perspective.
A typical workflow when you're surveying with a drone consists of four steps:
- Step 1: The Drone Operator acquires photos with the drone of the project site.
- Step 2: The Photogrammetrist creates orthophotos and elevation models from the drone photos.
- Step 3: The Surveyor creates line surveys, surfaces, contours, and volume report deliverables.
- Step 4: An End User uses the created survey deliverables for designs, reports, and analysis.
The Terrain Creator desktop app operates as the 2nd step of the value chain and produces an orthomosaic and Digital Surface Model (DSM) through an intuitive photogrammetry process with a guided method that removes the difficulty and enables you to start working on the drone data as quickly as possible.
The Virtual Surveyor desktop app drives the 3rd step of the value chain that requires the generated orthomosaic and DSM—combining human capability to interpret real world data and the calculative power of a computer—to create CAD models, stockpile reports, cut-and-fill analysis, profiles, etc., in a very interactive virtual terrain environment.
The Deliverables that are produced in Virtual Surveyor are handled by the end user to accomplish any number of requirements. Just a few example deliverables from survey workflows may include:
- An Engineer/Designer uses a CAD model of the topography to create a new civil design.
- An Accountant uses a stockpile report for the monthly inventory.
- A Project Manager uses the cut-and-fill analysis to track progress over time.
What about LiDAR from a drone?
The only difference between LiDAR and photogrammetry is that you get a point cloud from the drone instead of geotagged aerial photos. The Virtual Surveyor desktop app converts the point cloud into a Digital Terrain Model (DTM) and a synthetic orthophoto. The rest of the workflow for producing deliverables is the same as working with photogrammetry.