Drone data often struggles to create accurate ground surface models over wooded or vegetated areas. Surveyors, engineers, and other professionals are often only interested in ground data to model the bare earth. Virtual Surveyor includes tools that help you efficiently model your bare earth surfaces.

In this use case, we are going to create a lightweight CAD model that we will export to a 3rd party CAD software for further analysis. This process allows you to avoid wasting time cleaning the terrain, so you can focus your efforts on surveying instead.


Draw a Boundary Around the Area of Interest 

First, define the area you want to survey. Use the Boundary tool to outline the area or zone you want to work within. You do not need to worry about the elevation of vertices on this boundary. 

Low-Pass Point Grid

Select the boundary and launch a Low-Pass Point Grid. Set an appropriate grid size to ensure you have a dense grid, but not so dense you saturate the vegetation with points. 

What is the optimal grid size? Start with a larger grid size and make the grid size smaller step by step until points start to appear on surface objects. Read the full details here.

Clean Up the Point Grid

Even though the Low-Pass algorithm is designed to place points on the ground, sometimes—in dense vegetation areas—points can land on trees. Manually remove these points by selecting them and pressing Delete. 

If multiple "floating" points are created on top of vegetation when the Point Grid is created, delete all the points by selecting the Multi-point item in the project view and run the Low-Pass point grid again with a higher grid size value.

Add Breaklines

If necessary, you can also add some breaklines to include specific elevation terrain lines like on a road or bank edges. Use the Polyline tool available in the HOME tab to draw these breaklines. The Guided Breakline Tool may also be helpful.

Triangulate the Survey

When all the survey items are finished, disable the area boundary in the project view. Click Triangulate All in the HOME tab to generate the surface. Make sure you have selected the 3D triangulation method. Use the Styling options in the TOOLS tab to show the contour lines.

Clean the Created Surface

Some triangles from the surface may be meaningless, especially on the edges of the surface. Select the surface and enable the Remove Edge tool in the TOOLS tab. Click on all the triangles you want to erase (you can make multiple selections by holding Shift on the keyboard).

Export Files

Lastly, export the lightweight CAD model to .dxf for further use in a 3rd party CAD software.

Tips and Tricks

  • If your project contains only a few isolated trees, it is not necessary to use the Low-pass Point Grid. You can easily exclude these surface objects from your surface model by deleting the survey points off of them.
  • To easily locate incorrect points generated by the Low-pass tool, triangulate all the points and enable surface contours with a small interval. Points created on top of the vegetation are represented by clustered concentric contour lines. You will more easily see those "pyramid" contours by activating the Transparent Terrain Lens.