The free Valley plan of Virtual Surveyor includes tools that allow you to create basic topo features. It is possible to export those topo project items to your desired CAD or GIS program for further work. Below is a workflow to go from your drone data to a topographic survey delivered as a CAD file.

All the steps below are available in the free Valley plan of Virtual Surveyor. Check out our advanced plans for Virtual Surveyor that include productivity tools and other features to greatly enhance your drone surveys!

Overview of How to Create a Topographic Survey

Supported Input Data Formats

Virtual Surveyor is not an image processing solution. It is a surveying, earthworks, and modeling software that uses the data created by other photogrammetric products. 

The export files you want from your photogrammetric software are preferably an Orthomosaic and Digital Surface Model (DSM / DEM) in GeoTIFF (.TIFF) format. Keep in mind that you can import the point cloud as a .LAS or .LAZ file, but there is typically not an advantage unless you are using LiDAR data. 

Create a New Project and Import Data

When starting Virtual Surveyor, click on New, give a name to your project, and select the save location. You can use a Dropbox location to improve the collaborative experience or a local drive. If you work locally, use a non-networked local drive (SSD if available) to enjoy a fast and smooth experience. Then click on Create Project

Drag your data into the application or click on or choose files to add data to your project. Your DSM/DEM or point cloud creates the Elevation Terrain, while the orthomosaic creates the Image Terrain.

See more details in our Creating a New Project article.

Coordinate System

Virtual Surveyor uses the coordinate reference system defined in your photogrammetry data. Typically, this is set when you create your Orthophoto and DSM in your photogrammetry software. You can check the current coordinate system of the project in the status bar

If Virtual Surveyor does not recognize your dataset when you import your data, you must give it a coordinate system before you can work on your project. When the coordinate system isn't recognized, it can either mean your data is in a local unknown system or your data may be in the correct system, but the input GeoTIFF files did not define it. You can read more about setting up a coordinate system if you'd like more information. The coordinate system can always be transformed after the initial coordinate system is properly defined, by clicking next to Project Coordinate System in the status bar.

Tip: Use EPSG codes to easily select your project coordinate system.

Managing Layers in the Project View

Add layers to give structure to your project. For example, you can create layers to store specific project items like points or polylines. You can also structure your project with topic layers like roads, curbs, markings, etc. The exported CAD file will maintain this layer structure.

Creating Project Items

Depending on the item you create, choose the appropriate active layer. Use the Drawing tools available in the HOME tab to add items to your project. The Drawing tools included in the free Valley plan are Point, Polyline, and Boundary. With one of the drawing tools selected, you can go to the SELECTION TOOLS tab and set display settings for your items (color, shape, size, and thickness) in the Styling group. 

Export Topographic Survey

When your topographic survey is complete, you can export the project as a CAD file. Virtual Surveyor is able to export your project as a .dxf, .xml, .shp or .kml file. You can also export point items to a .csv format. Go to the EXPORT tab, set the desired format, and click on Export Survey.

Note: The Export Survey function works on the principle of What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG). All the active Project Items shown in the Viewport are exported. Use the checkboxes in the Project View to manage which items you want to export.