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Is a drone in our future?

Nate The Surveyor
(@nate-the-surveyor)
5,000+ posts Member

I say yes, most progressive (And active) surveyors will want one of these sort of things.

I must say, this thing was impressive. It has NO control surfaces.

Here is what I am looking for:

Fixed Wing. (Longer battery life than only rotary wing).

Good camera.

Fast download to laptop.

Good fast STITCHING program, to assemble 2-20,000 photos.

So I can go to any job, set it up to fly a route, (USGS quad sheet to set it up)

Fly it.

download it

Stitch it.

Clean up all the extraneous data.

Put the finished product into my cell phone, or into my Javad LS, as a background map.

Go and work 15 minutes later, with a current map.

Get home, and SCALE the previous stitched map to ground control.

Add it to my final survey.

That's what I want.

(I think).

Wouldn't that be cool?

N

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Topic starter Posted : September 16, 2021 7:06 am
MightyMoe
(@mightymoe)
5,000+ posts Supporter

We've done extensive testing and been involved with a number of projects for other users. I can say for me; no thanks!!!

There is no way to pencil one out for me, I don't wish to market them and do those types of surveys. But if I were younger and wanted that kinda work, for sure. 

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Posted : September 16, 2021 7:12 am
Skeeter1996
(@skeeter1996)
1,000+ posts Member

I already have that done for me free. I use Google Earth. The newer pictures have amazing quality.

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Posted : September 16, 2021 7:44 am
Brad Ott and RADAR liked

Rover83
(@rover83)
500+ posts Member
Posted by: @skeeter1996

I already have that done for me free. I use Google Earth. The newer pictures have amazing quality.

Yup. I pull both aerials and/or plats into TBC, georeference them, adjust for color/brightness/fade, and then export out tiles that go directly into our cloud projects. Crews then import from the cloud and turn the various tiles on or off as they go about their day. It can really help to see your position on a scaled plat/ROS in realtime.

If we're flying a site, it's to extract data for deliverables rather than for crew backgrounds.

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Posted : September 16, 2021 7:55 am
RADAR liked
BStrand
(@bstrand)
1,000+ posts Member

If all you're after is a picture then yeah may as well use google earth.  I just finished setting aerial targets on a 660 acre project this week-- steep-ish rolling foothills, sage brush but zero tall trees.  This would have been a nightmare to topo on foot.  The drone stuff has always looked intriguing to me but it seems like you need a steady stream of projects like this one to make it worth it, and that's just not realistic for most companies.

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Posted : September 16, 2021 9:38 am
chris mills
(@chris-mills)
500+ posts Member

Agreed. My experience is that you need decent size sites - more so if you have a fixed wing - and the problem is getting a steady workflow of suitable jobs. The more difficult or unsafe the access generally the more suited they are to flying, but you still need to get to to place control. There's a tricky balance at the upper end of the site size as to whether its more economic to use conventional aircraft - sometimes those firms will add in a site they are overflying to a main job, if there isn't a time imperative.

Vegetation isn't a major problem if it is fairly uniform in type - typically we would take "calibration" spot points in typical vegetation types as we set the ground markers and then use these to apply a standard correction to the heights for that type of vegetation.  Generally works out very well - anyway, if the vegetation is that rough ground survey tends only to survey the "easy" points, so the overall accuracies are comparable. Obviously heavy tree cover causes problems for all types of survey (unless you fly LIDAR).

The long term conundrum is whether the technique will end up being the preserve of large consulting firms who can afford the gear and generate sufficient work-flow, or if they will soon tire of having their own departments doing the small projects as well.

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Posted : September 17, 2021 2:22 am

MightyMoe
(@mightymoe)
5,000+ posts Supporter

@chris-mills 

There is a "local" lidar company that flys for a number of ongoing projects. Set-up flights with them and it's way cheaper than a drone survey. They will pick up your site while doing others. The cost difference can be eye opening. There is probably a sweet spot for drone surveys, but it's limited.

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Posted : September 17, 2021 2:59 am
Rover83
(@rover83)
500+ posts Member
Posted by: @mightymoe

They will pick up your site while doing others. The cost difference can be eye opening.

Exactly. Data collection with manned aircraft is often more efficient. Several of the firms I have dealt with tell me that they will fly cities/towns/areas just because they happen to be in the area or passing through. In other words, they pick up data in addition to the contracted data, and then the firm can process, store and sell the gathered data from those other sites in the future.

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Posted : September 17, 2021 6:44 am
Norman Oklahoma
(@norman-oklahoma)
5,000+ posts Member
Posted by: @nate-the-surveyor

Fixed Wing. (Longer battery life than only rotary wing).

Here's the thing - you must maintain visual line of site (VLOS) on your drone at all times it is in the air. So that negates any range advantage that the fixed wing drone might give you.     Rotary can be made to hover in place at will,  requires less space and paraphernalia to launch, and can be landed on the palm of your hand. And they will cover all the area within visual range within a few minutes time.  Sure, you can set up a network of observers with radios, etc. and extend that VLOS that way, but how often do you really need that? These things are why quadcopters dominate the drone market.    

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Posted : September 17, 2021 11:26 am

Chris Bouffard
(@chris-bouffard)
200+ posts Member

For the type of work I do, I don't want or need a drone.  If I want to employ one on a project I know several people that I can use to fly the job and process the data.

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Posted : September 18, 2021 9:46 am
Murphy
(@murphy)
200+ posts Member

They're great for landfill work and anything without trees.  Drone Lidar is awesome as long as you have some talented individuals processing.  Virtual surveying is not something I would enjoy doing day in and day out.  With some clients there is a "wow" factor.  Creating current orthos can be valuable.  I just sold a commercial real estate client on it due to the lack of a GE photo showing a recently constructed road. 

The bad thing about drones is the number of idiots who think the rules don't apply to them or who are too dense to comprehend what real pilots have to contend with.  My best friend is a commercial pilot and Airbus simulator instructor, he's got all sorts of horror stories about folks who don't observe the 400' rule, or VLOS, or who don't immediately ground their drone when a small aircraft is spotted.  Warning to UAV pilots, even if you're not in the direct path of piloted aircraft, you are still a distraction, pause your flight and bring your UAV to the ground.

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Posted : September 18, 2021 10:21 am
Jonathan50
(@jonathan50)
100+ posts Member

Drones for photogrammetry - no. Drones for lidar - yes. 

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Posted : September 18, 2021 4:13 pm

Nate The Surveyor
(@nate-the-surveyor)
5,000+ posts Member

I'm guessing that there is a higher license available, so you can fly a greater distance than line of sight.

Military does it.

And, I've seen many r/c planes flying through a set of binoculars.

If you are minding your own business, not close up snooping, I'm sure we could map what we need.

N

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Topic starter Posted : September 19, 2021 7:59 am
LRDay
(@ridge)
1,000+ posts Member

I'm working for a younger surveyor and doing some drone flights. Had my grandson with a much brighter mind (than my old brain) read the material and get a license.

One of the first projects was 260 acres for a flood irrigation and pond topo.  Took 9 flights.  Two flights had problems (no images saved) which we couldn't resolve so had to fly again.  We had about ten GCP's set.  Collected 1800 images.  Using Drone Deploy for processing.  Took a long time. Returned a 60 Gb file for 1 foot contours.  Brought my computer to it knees.  Good sized lerarning curve here which has a long ways to go.  With the proper experience and training this is some amazing stuff.  Not there yet for us.  Some much smaller projects have turned out quite well.  If you want to be able to see gravel sized stone on the road you can if you fly low enough. I haven't used it for corners but I'm sure you could see a 3 inch monument if open to the sky and you knew where to look. You could drop right down over it and probably read the stamping also (might also crash the drone doing that).

Might work for some recon before the hike.  Used the drone to locate a crazy cow and calf last year.

 

At my age what I need is the human sized drone to get me there.  To heck with the ATV, just fly me over there.

This post was modified 2 months ago 2 times by LRDay
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Posted : September 24, 2021 9:26 pm
Brad Ott liked
Mark O
(@mark-o)
100+ posts Member

I'd go with a Phantom 4 pro, Pix4D and build a custom build computer with 16+ cores. 

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Posted : September 25, 2021 9:09 am
GMPLS liked

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