Civil Tracker has created a guide to starting your drone survey operation. We’re leveraging our years experience and our tools to empower your team.
Our mission is to help you perform your own drone surveys, interact with the digital drone data and create quantity reports and measurements.
Keep Reading to Learn About:
- Selecting Drone Hardware
- Regulatory Training and Support
- Flight Training and Support
- Site Setup and Permanent Ground Control Points
- Processing and Reporting
The choice of drones has exploded in the last five years. There are many drones that were made for consumers but are very effective for professional applications. These drones are made by DJI, Yuneec, Parrot and Autel Robotics.
With so many options choosing the right one can be hard! Our favorite is the Phantom 4 Pro. It has the best camera of the bunch and is a cost-effective mapping drone.
Auto Pilot Apps
Mission planning Apps unleash the power of drones for data collection. Typically, the user draws a boundary around the area she wants to map, and the app automatically calculates the flights paths and where to take photos.
Press start and the drone takes off, flies the grid, collects images and lands all by itself.
Always be prepared to manually take control of the drone as this is required for safe operations. These drones can be operated with an Android or iOS phone or tablet. Our favorite Apps for mapping are Map Pilot and DJI Ground Station Pro.
Regulatory and Licensing
Canada and the US have each updated their drone regulations and now have similar guidelines. In the US pilots must obtain a Part 107 license and in Canada pilots can obtain either a Basic or Advanced Operator License under Part IX of the Canadian Aviation Regulations.
Hands on Training & Site Setup
It can be intimidating to pull a drone out of the box and start your site survey. Having an experienced person present, to go through drone operations, and complete your initial flight is recommended. When that initial help isn’t possible, obtain a detailed set of instructions and start with simple flights.
Pro Tip: Purchase a cheap $50-$100 drone with a remote control and get comfortable with flying it before your more expensive mapping drone.
Unboxing and Training
- Watch the manufacturer videos and read the manual.
- Review drone operations, best practices etc.
- Complete a small manual flight to ensure all systems are functional.
- Setup the autopilot app and ensure connectivity.
The key to achieving repeatable survey grade results from drone solutions is the use permanent ground control points. We recommend approximately a dozen 2’ x 2’ patio blocks be placed in safe locations that will remain undisturbed. The centre of each of these must be surveyed using professional grade GPS instruments
Initial Drone Survey
It’s exciting to complete your initial drone survey. The flight time and number of batteries required will be depend on the size of your site, how much wind there is etc. but a rough rule of thumb is 2 acres per minute. Below is a sample flight plan for a full quarter section of 150 acres.
Once data is collected, it is processed using photogrammetric algorithms to create high resolution imagery and 3D elevation models.
This process is computationally intensive, and the simplest solution is to use a platform such as Civil Tracker where you only need a web browser and an internet connection.
The processing is completed on Civil Tracker’s servers and you can visualize, measure, and create reports through your web browser.
The drone images are uploaded to Civil Tracker. After which our platform completes photogrammetric processing to turn the individual photos into a single ortho-photo and a digital elevation model (DEM). We use the Ground Control Points to accurately position the survey.
Reporting & Analysis
Civil Tracker has unique quantity analysis tools to ensure all areas of interest are accurately tracked. Reports must be auditable, accurate and transparent. The software is designed for non-technical users to obtain professional progress and quantity reports. The image below contains a view of the software user interface.
Civil Tracker can help you make sense of your site by tracking changes, calculating volumes, and allowing you to obtain accurate measurements. Our goal is to make it simple and easy for your organization to better manage the site, improve safety and ensure regulatory compliance.
We believe you should be able to take your own measurements, Don’t you?