Using digital information from drones for topographical surveys

Topographic surveys are a very important part of the construction industry but the output produced hasn’t really changed all that much over the years when using traditional methods. The methods for acquiring the data has improved over the years, but the output look the same.


Drone technology and the digital information it produces are revolutionising the way construction projects are surveyed. Using digital information from a drone survey is rich with information that can be used by both the onsite and offsite teams.


A lot of very useful digital information can be produced using a drone:


  • They can cover an area much more quickly than traditional surveying techniques.

  • Survey grade accuracy of approx. <3cm can be achieved.

  • Contour lines can be generate to understand the topography.

  • Digital surface/terrain models (DSM/DTM) can be used to visualise gradient change.

  • A 3D model can be used to gain a better understanding of project from all angles and assist in the design process.

  • The point cloud can be produced in a number of different file formats e.g. dxf, las, xyz, e57 etc. and can be brought into CAD/BIM software for analysis/drawing.

  • Accurately calculate volumes and areas, using millions of points from the point cloud to establish precise geometric quantities.

  • A single high resolution orthophoto of the entire project that is georeferenced. This can be produced as KML file which can be viewed in Google Earth or overlaid onto the finished surface model.

  • Reduce the exposure of personnel to risk on hazardous sites.


The business case for using digital information from a drone survey to generate a model and topographic survey stacks up convincingly. The larger the site, the speedier the survey and the greater the savings.


We team up with a licensed surveyor to setup the ground control targets and to provide the co-ordinates, we then fly at an optimum height above ground and tie that data to GCPs on the ground in order to generate the most accurate data achievable.


3D point cloud with ground control points (GCPs)


Geo-reference orthophoto


Digital surface model (DSM) and contour lines

Geo-referenced orthophoto in google earth

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