3D Mapping

There are a number of reasons why land surveyors are turning to aerial drone technology for their mapping needs. First and foremost using drones can significantly reduce the time spent collecting accurate data over large distances. By acquiring faster data from the sky, drones allow you to gather millions of data points in one brief flight.

3D drone mapping imagery

An aerial mapping drone turns a job that takes weeks to complete into a one that is finished in just a few days. Another benefit is the decreased exposure of staff to dangerous environments. An aerial survey means less time surveying teams spend on the ground, minimizing their risks when measuring sites such as mines, unstable slopes and transport routes.

Drones can quickly turn flight data into 2D orthomosaics (maps) and 3D models. The accuracy achieved by drones bridges the large gap between what is possible with satellites or manned aircraft and what is possible with terrestrial methods. Drones can quickly and easily collect and process valuable data for GIS databases in many fields, including; forestry, asset management, environmental protection, agriculture, humanitarian, remote sensing, oil and gas, etc.

Drone Crew performing 3D mapping in south county St Louis.

Survey drones generate high resolution orthomosaics and detailed 3D mapping models of areas where low quality difficult to reach or even no data are available.

Do you want to generate high-resolution 3D maps of difficult to reach areas? Survey drones are the best bet for that!

This blog discusses how survey drones help in generating high-resolution orthomosaics and 3D mapping models, providing accurate data and insights previously not available. Learn more about survey drones and their amazing capabilities!


In recent years, the emergence of survey drones has made it possible to generate data more efficiently and accurately than ever before. These devices, which are also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), can be equipped with a variety of sensors and cameras that enable them to capture high-resolution orthomosaics and detailed 3D topographic mapping models of areas where low-quality or even no data are available. This makes them particularly advantageous for reaching into areas that would have been difficult or impossible for ground-based surveying operations.

Besides enabling surveyors and mapping professionals to cover larger areas quickly, survey drones allow for the collection of highly detailed imagery. The images captured with the help of these devices are far more accurate than what can be captured from an airplane or satellite and provide surveyors with vital information which can be used in various industries such as civil engineering, agriculture and urban planning. Moreover, the ability of UAVs to operate autonomously makes them especially beneficial when it comes to conducting precision surveying operations in remote locations.

Benefits of Survey Drones

Survey drones have numerous benefits for gathering accurate data for any application. For example, they can capture high-resolution orthomosaics and 3D maps from difficult to reach areas that are inaccessible or traditional survey methods cannot. Additionally, any survey drone data is recorded in real time with precise and current information, making survey drone data incredibly useful in a variety of fields.

Survey drones offer other benefits as well, such as:

  • Ability to collect aerial data quickly, safely and with greater accuracy than traditional methods;
  • Generate real-time analytics;
  • Affordable acquisition costs;
  • Greater precision and accuracy than satellite imagery;
  • Autonomous flight that allows you to focus on the content instead of flying the aircraft;
  • More detailed mapping capabilities than what was previously available with traditional surveying methods.

Survey drones can be used in a number of industries, including architecture and engineering firms, construction companies, forestry operations, land management organizations and many more. These devices provide an easy way to add value to a project by capturing high quality aerial images quickly instead of relying on costly services or different measurements taken over multiple days or weeks. Survey drones open up a world of possibilities when it comes to capturing precise information from any location or area – quickly!

How Survey Drones Work

Survey drones, sometimes referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are full-scale remote controlled aircrafts outfitted with advanced digital photography and mapping technologies. They provide functions such as capturing detailed visuals of challenging or otherwise inaccessible sites in order to create 3D maps, orthomosaics, elevation models and other geospatial data. UAVs can be operated remotely from ground level or from a nearby fixed winged aircraft or helicopter.

The process of aerial surveying involves the use of survey drones equipped with three main components: navigation system, camera and gimbal. The navigation system makes use of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to accurately track the location of the drone while in flight. Meanwhile, the camera is controlled via an attached gimbal, which helps adjust the angle of view so that images can be captured by the drone’s sensors. In order to collect high-resolution images, these systems are often coupled with special cameras that contain multiple lenses and image sensors.

Using their onboard cameras and GPS tracking capabilities, survey drones can precisely fly over any kind of terrain at varying altitudes in order to generate high-quality aerial imagery. This means they are able to produce real-time 2D maps or orthomosaics made up from thousands of individual digital photographs stitched together into a single unique image file. Additionally, collected airborne data is also used for creating 3D mapping models by merging thousands of single outcome images into one intricate model containing detailed information about height levels, surface surveys and other features silhouettes from above the ground surface level which cannot be obtained with traditional 2D ground based techniques such as tape measurements.

Once all this data has been gathered and processed it can then be used for various business applications such as roof inspections for renewable energy projects or asset management for large infrastructure sites among many others.

Applications of Survey Drones

Survey drones can be used for a variety of applications, from high-resolution 3D mapping to monitoring the health of crops. They can be deployed to quickly generate detailed data that would be difficult or impossible to acquire through traditional methods.

For land surveying and mapping, survey drones can generate high-resolution orthomosaics and 3D models of areas where low-quality data, difficult access, or no data are available. They also offer a degree of precision and accuracy that is not achievable with traditional surveying methods. Survey drones are ideal for surveying complex topography, gathering volumetric calculations for construction sites, checking erosion risk near bodies of water, and carrying out archaeological research with minimal impact on the environment.

In environmental monitoring applications survey drones are used to identify and monitor air pollution hot spots; check static crop health indicators like NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) over time; analyze water bodies contamination; calculate biomass; inspect wind turbines; and monitor coastal erosion more accurately than satellite imagery alone.

Moreover, survey drones equipped with infrared sensors enable researchers to be able to conduct biological surveys in previously hard-to-reach and dangerous environments such as swamps or dense jungles as well as diverse (and often remote) outdoor locations in which they lack resources/people necessary to carry out traditional fieldwork effectively.

Advantages of High-Resolution Orthomosaics

High-resolution orthomosaics created by survey drones offer multiple advantages to the users. These include:

1. Accurate measurements: With the help of survey drones, detailed 3D mapping models and high-resolution orthomosaics can be generated, which provide accurate measurements of the studied area. This can be used for calculating volume and area as well as any other possible measurements that may be required in various applications.

2. Time efficient: The whole process is simple, quick and cost effective compared to traditional survey methods which require a few weeks or even months to collect data and generate accurate results. Drone surveys make it easier to monitor dynamic changes in an environment which occur over time and make it possible to track those changes with precision over a short period of time.

3. Detailed observations: High-resolution orthomosaics capture details that were not visible on aerial photos from satellites or manned aircrafts; this in turn enables more accurate analysis and interpretations of data collected from remote sites that may be too difficult or dangerous for humans to access directly.

4. Data integrity: Since Survey drones generate both aerial imagery as well as raw geospatial data (points), users are assured of complete authentication from all the sources that is necessary for making sound decisions based on complete data sets available from all sources at any given time.

Benefits of Detailed 3D Mapping Models

Detailed 3D mapping models created using survey drones offer unique data collection solutions that can be used to measure, analyze and track terrain features in great detail. This type of mapping technology not only delivers valuable orthomosaic images, but also creates highly accurate three-dimensional point clouds and digital elevation models (DEMs). This allows users to have a better understanding of their target area which can deliver tangible benefits and cost savings.

The main advantages of employing survey drones to build detailed 3D mapping models are:

1. Enhanced Precision: Traditional techniques used to generate Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) usually require high-resolution topographic maps with aerial photographs and conventional surveying techniques. By contrast, the use of survey drones produces an ultra-high resolution DEM which can detect even the slightest differences in elevations. This enhanced precision makes it easier to plan infrastructure projects with greater efficiency.

2. Cost Savings: The level of accuracy achieved by creating detailed 3D mapping models with survey drones allows for a significant reduction in surveying costs compared to traditional methods that require specialized equipment, skilled personnel and post-data processing workflows. The use of drone technology even minimizes the need for costly continued surveys such as on roads or bridges due to regular movement or wear of materials from weather effects or adverse conditions; instead data is collected quickly, easily and at low cost when needed by using these systems.

3. Improved Planning: Detailed 3D mapping models provide decision makers an extensive overview of geological features in the study area, greatly increasing its utility for planning various infrastructural projects such as road construction, bridge engineering projects etc., thus allowing for better visual navigation planning based on terrain contours and environmental factors like water flow routes or land clearing practices on farms/ranches etc..

4. Monitoring Efficiency: When repeated measures are taken over time at specific locations by deploying multiple survey drones with accurate CPP (Control Point Processing), precise analysis can be carried out over areas that show signs of changes in topography like sinkholes caused by ground erosion or subsidence due to earthquake activity etc., providing a real time monitoring system which increases safety and efficiency.

Challenges of Survey Drones

Survey drones are becoming increasingly popular workhorses for many applications, from agriculture and forestry to archaeology, mapping and urban planning. Despite their advantages, survey drones also present certain challenges which need to be taken into consideration before use.

The first challenge is finding the right equipment to carry out the task. Survey drones need to have specific flight controls for precise navigation and maneuvering. This includes camera angles and altitudes that allow for flexibility with platform movements when taking images. Pausing to capture multiple images of a scene can also be challenging because larger areas require more data points in order to generate high-quality 3D maps or explore sites inaccessible by traditional methods.

Another challenge comes in the form of interpreting large amounts of data collected by survey drones, especially when attempting high-resolution orthomosaics and complex 3D mapping projects. Combining this data can prove to be quite an undertaking as it involves stitching together hundreds or even thousands of aerial stills into a comprehensive model. Furthermore, the data must all be processed carefully in order for accurate models or maps, which can be difficult due to resolution limitations or image distortion from changing wind conditions during flight sessions.

Finally, survey drones must also consider air regulations when operating over restricted airspace such as airports or national parks, where authorities may limit operations depending on local laws and regulations. Such restrictions may seem overwhelming but good planning will enable surveyors maximize their time successfully and produce invaluable insights for various applications that support responsible decision-making in all areas of operation.


This technology has the potential to facilitate a variety of practical operations ranging from urban planning to industrial inspection and precision agriculture. Survey drones can be used to produce high-resolution orthomosaics and detailed 3D mapping models of areas that would traditionally be difficult or impossible to access. Additionally, survey drones are much more cost-effective than traditional surveying or mapping technologies, providing savings in both time and capital expenditure.

To date, only a few commercial implementations of these technologies have been reported, although they appear to offer great potential for a wide range of applications. New developments in survey drone technology look set to make them even more accessible and cost-effective tools for geospatial information capture. As the development of these technologies continues, more organizations will undoubtedly explore their potential and identify further useful applications for comprehensive remote monitoring and data acquisition services.

Rob Haller