When Brian Flaherty and his team at ESP Associates, an engineering design and consulting firm, started flying drones for clients in 2015, they didn’t see the benefits they had hoped for. While the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) did help save time on certain projects, the traditional photogrammetry they offered just didn’t provide the accuracy the surveying industry requires.
From the Microdrones website.
That’s why they decided to invest in the Microdrones mdLiDAR3000 last September. LiDAR gives them the accuracy they were missing, making it possible to penetrate through canopies to see the ground below in a lot more detail than with traditional imagery. They’ve completed about 30 successful flights since delivery, and Flaherty has been pretty happy with the results from the DL system, which uses the Riegl MiniVUX-1DL.
“LiDAR provides better accuracy than photogrammetry, especially under canopy. With photogrammetry, you’re limited to how good a surface model is going to be. If there’s a canopy you really can’t model the surface. LiDAR penetrates through the canopy and collects a lot more information,” said Flaherty, a licensed surveyor who oversees the UAV department for the North Carolina based consulting firm. “In North Carolina, we have a lot of canopy, and most of our projects fall in wooded areas. This system from Microdrones just seemed like the best tool for us.”
How They’re Using the Technology
The team is mostly using the drone for land development, Flaherty said. Clients basically want to know if land they’re interested in is feasible for a project, so ESP collects aerial imagery that allows the engineering group to complete a preliminary design, and then a final design if the client decides to move forward with the project.
Not only can they give their clients more detailed information with this system, they also can get it to them much faster than if they used the traditional methods that involve ground crews walking the area with survey equipment. Before, it might take a month to collect the information they need to map a 200 acre site. With the Microdrones system, they can gather the same information in about two days.
“The turn-around time is much quicker and the accuracy is much better,” Flaherty said. “With this system you’re getting 100 points a square meter, where traditionally you’d get one point every 35 feet or so. You get a lot more information to interpret.”
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