This is a guest blog post from Dustin Price discussing the types of drones and sensor systems currently being used for land surveys.
What Types of Drones are Used in Land Surveys?
Drones are increasingly used for land surveys; they are fast, affordable, and safe. When drones are used for land surveys, companies do not just save money — they can get more in-depth, higher resolution surveys with advanced technologies such as LiDAR. But to get the most out of your drone technology, you also need to know which types of drones are better suited to which type of surveys.
There are two major types of drones available: quadcopters and fixed-wing. In addition to flight patterns – generally speaking, quadcopters hover while fixed-wing drones glide – there are benefits, drawbacks, and appropriate use cases for each.
Let’s take a deeper look.
Quadcopters: Versatile and Nimble
In many ways, quadcopters can be thought of as helicopter-like, whereas fixed-wing drones can be thought of as airplane-like. With that in mind, it is easy to see the major advantages of quadcopters. They are able to hover, they can maneuver in virtually any area, and they can fly close to terrain and structures. This produces higher resolution images. And one of the major advantages with quadcopters is that they can go under elements, such as bridges.
So, are there disadvantages to quadcopters? They are lighter and more fragile than fixed-wing drones and they can be blown around by the wind. That makes them more vulnerable to weather effects. Further, quadcopters’ light weight often comes at expense of long-term battery power, so they may need to be charged more frequently. Overall, quadcopters are best used when maneuverability matters and when it is important to get close to the terrain, or objects of interest.
Fixed-Wing Drones: Fast and Efficient
A fixed-wing drone looks quite a lot like a small plane. They can cover a lot of ground very quickly. The downside is that because they cover it quickly, they may not be able to spend as much time capturing the image as a quadcopter. But because they can cover a lot of ground quickly, they can be used to conduct much larger land surveys. And when used properly, there may not be a significant loss of resolution. For those who need to cover large areas quickly, fixed-wing drones are the best option.
So, if fixed-wing drones are airplane-like, what advantages do they have over airplanes?
First, there is the obvious: fixed-wing drones are smaller, less expensive, and more maneuverable. Fixed-wing drones are not manned, so there is no risk of someone being injured during a flight. And they do not require the extensive permitting process a plane flight would. A plane flight takes hours to get into the air after days or even weeks of permitting. A fixed-wing drone can have the survey completed long before the manned flight is in the air.
Drone Sensor Systems
The build of a drone is not the only thing that someone conducting a land survey should be concerned with. The drone’s sensor technology is also important. Drones can be equipped with technologies such as LiDAR and cameras. Either type of drone can use either type of sensor technology, and often it’s the sensor technology that will make the most difference with the scans. LiDAR technology produces a 3D array of points that represents a detailed map of topography, while photogrammetric technology uses a series of photographs to generate a 3D image.
Both quadcopters and fixed-wing drones are popular types of unmanned aerial vehicles. Today, drones are being used for land surveying with increasing frequency because they are affordable and safe — and they are able to deliver a very high quality work product. Understanding the different types of aerial vehicles is the first step toward understanding the benefits a UAV can deliver to your land surveying project.
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