How Drones are being Used to Survey Land for New Commercial Real Estate Developments

March 28, 2022

By:  John Tomblin, Senior Solutions Architect
Henderson Bizz, a division of Sofvue, LLC
Printed with permission of Sofvue, LLC and the author

Technology disrupts, absolutely, and real estate is no exception, especially with all the technology that makes drones work. Drones play a crucial role in providing key metric data associated with real property and making the process of gathering this information safer than ever before.

Experts predict that drones can add significant benefits to a real-estate project throughout its lifecycle. For example, it can be used to survey land, make precise measurements, map inaccessible areas, analyze the amount of work completed for draw releases, and decide on what amount of work remains.

What is a Drone Survey?

In general, a drone executed survey includes measuring the distance between all the points to a parcel of land. No two parcels are exactly the same, and outside of residential lots that are most often rectangles, commercial real estate lots are a completely different story. Land surveying also involves analyzing how well-suited the land is for certain types (and sizes) of buildings, as well as identifying the topography of the land. Survey’s also produce in-depth observations as part of the planning and designing of the structures that are going to be built on the land.

When you leverage a drone to gather this type of information, it is known as a drone survey. The drone will fly above the land to capture the images and record the details for you.

How Does a Drone Survey Work?

Drones designed for real estate land surveying are equipped with downward-facing sensors with multispectral and RGB cameras. Some advanced drones even have LiDAR payloads to collect every single piece of information associated with the property.

When drones fly over your land, they capture images of the ground from different angles or axis points. Since there’s likely a prior plat, legal description or metes and bounds survey, then they have a starting point from which to begin. The images are also tagged with the exact coordinates to help create a better result.

Topographic Mapping Using Drones

When planning complex, high-rise construction projects, topographic mapping is not only mandatory, but crucial, and are used to assist the developer in determining the terrain of the property, which in turn is used to help the developer and architect identify the best use of property. By using drones to support the land surveying process, surveyors not only get more but better information, and used together, produce a much more accurate survey.

Additionally, most survey drones are able to capture 4D high-res imagery of the property, images that can used to help create 3D topography models that further improve upon the survey and help identify exacting requirements for land grading when a project begins.  

Key Usage of Drones for Land Surveying

Apart from topographic mapping, drones can be used for:

1. Cartography

Cartography is the science of graphically representing an area on a flat surface like a map. More simply, cartography is the process of producing maps, and since drones provide high-resolution 3D models of land areas, the information and images produced from a drone fly-over can easily create accurate maps and charts of a property being developed.

2. Slope Monitoring and Management

Using high-resolution images shot from drones, surveyors can produce far superior topography (or topo as they are often called) maps. In some cases, especially when you have severe grades, or in mountainous areas where extreme weather can cause landslides. This becomes particularly important for civil engineers who are trying to design road infrastructure, or when trying to avert future road damage that may have already occurred.  

Benefits of Using Drones for Land Surveying

Planning and mapping high-rise developments can take months of work to complete and require highly skilled surveyors and engineers. Time and costs are always top-of-mind on developers since every penny spent ends up being paid by people purchasing the units. As a result, using drones helps with the surveying process, and can yield images and data that increase the value of the content produced, which in turn helps reduce effort, time, and costs, saving’s that can be passed on to the consumer.

1. Dynamic Visuals

As mentioned above, you can take pictures of the land from multiple angles using drones, but drone technology is continually improving, and today, mapping and software technology is available allows the drone pilot to use “Drone Mission Planning” when plotting out the location where photography or surveying needs to occur, then launching the drone to complete the mission. As always, FAA guidance requires that pilots always have a direct Line of Sight (LOS) of their drone, especially in densely populated urban areas.

2. Mapping Inaccessible Areas

Analyzing unknown terrain can be risky for people surveying land, or when examining land areas with large structures or power lines (such as large wind turbines).  Using drones, surveyors can deploy the drone and fly their mission.  In some cases, surveyors will use “Follow Me” technology, so the drones “follow” them while they drive around the axis points of the property being surveyed.

Utilizing mobile technology to enhance surveying capabilities.

Do you have a surveying company and need customized software to better support your surveyors in the field? With the right software and improved functionality, you can add value to your company’s services and product.  

Henderson Bizz is an award-winning mobile app development company serving Henderson, along with all of Clark County and the surrounding areas, and we can help you develop a tailored mobile app that supports and improves the work output of surveyors in the field. Our team of engineers, designers, programmers, and testers have been developing mobile applications (apps) for nearly two decades. Give us a call so we can learn more about your project requirements, and how we can help your company use state-of-the-art technology mobile applications for surveying.

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