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It is quite common to see a survey crew set up a Total Station and take measurements at a five metre grid spacing. Depending on the size of the project it could take a few hours, a few days or longer. Using benchmarks the existing topography is overlaid with the design to perform cut and fill calculations. This process has worked for years and is still common practice today. But what if there was a better way?
With technological advancements the applications of drones has spread to more than just aerial photography. Using post-processing software, which takes the drone photos, GPS coordinates, and orientation metrics, a dense 3D point cloud is created. Again Benchmarks are used to tie down the model. Now we have survey points at a grid spacing at the centimetre level. Further, a drone can survey about 60 acres in about 20 minutes. This allows more data to be collected in a shorter time span with minimal site interruption. Due to these advantages, there are cost savings of over 30%.
Similar to a traditional survey, the existing topography model is compared to the design and the cut and fill values are determined. In addition to obtaining data for cut and fill calculations, more results are possible with the collected data. A fully navigable 3D model, with centimetre accuracy is created. This model can be used to share information about the project with anyone around the world, to create as-built CAD drawings, to create topographical maps, to analyze drainage, and many more applications.
Like all good things there is a catch. Operating a drone can present risks and is why Transport Canada (Canada) and The Federal Aviation Administration (USA) have put certain laws in place. The idea is to make sure that the pilot is experienced and properly trained, the equipment is certified, and adequately insured. Not all self claimed drone surveying companies abide by these government mandates so be sure to ask to see their certificates before liftoff.Read More
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