The world of sUAS continues to develop and adapt to the challenges and needs of all industries, but the industry that may benefit from such technologies the most is land surveying.
With the increases in efficiency and accuracy, along with new breakthroughs in how these aerial systems can perform the collection of mapping data, it is no wonder that leaders in land surveying are so quick to adopt the technology.
As UAVs continue to advance, they will continue to change the land surveying profession.
One such advancement that shows a great deal of promise is the area of beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations.
To date, a huge limitation to the cost-effective use of UAVs to collect mapping data in the United States is the FAA’s requirement for operators to maintain a visual line of sight with their drones.
Not that this requirement isn’t for good reason, but only recently has the technology existed for commercial-grade drones to detect and avoid other aircraft, allowing for BVLOS operations safely to be conducted safely below 400’ as a Part-107 operation.
Nonetheless, the regulation around BVLOS operations can make flying larger projects more expensive.
For qualified sUAS mapping providers with approval from the FAA to conduct Part-107 operations beyond line of sight this obstacle a thing of the past.
When remote pilots are able to fly outside their visual line of sight, larger projects become more economically flown via small UAV, saving the engineer or their customer a great deal of money.
Better Aerial Mapping Data
Like with most UAV collected data, BVLOS affords mapping professionals and their customers the increased accuracy and efficiency they’ve come to expect from drone-collected imagery and LiDAR.
The lower and slower flight of UAVs means higher resolution imagery and more dense LiDAR point clouds than they might normally get from manned aircraft collection.
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Not only is a qualified sUAS focused mapping provider able to produce a higher resolution work product, but they are often able to do so in half the time at a 20%-30% lower price than a manned aerial mapping provider.
And that’s when conducting visual line of sight operations (VLOS).
Again, those kinds of savings are often limited to projects of not more than 3,000 acres and wouldn’t include mapping narrow corridors (i.e. power company right of ways, pipeline, etc.), but where BVLOS operations can be conducted safely – long corridors and projects greater than 3,000 acres become more cost-effective to fly with a drone than they would be to fly with crewed aircraft.
UAV-focused mapping providers are also known for having faster turnaround times than manned aircraft provider.
This is often the case because they can mobilize to the field faster. Providers of sUAS enabled mapping services can arrive within a few days’ notice in most situations.
By comparison, however, the same job might take a crewed aircraft mapping company several weeks before they fly the site. They’d have to wait until they had several projects to fly in a single day to make their prices competitive.
Then it would take several more weeks before the data collected by a helicopter or plane could be processed due to the backlog of work created by flying several projects on the same day.
Even with the larger volume of data collected during a BVLOS operation, a qualified drone service provider that is flying jobs and processing data at a more consistent pace could easily process and delivered imagery, point clouds, and CAD files in half the time as provider fly jobs with a helicopter or plane.
The advantage of BVLOS for mapping and land surveying is both timing and cost-effectiveness, and when time is money, the math looks a lot more like 1+1=3 in the form of surveyors winning more jobs and those jobs being more profitable than ever.
BVLOS Increases Safety
According to the USHST Safety Analysis Team, from 2009-2013 there were 104 fatal helicopter accidents.
In some of these accidents the pilot lost of control of the aircraft, some were the result of the complexity that comes with low-altitude operations, and some from the aircraft striking power lines.
Many of these fatal accidents occur due to human incompetency, boredom, or fatigue.
Put plainly, there are a lot of ways that human error causes aviation accidents. The autonomous nature of the technology that makes BVLOS operations possible limits human error from becoming a factor.
Land Surveying Will Never Be the Same
Because sUAS BVLOS Operations
The progression of sUAS BVLOS is a game changer for the world of land surveying.
With its ability to be more cost-effective, efficient, accurate, and safer than data collection using crewed aircraft, the impact of BVLOS makes the future of aerial mapping very exciting.