Image credit: Soleon (Agro with KDE Direct)
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, are reshaping the ways in which survey and mapping professionals operate. Industries that widely use UAVs for gathering data from the sky include utilities, construction, and agriculture because they can get in the air quickly and offer a more cost-effective solution than manned aircraft.
Topographic surveys are a fundamental part of all land development projects. Mapping professionals and land surveyors work in urban environments and remote wilderness areas. The tools required to perform their jobs—tripods, total stations, GPS equipment, electronic levels, and more—are bulky and can preclude them from traversing certain types of terrain.
For the modern-day land surveyor, a drone is a very powerful tool. Outfitted with a camera, autopilot, and image processing software, aerial mapping drones offer several advantages over traditional land surveying techniques. By flying over a site at altitudes of 200- to 400-feet, UAVs provide real-time data and lead to faster and more economical land surveys.
AERIAL MAPPING GREATLY FACILITATED UNDER FAA RULE 107
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) estimates that drone integrations will bring substantial economic benefits in the United States through 2025 that could produce up to 100,000 new jobs and add $82 billion in economic activity.
Of course, economic forecasts like these rely upon the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to allow for the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles into the nation’s airspace. Last year, the FAA took a leap in this direction when it released its initial regulatory framework for commercial unmanned aircraft systems.
The Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule Part 107 enables professional drone operators to fly drones weighing less than 55 pounds during the daytime, and up to 400-feet above ground in uncontrolled airspace. However, drone operators can apply for specific waivers and fly in controlled airspace with the FAA’s permission.
Mapping and surveying professionals make up a significant segment of stakeholders who can look towards a more flexible process to utilize drones for aerial photography, aerial inspection, and aerial survey. UAVs are the most revolutionary technology in the mapping and surveying industries since GPS.
BENEFITS OF DRONES IN AGRICULTURE
One of the most promising industries poised to reap the benefits of mapping and surveying drones is agriculture. With the world's population projected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, agricultural yields will need to increase dramatically to keep pace. Utilizing satellites and manned planes, or even walking the fields to monitor crops, is time-consuming.
UAVs for agriculture provide farmers with new opportunities for better crop management and minimize the costs associated with hiring someone to survey the fields by foot or by airplane. UAVs give farmers the ability to see their crops from a perspective they’ve rarely had before; a low-altitude view offers better insights on plant health and identifying insect problems.
Moreover, drones provide accurate, on-demand data throughout the year to boost crop yields. Aerial mapping drones can survey a crop every week or every hour. They are part of a larger trend toward data-driven agriculture to provide better crop management.
While there are roughly 44 thousand surveyors in the United States, land mapping is practiced by a much larger population. Combined, mapping professionals and surveyors equal more than 157 thousand members in 177 countries. Most likely, these numbers will grow as drone hardware and drone software technologies continue to advance industries like oil and gas, energy, and agriculture.