A drone survey can be described as an aerial survey that is conducted using a drone. It is growing in popularity.

Drones can quickly capture large amounts of data by using downward-facing sensors such as RGB and multispectral cameras or LiDAR payloads. One analysis revealed that drones are able to collect data 97% quicker than manual methods.

These data can be used for a variety of purposes, including 3D maps and elevation modeling, as well as to extract valuable information such high-accuracy measurements and volumetric calculations.

This information is useful for informed decision-making. It also provides valuable insight, such as identifying problems or mistakes, keeping track of the project’s progress, and monitoring plant health.

Drone surveying is such an invaluable tool that it is used on land surveys, roof inspections and bridge/building surveys. It also helps to maintain infrastructure and construction sites.

“Drones allow firms to create highly-accurate points clouds and maps, detect costly job-site errors, and predict delays. This can save up to tens to thousands of pounds per semaine.”

Richard Clement. Komatsu

Drones have made the process much faster. Our projects can be completed in weeks, they are safer, and we can cut down on the time it takes to complete them. 


Boost efficiency, reduce costs, and increase safety.

Drive business workflows

A drone can be used to conduct a survey in many ways, including a number of advantages over traditional methods.

Drones are more efficient than traditional ground-based methods and can reach areas that are often off-limits.

These benefits improve business workflows, outcomes, and maximize ROI.

“Drone footage helps streamline project management. My team only needed a few days for site mapping with drones. This allows them to accelerate project planning by providing more precise site data.

What are the benefits of using a drone for surveying?


Find out how professionals use drones to survey.

Balfour Beatty deploys drones on Smart Motorway Build

Balfour Beatty used drones, including the DJI Phantom 4RTK, during a PS212million Smart Motorway upgrade to the M6.

UAS was used by the international infrastructure group to quickly measure stockpiles, provide progress reports and reach hard-to-reach areas.

Drones were used to improve safety, efficiency, speed up data collection, asset productivity, and high-accuracy results.

Drones have proven their value when it comes to stockpile volume measurement; they not only improve efficiency but also safety.


Drones can save you a lot of time. For example, the recycling compound. It would take much longer to measure stockpiles using traditional survey tools. However, drones allow the team to quickly measure different kinds of earthworks and materials.
Craig Matthews is Principal UAS Manager at Balfour Beatty

Atkins uses a custom DJI drone for surveying

Atkins, a world-famous engineering and design firm, is reaping the benefits of drones. This includes a DJI M600 Pro with an integrated Sony RX1R II sensor and a DJI M600 Pro.

The high-tech 42MP camera was paired with the drone and a high precision GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System). This has allowed Atkins to create repeatable and accurate data.

According to the company, drones are able to significantly reduce the time that the survey team spends on a site, and can even eliminate the time they spend in potentially hazardous environments.


While we still use helicopters and planes for large projects, drones enable us to mobilize faster and lower costs when surveying small- to medium-sized sites. Drones can also capture images at a lower resolution than manned aircraft, and we can combine inspection and mapping into one site visit. This increases efficiency. 
James Fleming (UK and Europe), Geomatics Consultant, Atkins

DJI Phantom 4 RTK used for Breakwater Survey

Terra Drone Europe, formerly Skeye, used the DJI Phantom 4RTK to conduct an important survey of Central American breakwaters.

Terra Drone Europe was a partner of Deep, a Dutch company. The work took place in Guatemala.

Terra Drone Europe has been conducting many marine-based aerial surveys over the past six years to collect unique data sets in remote and difficult to reach areas.

It is possible to combine hydrographic survey data and aerial survey data to create a seamless 3-D model that shows features above and below water level.

This continuous view gives you valuable insights into complex spaces, and the data generated supports key decision making.

“The DJI Phantom 4 RTK was selected for its high accuracy in determining the photo positions. This drone can reduce the number of ground control points. We have proven it. 

Terra Drone Europe

DJI Drones Transforming Visual Survey Work

Quayle Industries uses the DJI M210 Series V2 and the DJI Zenmuse Z30 Zoom payload. They also use the X4S, X5S imaging cameras and the DJI Zenmuse Z30 payload. This allows for a variety of drone surveys including roof inspections and power-cable checks.

DJI tech, supplied by ™, enables Quayle Industries to perform its work faster, easier, and safer than traditional methods. This keeps people safe, allows them to access difficult-to-reach places, and provides unique perspectives.

Quayle Industries, for example, used the M210 V2 and Z30 to survey their roof. The left image shows the drone’s view high above the building. The right image is a clear shot of two chimneys as captured by the zoom.

This method offers many advantages. First, inspections can be done without the need to send anyone onto the roof. This improves safety.

A drone is also much faster than climbing up to the top of a building to view the scene. This reduces cost.

This technique is efficient and time-saving, but it doesn’t compromise on quality. The Z30 captures every detail from the chimneys. This aids in inspection.

Drones can be used to take photos of high-definition images that show the condition of the property. This is ideal for roofs or other difficult-to-access areas. We provide high-definition photos and 4k videos of any infrastructure to check for damage. Drones can be used to eliminate the need for scaffolding or elevated work platforms, which reduces costs and time, as well as risk. You can zoom in at incredible speeds with the Z30.

Quinton Quayle, Quayle Industries


To gain key insights, transform drone data into a variety of digital assets.

Improve Your Workflow

Drone surveying can produce many deliverables depending on the software and data sensors you choose. This is true for all industries. Here are some examples:

2D Map

COMMERCIAL PAGE 44Surveying software allows you to stitch together thousands or hundreds of digital photos taken by your drone and create high-quality orthomosaic 2D maps.

A 2D map is useful for many reasons. It can be used across a variety of industries including construction and infrastructure.

You can create a complete map by having your drone take hundreds to thousands of photos. In addition, you’ll have an enormous collection of high-definition individual pictures.

These maps and photos give you a realistic view of the world, which can be used to make quick decisions and analyze how a project progresses.

3D Mapping

COMMERCIAL PAGE 39 A Point Cloud is a 3D visualization that is made up of millions or even billions of georeferenced points. Point clouds are a 3D visualisation that provides high-resolution data. They also provide real-world imagery and an interactive 3D model. This can be used to inspect your job site.

Using 3D data allows you to produce a digital surface model (DSM), Digital Elevation Model (DEM), or a Digital Terrain Model (DTM).

Point clouds can be used to create digitized models of structures for CAD or BIM purposes. This is a revolutionary method in modern construction.

Volumetric Survey

COMMERCIAL PAGE 38Drones are useful in creating volumetric models that can be used for stockpile measurement, for example.

The limited data available to measure stockpiles using GPS or Total Stations is a limitation. A drone can collect points with ground sampling distances of 1cm, instead of a spot grid that has a point for every 5 metres. This allows for better data collection and more precise measurements.

Thermal Imaging Survey

COMMERCIAL PAGE 43Survey using a thermal camera to quickly identify targets with unusual heat signatures.

Thermal surveys are useful in identifying heat loss in order to increase energy efficiency. They can also identify water leaks, moisture ingress, and faults in wiring or other electrical components.


COMMERCIAL PAGE 42 Equip your drone with a LiDAR Camera to create a point cloud of high density. This will give you valuable information about the Earth’s shape and features.

A LiDAR map is useful for industries such as forestry, and agriculture/landscaping.

Drone Visual Survey

COMMERCIAL PAGE 47Drones are capable of producing visual surveys. To inspect powerlines or roofs, a visual drone survey can be done.


Maximise your data collection.

For business success, generate digital models

Images of the ground can be taken with drones from many vantage points. Photogrammetry software then can create orthomosaics or 3D models from these images. This allows it to measure distance accurately as well as the volumes and surfaces of physical objects.

Drone mapping software is an essential part of drone survey operations. It transforms the data collected into useful assets that aid in decision-making.

Image processing can take a while depending on how many images you have and the speed of your computer.


What is the best drone mapping software to use?

Here are some industry-leading solutions., a leading provider of UAV surveying software, has partnered up with several industry leaders to give surveyors the tools they need to maximize their data and mission success.

Each solution comes with its own set of features that can be beneficial to the end-user., the enterprise experts, can help you find the right software package for you and unlock your license.

Drone Mapping Software

Drone Fleet Management Platforms


Achieve centimetre-level accuracy.

Drone data can be trusted

Depending on the project requirements, drone surveying solutions can provide different levels of accuracy.

DroneDeploy conducted an independent study and found that the DJI Phantom 4 RTK had a relative vertical accuracy of 2cm and a relative horizontal accuracy of 1.20cm.

A Heliguy client Terra Drone Europe conducted an accuracy report that showed the DJI Phantom 4 RTK could achieve 3cm-4cm accuracy without the need to lay ground control points.

High relative accuracy is required for some applications such as checking crop growth or progress on construction projects. Drones can also be equipped with Post-Processed Kinematic and Real-Time Kinematic (RTK), which allow for high absolute accuracy. A few Ground Control Points can also be used to achieve survey-level accuracy.

The Phantom 4 RTK can be used to survey most areas. It will provide accurate results and reduce the costs of traditional methods such as labour, hardware, or software. Our customers also enjoy the general benefits of greater productivity, faster insights, better collaboration and increased safety on the job site.

DroneDeploy verdict following testing the accuracy and reliability of the DJI Phantom 4 RTK

What is Ground Sample Distance (GSD), and how does it relate to ground sample distance?


Help capture accurate drone data.

GCPs can be reduced by RTK

GCPs have been the preferred method for obtaining drone mapping accuracy that is survey-grade.

Ground control points, or GCPs as it is also known, are marked points on ground that are in a geographic area.

GCPs are required for aerial survey applications. They can improve the accuracy and positioning of the mapping outputs. GCPs are a great way for the drone to collect accurate data.

This approach has its drawbacks. This method is laborious, as it involves laying out and accurately geolocating many control points. It can also take a lot of preparation. Sometimes, it takes more time to lay GCPs than it does to actually map the drone.

The use of PPK and RTK correctional technologies can help reduce or eliminate the need to have GCPs. This technology can be used to streamline drone surveying missions, such as those of the DJI Phantom 4 RTK or M210 RTKV2.

This approach will reduce the need for GCPs or eliminate them altogether. This technology could save 75% of the time and money needed to set up a drone-mapping system. It can also produce centimetre-accurate information.



The DJI Phantom 4 RTK’s unique selling point is its ability to accurately record the coordinates of an image acquisition using RTK-GNSS. This reduces the need for ground control points, which means less time on site and the same accuracy. 

Terra Drone Europe Phantom 4 RTK Accuracy Report


Which drone surveying mission is the best?

Pilots of drones can use PPK (Post-processed Kinematic), and RTK (real time kinematic) for mapping and surveying projects. What is the difference?

  • RTK is a GPS correction-technology technique that provides real-time corrections to location data when the survey drone is capturing photos of a site. This is an industry advantage.
  • PPK is another GPS correction-technology technique that works to correct location data, except in the cloud after the drone data has been captured and uploaded.

This means that RTK corrects the position during flight and PPK does it afterwards.

RTK offers many advantages, including the precise accuracy of the aircraft’s flight and accurate geotagging for the information it captures.

RTK, however, requires a specific base station and other pieces that work together to process data in real time. Signals can become obstructed, which can lead to loss of correction data. PPK does not have this problem.

PPK eliminates the need for GCPs, which saves you time on the field.




Below is a list of the benefits of using a drone with RTK compared to flying a UAV that relies on ground control points only or without RTK.

Possibly the best combination is deploying a drone with RTK and a small number of strategically-positioned ground control points.

Terra Drone Europe has flown the DJI Phantom 4 RTK and believes that accuracy can be achieved with no GCPs in certain cases. However, when accuracy is required, it is recommended to use a few ground control points. This is still a decrease in accuracy compared to traditional surveying methods.

GCPs Alone Drone without RTK Drone with RTK Drone with RTK + GCP
Accuracy High Low High Highest
Speed Low High High Medium to high
Cost High Low Low Low

GCPs Alone

  • High accuracy
  • Low Speed
  • High cost

Drone without RTK

  • Low accuracy
  • High Speed
  • Low cost

Drone with RTK

  • High accuracy
  • High Speed
  • Low cost


  • Highest Accuracy
  • Medium to high speed
  • Low cost


Choose the best solution for you.

The choice between LiDAR (above, right) or photogrammetry (below) in drone survey missions depends on the mission and budget.

Drone photogrammetry refers to when a drone takes a lot of high-resolution photos over a particular area. These images can be used to reconstruct terrain in 3D with sufficient ground control and image overlap.

Photogrammetry is ideal for surveying, mining, mapping, and other purposes that require broad coverage. It also has high horizontal accuracy.

LiDAR, which stands for light detection & ranging, is a remote sensing technique that uses laser pulses to map the earth’s surface.

LiDAR can be used to create digital terrain, elevation and surfaces of high resolution for business purposes.

LIDAR and photogrammetry can deliver remarkable 3D model accuracy, especially when compared to terrestrial sampling methods.

Photogrammetry has a huge advantage in that it not only produces 3D models that are accurate, but also provides detailed, high-resolution information about every point of the model. This gives clear visual context.

This makes it much easier to interpret and analyze the results than a pure LiDAR cloud.

LiDAR provides highly detailed information when LiDAR is used to survey dense vegetation. Light pulses can still penetrate between the leaves and branches.

This is an advantage over photogrammetry as photogrammetry cannot produce accurate surveys if there is little vegetation. Although LiDAR has some limitations, it can penetrate areas up to 90% of vegetation when operating under ideal conditions. Photogrammetry is closer to the 60% mark.

The price is one of the most important differences between LiDAR and photogrammetry.

Innovation has made LiDAR a more accessible option than ever before. However, LiDAR is still expensive and more costly than photogrammetry.

A drone-based lidar system can set you back tens-of-thousands-of-pounds, whereas a DJI Phantom 4 RTK will cost a few thousand pounds, and is easier to use.




Drone LiDAR Sensors

What are the best tools for surveying?

The next generation of tools that maximize results

DJI is the world’s largest drone manufacturer and has developed a variety of aircraft that can help transform mapping and surveying workflows, and provide data teams with reliable and accurate data.

Here are some drones from DJI that can help you with your mapping missions.

M300 RTK

 The DJI M300 RTK drone is the DJI’s most popular commercial drone.

It can fly up to 55 minutes and can transport third payloads simultaneously.

Pair the M300 RTK and the L1 or P1 payloads for surveying. The full-frame 45MP camera is ideal for photogrammetry. The is a combination of a Lidar module and RGB camera as well as a high-accuracy IMU.

The M300 RTK can be combined with the H20 Series to increase mission efficiency. The H20T has thermal, zoom wide, and laser rangefinder capabilities.

Phantom 4 RTK

COMMERCIAL PAGE 2020 06 30T161325.027 The DJI Phantom 4 RTK drone mapping system is compact and precise at low altitudes.

It was designed for drone surveying and can capture images up to 20MP.

The Phantom 4 RTK can achieve 1cm+1ppm RTK Horizontal positioning accuracy and 1.5cm+1ppm RTK vertical positioning accuracy.

The Phantom 4 RTK now includes a new RTK module that provides real-time, centimetre level positioning data. This improves absolute accuracy for image metadata.

M210 RTK V2

COMMERCIAL PAGE 2020 06 30T161354.389Pair your DJI M210 V2 with anX7 camera to create a robust and reliable surveying solution.

The X7 camera is capable of capturing 24MP images, and it also has 24-mm and 35mm lenses that provide a large equivalent focal length.

The drone is IP43-rated. Its dual RTK antennas provide strong antimagnetic interference capability. They also hold it steady.

Flexible solutions include the M210 RTK V2 which can be used with a variety of cameras such as the XT2 and Z30.

M600 Pro


The DJI M600 Pro heavy-lift surveying tool is robust.

The DJI M600 Pro uses the Lightbridge 2 HD transmission technology and features triple redundancy, along with algorithms that allow pilots to get precise real-time diagnostic information.

To make the drone a complete surveying and mapping platform, it can be connected to high-resolution third party payloads like the Sony RX1R III sensor. For added mission versatility, it can carry quality sensors like the Z30 or XT2 to enhance its capabilities.


Phantom 4 Multispectral

COMMERCIAL PAGE 2020 06 30T161405.086 Get precise plant-level information using the DJI Phantom 4 Multispectral.

One RGB camera collects information. A multispectral array of five cameras covers Blue, Green and Red.

Multispectral imaging measures electromagnetic spectrum bands other than visible light. Each band can be used to extract different information from one image. You can use multispectral data to obtain vital data for agriculture.


Talk to our GIS expert.

An exemplary track record of supply and support, one of the most trusted drone suppliers in the world, has a history of supporting major clients using unmanned aircraft to survey. Balfour Beatty and Terra Drone Europe are just a few of the clients.

Our dedicated enterprise team includes Ben Sangster, a GIS specialist (pictured right) who assists surveyors in maximising their drone programs, making use of collected data, and increasing return on investment.

Ben offers comprehensive workflow support for our commercial clients. He focuses on surveying, spatial mapping, photogrammetry and LiDAR.