The surveying of property and building sites is set to undergo radical transformation via the adoption of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) to enhance the collation of detailed visual and surface data from elevated vantage points.

In Australia the resources sector is already making use of UAV’s to gather detailed information on the geographic outlay of proposed mining sites, in order to enhance ongoing planning operations.

Planners can use UAV’s and advanced computer software to generate digital surface models of operations sites, enabling them to make more informed decisions about infrastructure and building designs in relation to the surrounding environment, as well as reduce costs and improve efficiency.

UAV’s are easy to launch and manipulate onsite by trained operators, gathering visual data from an aerial vantage point at far lower cost compared to existing alternative such as satellite imaging.

While NSW’s Cristal Mining previously paid exorbitant amounts for regularly updated satellite imagery, it now collects terrestrial data using a QPod UAV for far lower cost.

Not only does this translate into savings of approximately $15,000 per annum, the UAV’s also provide more accurate data with respect to elevation and X-Y coordinates.

The technology could have dramatic implications for the surveying of populated areas for urban planning purposes or the facilitation of large-scale construction operations.

In the UK chartered building surveying companies such as LC Building Consultants are already training their surveyors in the operation of UAV’s.

Robert Barnes, LC Building Consultants’ senior building surveyor, has become the first practising Chartered Building Surveyor to obtain approval from the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority to fly UAV’s for commercial purposes.

LC Building currently makes use of an Ascent drone for aerial surveying operations. The drone is a quad-copter equipped with a camera and gimbal system that is capable of shooting HD quality footage at a rate of 60 frames per second.

Use of the UAV enables LC Building Consultant to access views of elevated parts of buildings or structures that are difficult to reach in person, thus cutting down on the cost of equipment such as scaffolding or cherry pickers, as well as providing better images than those obtainable by conventional means.