5 steps to making the most out of your drone survey data


A topographic survey is required for every construction project, as it allows experts to get a good idea of what the area looks like, and what to expect when they begin to dig. While a land survey may seem to only be a formality, the process is actually precise and intricate and helps builders and planners create a construction blueprint that is safe and durable. Failure to do so results in pitfalls and complications later down the line. Topographic surveys are particularly useful for architects, contractors, engineers, project managers and designers, where a survey will provide exact and precise plans and coordinates to help assist with the planning and layout process.


If you’re planning to start a major build, it’s in your best interest to understand the process behind an aerial drone survey so you can make the most out of the data outputs.



Here are 5 steps to making the most out of your drone survey data:



1. Determine if you need to have a survey done, and what degree of accuracy


Your project goals, stage, outcomes and required data outputs will ultimately determine which data outputs and level of accuracy is best suited for your project. For example, early-stage designs may only require an accuracy of a few centimetres in comparison to a live rail project that demands accuracy of a few millimetres. A client considering a stockpile survey will require a different level of accuracy than a project with complex topographic contours. Having an understanding of this early on is going to ensure you aren’t over-spending or under-delivering on the required outputs. Gathering accurate survey-grade data when it isn’t necessary can create unnecessary complications and increase expenses. On the other hand, poor accuracy, or not having enough detail, can lead to rework and waste.


Check out our recent blog on drone survey data accuracy or our accuracy report for more information.



2. Have a clear idea of what this data will be used for

Drone photogrammetry offers the widest possible range of outputs which are suitable across all stages of a project lifecycle. The datasets can be used for various reasons, each with its own specific needs:

  • Masterplanning

  • Stakeholder engagement

  • Design of assets

  • Setting out of site

  • Project management

  • Litigation/permissions


At Sensat, we make a holistic assessment of your requirements to determine with you the best possible outputs for your project. Read more about what outputs we can deliver here https://www.data.sensat.co.uk/data-suite.



3. Choose the right team to conduct and quality assure your survey


During the past few years, drones have moved from being a secondary piece of a project’s data mix to being a primary data gathering method. That’s because, in the right hands, drones can collect and produce reliable data but also more sustainably than other methods. Despite the technology becoming more adaptable and user friendly, the underlying legal framework for operation must still be taken into account.


At Sensat, we are the UK’s leading drone data capture service. Our aerial drone surveys are planned and coordinated by an experienced team of CSCS qualified operators, from risk assessments to permissions and permitting. Sensat has secured exclusive Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) exemptions for operations that enables us to fly over live highway and rail. Additionally, Sensat has CAA permission to fly beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), three times further than standard commercial operators. These exemptions allow the project to be completed as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.



4. Decide how the data will be stored, shared, and visualised


It’s important to note that drones, and the data they produce, are not the silver bullet for infrastructure projects. They must be used within a well planned and agreed-upon data mix that delivers on a project’s objectives. And ultimately, the data collected by these platforms must be interoperable and easy to access. Without visualisation platforms such as Sensat’s, the data mix can quickly become data silos for a project.



For example, in Sensat’s visualisation platform it’s possible to get access to all above and below ground data and information, including:

  • Geospatial and topographic site information

  • Integration of buried services and below-ground utilities

  • Masterplan models and BIM integration of all associated commercial

  • Residential structures, and all engineering design information for the associated infrastructure.

This gives you a Single Source of Truth (SSOT) of your development site or project, so all stakeholders are working on the most up-to-date information to create a holistic project overview.



5. Supplement your digital model with regular rescans (ensuring you always have the latest data)


Given the size of many project areas and the rapid development of construction sites, it can take teams months to digitise a large site manually, by which point the data goes out of date. As a result, this data is unreliable for decision-makers.


Having regular drone survey data throughout your project lifecycle makes it easier than ever to effectively track and communicate progress on your construction site. Rescanning your site regularly can mean your have the latest accurate data, which is invaluable for predicting outcomes and maintaining infrastructure.


Sensat, on behalf of MSVF, have been utilising drones to carry out fortnightly site surveys on the Barking Riverside project. The digital model is being supplemented with regular progress monitoring and up to date topographical information for assessing earthworks. This is all visualised in Sensats’s platform - a great way to keep an accurate and up to date picture of a project and site which can be shared across project stakeholders.