Land Surveying Drones—Safe, Accurate, Timely

When preparing to survey a site for a small school district in Wisconsin, I was trying to determine the most efficient way to provide quality, timely service.

The school district was contemplating making some future improvements to two of their buildings and the athletic fields. The site was also in need of drainage improvement to ensure water would flow away from the structures and off the parking lot.

With a planned referendum approaching, it was important to move quickly on the project. Surveying the site by foot could take several days. But, with a drone, the same service could be provided in less time and be nearly as accurate.

Origin Design worked with AeroView Services, an aerial data acquisition and 4D point cloud company, to assist with surveying the school district’s site.

AeroView used an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), also referred to as a helicopter, to take photos from up above, flying back and forth on the site. The UAV takes overlapping photos and a GPS reading every time it takes a photo. The pictures are then precisely merged together by pixel. The UAV generates a point cloud which is a 3D map of the site that IIW can use in site planning and design. The photos are then input into a specialized software to develop a digital terrain model (DTM).

Why UAV?

Operating a UAV requires only one person, while a “normal” survey would typically require two people to operate a “total station.” Depending on the size, some projects could take several days on foot versus hours to operate a UAV to get similar results.

Other benefits of using drone technology include:

  • Safe, low-impact option that keeps people out of harm’s way
  • Flexible—operates on cloudy or windy days
  • Provides accurate, CAD-ready files
  • Produces quality aerial photos for property owners and to use in presentations/referendums

Origin Design, in conjunction with AeroView Services, is now able to offer drone technology as part of our land survey services. This additional service can greatly enhance project engineering and management, while saving time in the process.


While UAV has many benefits, it isn’t always the best solution for all applications. I can help you determine if drone technology is a good fit for your next project.


Craig Geiser, PLS is Team Leader for Origin Design's Land Survey Team, and he also serves on the company's Board of Directors. His experience includes preparation of boundary surveys, topographic surveys, alta surveys, construction staking and determination of proposed and existing right-of-way. He has worked on various projects requiring the interpretation of deeds and descriptions, and how this relates to specific state codes and laws.

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