What Types of Sensors are Used for Drone Surveying?

A drone survey is the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to capture aerial data with downward-facing sensors, such as RGB or multispectral cameras and LIDAR loads. Quadcopters and fixed-wing drones are two popular types of UAVs that are being used for topography with increasing frequency due to their affordability, safety, and high-quality work product. To understand the benefits that a UAV can offer to your land surveying project, it is important to understand the different types of aerial vehicles. LiDAR is a remote sensing technology that uses laser pulses to collect detailed measurements for maps and studies.

It is especially useful for microtopography because it can penetrate through vegetation and forest cover. LiDAR has many applications, including agriculture, forest planning, urban and building management, construction, mining, and environmental assessments. RIEGL manufactures a complete fleet of LiDAR sensors, such as the miniVUX and VUX series scanners, which offer high performance and technical-level accuracy for mapping. These scanners specialize in providing higher laser pulse repetition rates, which increases performance and thus improves efficiency, accuracy and ease of use.

Thermal studies with drones are performed with the help of thermal images on commercial roofs to indicate the magnitude and location of water intrusion. When using drones for ground-based studies, companies not only save money but can also perform more detailed and higher-resolution studies with advanced technologies such as LiDAR. Building a drone isn't the only thing a person carrying out a topographic survey should worry about; if a more accurate or up-to-date DTM is needed for a small forest, the cheapest option available will be a traditional terrain survey, but a lightweight LIDAR with drones could cover an intermediate gap. In drone reconnaissance missions, the choice between photogrammetry and LIDAR largely depends on the exact application.

For example, Anemoment manufactures a lightweight 3D ultrasonic anemometer for atmospheric monitoring, and Geometrics provides a UAS-compatible magnetometer called MagArrow which allows drones to collect geophysical data for magnetic studies.