Drones seem to be everywhere nowadays, especially in the mapping and construction industries. Manufactures make bold claims about accuracy, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. While it’s true that drones can be cheaper and faster than on-the-ground surveyors, they aren’t right for every project or for every firm.
Here are three things to consider before investing in drone tech.
1. The size of your projects
Because of limited battery life, drones can only be airborne for short stints. In addition, the vast amount of data they collect needs to be processed and analyzed, which takes time.This means it’s actually faster and more efficient to rely on human land surveyors when mapping large projects like city blocks or major infrastructure sites. According to Georgia Power economic engineer, Paul Schneider, “If you’re doing a large project, manned can be lower in costs than unmanned.”Drones are ideal for small mapping projects, particularly ones that are in areas that are difficult to access, but they aren’t as efficient for larger projects.
2. What kind of information do you need?
When drone manufacturers boast accuracy, they mean at the level of pixels. In other words you can get a very clear picture from a drone—provided you get your technique down and can maintain appropriate altitude. You can use that picture to precisely measure the distance between points. This is called relative accuracy. But if you need absolute or geodetic accuracy — meaning where things are in relation to the earth — you will need to take on-the-ground measurements due to the limitations of drone GPS units.
3. Additional investments
While drones themselves are getting cheaper, they do require additional expenditures. For example, the FAA requires commercial drone operators take a test and obtain a license. In addition, because of the amount of data drones produce, you may have to invest in additional computing hardware.
Doing More Projects in Less Time — with or without Drones
Maybe drones are a great investment for your firm, but they aren’t the only way to hone your competitive edge by increasing accuracy and efficiency. With lightweight and affordable project management tools, you can save time and ensure your information is accurate.
Qfactor for Land Surveyors creates an intuitive interface that enables you to easily access your maps, title documents, and CAD drawings, along with data from QuickBooks and eBillity. It even compiles all of your information — maps, titles, photos, parcel maps, CAD drawings — into a searchable database. These features save you time digging through multiple files or documents to get the information you need.
In addition to keeping all of your information in one place, Qfactor for Land Surveyors migrates data between programs so you don’t need to re-enter information as you move through the stages of a surveying project from initial property research to billing your client. Thus minimizing data entry errors.
Drones might be a great investment, depending on the kind of projects your firm specializes in, but at the end of the day they are just one tool in your toolbox. They aren’t the only way to increase your productivity so you can do more projects in less time.