Drones for Surveying

Reduce Your Turnaround Time with Drone LiDAR Surveying

MP Design Group uses drone LiDAR technology to reduce time in the field and increase output.

One of the core advantages of Drone LiDAR technology for surveying teams – time savings – might also have been its biggest drawback in the MP Design Group’s recent work at a golf course in Biloxi, Mississippi. Who wants to rush off the links? But, when it turns out the course is abandoned and bad weather is on its way, speed, without sacrificing accuracy, is essential. It also turns out that when you can do one large project so quickly, fitting in another survey – this one of a road in need of improvements – is no big challenge.

Located between two subdivisions, the abandoned golf course will be the site of a new development for which MP Design Group was providing detailed survey data. In addition to complicating weather headed toward the site, the team also needed to consider another factor in survey planning: proximity to the Class D airspace surrounding Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi.

The mdLiDAR1000LR scans an abandoned golf course

Greg Thompson, PS, the VP of Field Services at MP Design Group, put together the plan to scan the abandoned golf course with the construction inspector and drone pilot, Ryeley Jacobs. According to Thompson, “the mdLiDAR1000LR gives us the capabilities to penetrate tree canopies and wooded areas to collect more data for our ground topo and provide a better design surface for the engineers. We’re also able to provide the data much faster manner to our clients, allowing us to complete more jobs.

This wasn’t their first drone flight – MP Design Group has been using UAVs since 2016 when they started with photogrammetry drones – but they recently upgraded to LiDAR-capable fully integrated systems from Microdrones to tackle the level of detail needed in areas that are often covered with dense foliage.

“The big difference between the LiDAR technology and conventional surveying is the time and the manpower,” said MP Design Group Owner David Machado. “We've gone from using conventional survey crews and equipment, which may take two or three personnel, down to one person going out with the drone and flying acres and acres of property or many linear feet of roadway that we're doing improvements on. It's totally changed the timeframe, significantly reducing the turnaround times that we can give to our clients to provide them with the critical data they're looking for, and also the critical data that our design teams are looking for.”

Ryeley Jacobs pilots the mdLiDAR1000LR

The full integration of software and hardware offered by Microdrones, including the mdCockpit application, makes it easy to acquire survey data and complete complicated projects quickly and efficiently – even factoring in shifting weather patterns.

“When we’re planning a bigger flight where you know time is an issue, I meet with Greg and we come up with a KML of the area that we're going to be flying,” said Jacobs. “Then, I import that into mdCockpit, and I'm able to use that to input my flight parameters. It really assists in building the flight and giving the most efficient flight paths. mdCockpit is extremely easy to use. At first, I was a little worried, but after designing two or three flights, it’s been very easy.”

The golf course flight plan included four lines of flight and Jacobs described the property as “long and skinny” (think fairway) with some dense tree canopy. The team also received approval to fly in the Class D airspace ahead of their flight.

Ease of flight design also played a big role in the team’s second project of the week, as they headed out to a street in Biloxi after the golf course flight to run survey flights in preparation for upcoming road improvements. With a water tower in the area as well as a cell tower, safety and accuracy of planning was essential.

Greg Thompson, PS, the VP of Field Services, processes LiDAR data

“A lot of the considerations for us when we’re driving around and verifying that our mission plan is going to be sufficient for the flight is the presence of any unforeseen high obstacles that we might not have thought of – a random cell phone tower that we might have missed. We need to verify there's nothing in our flight path that we could potentially hit or turn into an issue,” said Jacobs. “We were able to plan this mission in about 15-20 minutes in mdCockpit – it turned out to be a very straightforward mission. We were confident that we had planned our flight around the towers, and we were confident taking off.”

After a productive day that saw the crew plan and complete two LiDAR flights, the next step was to process the flight data and create the final deliverables and transform the raw survey data into the files needed to create a 3D point cloud of the ground surface.

“The mdLiDAR1000LR was able to provide us with almost 62 million points on this short 22-minute flight,” said Thompson. “So, we have more than enough data available to create the topographic survey of this project area and turn it over to our engineers to start the proposed design.”

With the entire project done in two days end-to-end, Thompson said the advantage provided by the LiDAR drones was clear.

“The last two days went very well,” Thompson said. “Our two flights are done, and we can continue on. The drone definitely helps us turn these projects around in a timely manner.”

If you'd like to learn how you can reduce your time in the field and increase your surveying efficiency, schedule a meeting with one of our sales managers today.