Drones for Surveying

Do You Need to Add Drone Mapping to Your Surveying Business

Work Smarter with Drone LiDAR Technology

Pacific Coast Surveys, Inc. (PCS) worked with Kuker-Ranken, a supplier of Microdrones and GeoCue, to enhance their surveying business with drone LiDAR. Special thanks to the team at Kuker-Ranken for sharing this question-and-answer session from PCS.

What's Happening With Pacific Coast Survey

Pacific Coast Surveys Inc. is well-known throughout the greater Northwest as a survey company business for more than 25 years. PCS is also well-known for its leadership incorporating significant technological upgrades for their crews and clients. PCS recently acquired the Microdrones mdLiDAR1000HR, increasing their flexibility and output capability to their clients, using point clouds for Digital Surface Models, Digital Terrain Models, and contours, in addition to capturing all elements of the project, used for not only PCS products but a benefit to all contractors on site.

The mdLiDAR1000HR fully integrated drone LiDAR system acquired by Pacific Coast Surveys, Inc.

The mdLiDAR1000HR is a fully integrated system, delivered with training for mission planning, flight execution, software processing, and project output or transfer of data to other leading applications designed for the AEC and Survey industries.

PCS offers many services ranging from aerial LiDAR scanning to As-Built surveys, topos to land development surveys, ALTA's, stakeout-layout, boundaries, and other deliverables.

Kuker Ranken had the opportunity to catch up with Darren and Derek Riddle of PCS and ask a few questions about their business and the latest technology acquisition in the mdLiDAR1000HR. Derek is the Drone Project manager, and Darren is one of the firm's Professional Land Surveyors (PLS).


The team at Pacific Coast Surveys, Inc. uses the mdLiDAR1000HR for aerial surveying. (photo credit: www.pcsurveys.net)

Tell us a little about PCS? "We started in early 2004 after working in the survey industry since 1986. We do all types of surveying but have been doing a lot of development work in the past 10 years or so. Starting with the initial mapping and boundary of the sites, we then move on to construction support and then as-constructed mapping. We then deliver the final plan.

You've added a lot of technology to your organization in recent years. What inspired the transition to technology?  “I am not sure it was a specific instance that inspired a transition to technology, it has been a natural progression as software, equipment, etc. has improved. With technologies across multiple industries rapidly changing, it is only logical that we adapt as well to stay up to date.”

Has tech improved overall revenue, or is tech simply a means of action toward more jobs due to time savings? "The implementation of new technologies (most of them) is intended to save time and effort for our staff in addition to producing a better product. When the technology works as it should then the result of this is improved revenue. The way we approach this is based on the product and process not necessarily to improve revenue, but it usually does.”

What other survey technology have you recently acquired and implemented? "We've added Robotic total stations and RTK GPS along with the associated software. The mdLiDAR1000HR is our newest technology but certainly not the last.”

Are you making any plans for future technologies? "Being in this field of work allows us to be on the cutting edge of some really interesting advancements. We are definitely looking ahead to new technologies and plan to add more drones in the future. It will be exciting to see how drone and LiDAR scanning technologies continue to improve. If our use of the drone LIDAR data continues to go in the current direction, I can see the potential for other types of scanning hardware in our future.”

A 3D point cloud created with data from drone LiDAR can be used to provide highly accurate outputs of surface and structure conditions. (photo credit: www.pcsurveys.net)

One aspect we discussed was that a UAS offers benefits beyond merely adding to the number of results and products, as LiDAR systems are often operated outside of daylight hours due to lasers not requiring light, fewer people, vehicles and oftentimes, less wind in the twilight and dark hours. Additionally, UAS do not require lunch breaks, need babysitters, they don't call in sick for the day, and they don't complain about the cold or heat. UAS often allows crews to move through a site more rapidly due to how much area the UAS is able to cover in a very short time.

You recently acquired a Microdrones Unmanned Aircraft system equipped with LiDAR. How have you implemented the LiDAR scanning system into your current workflow? "Currently we are integrating the UAS to supplement current project needs. It has been a beneficial tool in both the field and in the office. It cuts down the amount of time a crew needs to be on-site and the data we collect aids in drafting.”

Has the UAS allowed you to reduce crew time on-site? "Yes. The UAS has reduced overall time on site. The UAS can scan a job in a matter of minutes whereas a traditional crew would take two days to do the same site. This obviously has its limitations since the drone cannot set corers or dip manholes, but it aids the field crew so that those time savings can be spent on another project.”

Although Derek has grown up in the survey environment, he is very well aware of how technology may be used to reduce not only time on site, but also enables smaller crews, allowing for overall, more crews to the business. Technology also brings new excitement when it's a cost-saving benefit to the company. "Combining the various technology tools together to create a finished product. Being able to do that each day on different scopes and types of projects is what I find the most exciting. Every job is different and being able to work it from field to office is quite rewarding.”

The data can then be further processed and exported for use in CAD and BIM applications. (photo credit: www.pcsurveys.net)

What software tools are you using to view, process, analyze, and deliver the LAS data? "To initially process and view data we are using software from Microdrones. We then bring that data into Leica Cyclone 3DR for analyzing and delivering a final product. 3DR integrates seamlessly with AutoCAD allowing us to easily import any surfaces, contours, building lines, etc. straight from 3DR into our CAD drawings.

Tell us about the relationship with Kuker-Ranken. "I have been working in the area for about 35 years and I think that it was early on that had the pleasure to meet Bob Lycke (President of Kuker-Ranken.) He would be one of the guys that Gary would bring along to demo the new Leica gear to our office. Fast forward lots of years and now Bob is the owner. I have always enjoyed the people at KR and the relationships we’ve made. 

We're grateful to the team at Kuker-Ranken and Darren and Derek from Pacific Coast Surveys, Inc., for taking the time to discuss their business, technology, and experience with the mdLiDAR1000HR. 

GeoCue and Microdrones have joined together to offer the very best in drone surveying equipment, geospatial software, workflow, training, and support, and all of our products are available through Kuker-Ranker. Or if you’re interested in adding Drone LiDAR to your surveying company, schedule a meeting with one of our sales representatives today.