Types Of Aerial Mapping Drones & How Should You Choose One

Aerial mapping drones have various uses in the mapping and land surveying department. They are used for helping surveyors map large areas in a fast, easy, and cost-effective way. The goal of using drones is to facilitate workflows and reduce manual mapping and surveying that can take ages to complete. Also, the high quality, editable photographs and imprints that drones take are much more concise and effective for capturing precise details of landmarks, assets required for mapping and surveying.

In the previous article, we have discussed the benefits of aerial mapping and surveying drones. Today, we will be discussing the types of drones used in aerial surveying and how to choose a suitable one for surveying work.

Types of Surveying Drones

There are 3 types of surveying drones: Fixed Wing Drones, Single Rotor Drones & Multi-Rotor Drones – VTOL Helicopter UAVs. Let’s discuss each in detail.

Fixed Wing Drones

Fixed Wing Drones are unmanned aircraft-styled drones with fixed wings. Because these drones have fixed plane-like wings, they can’t hover over a single spot and need to move to cover the distance. This can create difficulties if you need your drone to stay transfixed into the air for taking better photographs of the area you are trying to cover. Depending on the drone’s size, it’s necessary to use a runway or catapult launcher to launch it into the air. This seemed like a hassle to surveyors and operators. So, in recent years that aspect has been changed. Many drone mapping services revamped the older version with RPAS VTOL, a superior version of fixed-wing drones. These revamped drones can be launched into the air like any other multi-rotor drone. Fixed-winged drones run on gas or batteries. The aerodynamics of the wings allow them to cover larger ground at a single take of 16 hours. These drones are suitable for various aerial mapping services such as long-range surveys, photogrammetric surveying, etc. When the surveying is done, the drone needs to be landed via runway or parachute. With the inclusion of VTOL, it can be safely anchored and taken off into the air minus the runway.

Single Rotor Drones

Single rotor drones look more like a helicopter and are powered by gas motor for long-term activity. The launch of this type of drone is similar to helicopters, for which operators need special training. The aerodynamics of these drones is very proficient with rotor blades for slow but longer spins. Operators, surveyors need an aviation license to operate it as it can pose safety risks if not driven with caution.

Unlike fixed-wing drones, single rotor drones can stay fixed into the sky for a longer period; however, they can be quite unstable if the landing isn’t up to mark. So, taking off and landing the drones need to be done very carefully. Single rotor drones are mainly used to lift heavier payloads up to 40 kgs as they can efficiently carry the load without reducing their fuel life. They are much faster than multi-rotors and so take lesser time to complete covering distances. Because single rotors can stay at one point for long, they can be used to take multiple shots in different angles and precision.

Multi-Rotor Drones

The multi-rotor drones with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) are called VTOL Quadcopter UAVs. These quadcopters need a lot of energy to keep them in the air. Surveyors need to push the control throttle in order to make these multi-rotor drones spin the propellers first. Then to propel off the ground, another push to the throttle is necessary. Multi-rotor drones are mainly used for filming the aerial view in the air. However, multi-rotor drones are less efficient in terms of energy use and can only stay high up to 30 minutes with a light payload. So, it isn’t that efficient for carrying high loads into the air.

It is crucial to land the multi-rotor drone safely to avoid damage or harm to the drone or the surrounding area. During landing drones like these, it’s advised to use the throttle to get the drone to hover about a foot off the ground and then cutting the throttle for a slow and safe vertical landing. Drones like these are often used for inspecting buildings, bridges, powerlines, construction sites, and many other areas.

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Important Factors For Choosing a Mapping/Surveying Drone

Now that we have established the types of mapping/surveying drones, it’s time to look at the factors before buying a surveying drone.

1. The right type

As we have discussed earlier, it wouldn’t be a difficult task to choose one. Mapping surveys can benefit from both fixed-wing and multi-rotor drones. It depends on your budget, the survey area’s size, and how well you can operate them. Just to give you a quick heads up, a multi-rotor drone can hover at a fixed location for a long time, and fixed-wing drones can cover ample space in lesser time, so choose a drone that applies to the level of work. In terms of pricing, multi-rotor drones are common and readily available; however, they aren’t that energy efficient as fixed-wing ones, which are more expensive.

2. Camera quality

To take better photos for aerial surveying, you don’t just need an efficient but also a drone with a high-quality camera for capturing clear and detailed pictures. Therefore opting for a camera that can capture as much of the fine details on the ground as possible. Choose cameras that can take 4K HD videos and 12 MP or higher for photos to achieve clearer visuals in order to capture photogrammetry.

3. RTK compatibility

Drones these days come with a built-in GPS for location tracking. The GPS provides flight stabilization and tracking systems for drones during autonomous flight. During mapping surveys, the GPS receiver also automatically geotags photos. Using spatial data, mapping software can create a 3D model of the landscape, the drone captured shots of. However, GPS data can face problems due to several reasons and conditions. Thus, drone mapping companies have addressed and dealt with this problem by integrating RTK technology into drones. Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) is a method that can be used to enhance the GPS data by various measurements with kinematics. RTK bases its calculation on the constant correction of GPS data close to a fixed ground station. By using real-time differentiation, it’s possible to improve location accuracy. So, having a drone with RTK built inside is a win-win, although the upgrading can be costly. You may be intrested to learn about 2d mapping


There you go! Here is all the information regarding the aerial mapping drone you need to know to buy the best one for your fieldwork. Hope the drone type comparison and the factors helped you understand what exactly you need. Contact us if you have any questions or suggestions. Till then, take care!

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