Survey-supported Drone Work
Jason Buck (PG, CEG) recently presented our survey-supported drone capabilities to the North Coast chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers during their January 2018 lunch meeting. Developed over the last three years, Jason’s work highlights the differences between hobby-level drone use and our professional applications that are supported by Professional Licensed Surveyors in “Responsible Charge”. We are continuously finding new applications, from endangered plant monitoring to stockpile volume estimates.
Our drone pilots and surveyors have witnessed firsthand the economic and technical benefits of drone use in numerous applications, including:
- Topographic mapping
- Geologic hazard studies (faults, landslides, erosion)
- Existing condition surveys of infrastructure and coastal erosion monitoring
- Vegetation mapping for inventory and mitigation monitoring
- Gravel extraction surveying
- Landfill surveys
- Stockpile volume calculations
Although hobby-level work can capture striking images and video, SHN’s drone work is performed by a close collaboration of licensed surveyors, drone pilots, and geographic information system (GIS) specialists. This teamwork ensures that the data are sufficiently accurate for the types of engineering and surveying products that we regularly prepare, suitable for planning, design, and regulatory compliance.
Jason also reported on the challenges and “lessons learned” during the development of SHN’s drone program. Challenges include difficult field conditions (such as working from a 14’ aluminum boat on Humboldt Bay) and FAA’s ever-changing regulatory environment for commercial drone use. The sheer volume of data generated is another challenge; it all needs to be processed, analyzed, managed, and stored. One project generated more electronic data than had been archived at SHN in the past 15 years.
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