Utilising Modern Surveying Technologies at Woods: What is UAV and Mobile Mapping?

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The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) technologies and mobile mapping to capture high-quality, accurate geospatial data and survey-grade photos has grown significantly in recent years.

Woods is proud to be at the forefront of technology in this space, boasting one of the most modern and expansive survey equipment inventories in New Zealand (read about our newest industry leading aerial mapping system below). These modern tools enable our professional surveyors to provide fit-for-purpose, innovative, and diverse solutions for our clients.

Introduction to UAV and mobile mapping

UAV and mobile mapping are modern surveying techniques to accurately measure and collect data used to map objects, surfaces, buildings, landscapes, and transport corridors.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) - or drones - are airborne platforms that can be mounted with different sensors such as a camera or laser scanner.

  • A camera is used for photogrammetric processing - capturing overlapping aerial images to extract exact data ground positions.
  • A laser scanner collects information in the form of point cloud data consisting of millions of 3D coordinates (XYZ coordinates).

Mobile Mapping

Mobile mapping is the process of collecting 3D data using one or more lasers scanners mounted on a mobile vehicle. A mobile mapping system consists of a navigation system, one or more laser scanners, and an optional 360-degree camera mounted to the top of the mobile vehicle.

  • The navigation system - a combination of survey-grade GPS and an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) - allows surveyors to measure the position and orientation of the platform, where it moves, its speed and its acceleration.
  • High definition digital cameras give surveyors the ability to create 3D 360 degrees panoramic images - similar to Google Streetview – and colourise the data.

The benefits and opportunities of UAV technology and mobile mapping

Mobile surveying methods facilitate the collection of highly accurate geospatial data on a large scale quickly and cost-effectively.

One of the major benefits to our clients is that by operating on a mobile mapping system - a normal vehicle on the road - we don't need to involve traffic management to carry out our work. We can also operate at night with light detection and ranging (LIDAR) scanners to minimise disruption to ongoing activities.

We can also deploy our mobile mapping system to map entire suburbs and cities or hundreds of kilometres of transportation corridors such as the road or rail, rather than surveying individual buildings or residential areas.

As you can imagine, this creates the possibility of collecting high-resolution data sets of urban neighbourhoods in just a couple of hours or generating an engineering drawing of 60 kilometres of highway in a single day.

It also makes site visits safer as UAV technology allows for the collection of survey data without sending our people into complex, hazardous, or hard to access environments.

Utilising UAV technology and mobile mapping at Woods

We operate a range of UAVs here at Woods including high-resolution full-frame RGB sensor as well as multispectral sensor. These are all combined with Post Processing Kinematic (PPK) and Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) geo-positioning systems.

Both UAV technologies and mobile mapping are used on a variety of different projects or project related tasks from Greenfield land development and neighbourhood regeneration to road and rail corridors or airfields.

Our UAV and mobile surveying specialists build data capture workflows and processing techniques that allow us to complete the full cycle of data capture delivery relatively quickly, safely, and to a high degree of quality and accuracy. And of course, our drone operators follow all rules and regulations of operating a drone at all times.

We are excited to announce we have added the industry leading aerial mapping system from Phase One Geospatial to our toolbox -  the iXM-100MP. Fully integrated with the DJI Matrice 300 RTK drone, this high-resolution metric camera covers larger areas in a single flight and delivers higher quality images in a shorter time. This new Phase One camera system opens the door to new mission types and applications for our clients, including a diverse range of inspection surveys.

Staying at the forefront of surveying technology in New Zealand

One of the biggest constraints in the field of UAV technology is the actual area of operation. There are only a small number of airspace users in New Zealand that have successfully gained approval to operate these systems, mostly transportation and delivery companies.

The law requires you to have a visual line of sight to operate a drone under the Civil Aviation Act (CAA) Part 101 rules. However, Woods has a competitive advantage in that we are a CAA Part 102 certified organisation. This means we can operate in an extended visual line of sight and a wider range of areas.

Mobile surveying is a niche market, but the same underlying principles apply. Our surveyors still have a thorough understanding of the client’s requirements and needs and survey methodology whether they are using conventional surveying methods or alternative methods.

No matter how the survey data is captured or how advanced technology becomes, everything is controlled and verified in the office and curated to produce high quality, accurate outputs for our clients.

Maksym Khovalko - Intermediate Surveyor / UAV Specialist