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How Urban Planners Use Drones for Land Surveying

Urban planners face many challenges for growth within metropolitan hubs. Streets are crowded, new structures stand side-by-side with century-old buildings, and towering skylines indicate cities that are economically viable and attractive to those building careers while enjoying an exciting urban lifestyle.

Land surveying of urban environments has moved away from the traditional field surveying methods which include the slow process of setting up field surveys with optical/mechanical devices. Even the digital/electronic total station devices that use a laser or infrared beams to collect multiple measurements to triangulate unknown distances are being displaced by drone-based land surveying to capture aerial data for new construction.

These land surveying systems use an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) equipped with downward-facing sensors or multi-spectral cameras, and LIDAR payload technology that can measure exact distances remotely using light detection and ranging methods

Urban Planning with Digital Surface Models (DSM)

When planning and designing within crowded urban environments, municipalities are looking for a total-digital mapping solution that can collect digital data of roadways, buildings, infrastructure, and vegetation. These same digital photographs are then used with digital design and engineering applications such as 3D CAD (computer-aided drafting) and civil and structural CAE (computer-aided engineering) for planning and development of new structures.

A Digital Surface Model (DSM) is a type of elevation model that represents the MSL or mean sea-level elevations of surfaces including buildings, trees, and other features that rise above the “Bare Earth”.  Drones equipped with land surveying applications can produce a photographic or digital representation of all the objects on the earth’s surface. A DSM-based survey is a useful tool for identifying urban changes in highly dynamic American environments or in developing newly industrializing countries where urban growth is a challenge.

The benefit of aerial surveying with a drone to create Digital Surface Models is that it takes only a fraction of the time and costs to carry out topographic or GIS  surveys using drone technology, and the accuracy and quality of the collected data equals that of traditional methods. City planners can get more digital information for future projects using a lighter work crew, as this specialized technology to produce aerial DSM is typically completed by a third-party aerial platform provider.

Applications for Drone DSM Surveys

High-Resolution Cartography

The high-resolution orthomosaics (geometrically-correct aerial photographs) created by drone experts feature detailed 3D models of areas that have previously been represented by low-quality mapping technologies or outdated cadastral maps that are no longer representative of urban areas. These images can be produced quickly and easily with today’s drone technology, even in congested or difficult to access urban environments.  Many features can be extracted from the images, including signage, sidewalks, fire hydrants, and drains.

Land Development

As urban landscapes are changing, DSM technology can detect elevation changes such as such as structures that are surrounding urban green space. Increased land development increases hard surfaces (asphalt parking lots and concrete sidewalks) which can change drainage patterns and contribute to area flooding or water infiltrating basements during heavy rain events.  Municipalities are using drone technology to evaluate the effect of urban development on changes in water and sediment channels.

Urban Land Management

Since drone DSM mapping includes the capture of both vegetation and inanimate objects, urban planners looking to include ample green space within new developments can better adhere to Land Conservation Initiatives that protect the health and ecological integrity of communities. City dwellers desire access to nature and open spaces. Digital Surface Mapping is a better way to engineer communities of the future, those that incorporate mix-used retail, residential structures, and green space.

Contact Mile High Drones to discover how we can serve the construction industry with 3D models of structures and digital mapping with data that can go straight to CAD. We serve multiple industries including construction, real estate, utilities, and solar & wind installations.  We specialize in flying a range of drones, for mapping and modeling applications.

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