How Geospatial Infrastructure Mapping Companies Use Drones

How Geospatial Infrastructure Mapping Companies Use Drones

How Geospatial Infrastructure Mapping Companies Use Drones

The use of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), is reshaping the way that geospatial infrastructure mapping collects site data. Not only can this technology be used on construction sites, it is easily applied to school and campuses, hospitals, office complexes, and property across a wide variety of terrain.

SiteMap’s expert Project Managers pilot drones as a means of high-quality data collection during the geospatial infrastructure mapping process. Below, we will discuss how these UAVs work, where the data goes once collected, and the benefits of operating them within the context of a mapping project.

How do Drones Collect Geospatial Data?

At first glance, operating a drone to collect geospatial site data may seem like an easy task. Purchase the drone, send it up into the air, then collect and store information. However, the preparation process to launch a UAV for inspection purposes is a sophisticated one. First, the operating company must consider regulations: altitude limits, respecting restricted airspace and nearby aircraft, and registering the drone for aFederal Aviation Administration (FAA) identification number. When operating commercially, certification is often required to ensure safety and compliance. PCMag adds, “A lot of these are simply common sense, and that’s something you need to use when flying. In addition to the FAA rules, remember that National Parks have banned the use of drones within their confines.”

Once all of the basic regulations are understood and met, it is time to equip the UAV with the tools it needs to thoroughly and accurately collect and store geospatial data. Standard drone components include a quadcopter frame, propellers, motors, speed controllers, batteries, and landing gear. Per EllipsisDrive, “Drones can carry various payloads to record data depending on the application. These attachments include cameras, LiDAR, hyper spectral sensors, or barometers. They allow the drones to collect the geospatial data necessary in GIS processing.”

LiDAR, which is an acronym for light detection and ranging, was invented in the 1960s, but gained popularity much later. In geospatial mapping, LiDAR samples the surface of the earth and generates measurements based on lasers and Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates. Additionally, if outfitted for it, the drone’s hyper spectral sensors can capture electromagnetic data, and the output shows layers of materials, structures, and potential hazards. Barometers help to measure atmospheric and environmental conditions that may impact the site being surveyed.

Once the geospatial data is captured, it can be stored locally. However, in today’s technological environment, this data is generally stored in the cloud, with the ability to be accessed and downloaded from anywhere. When you partner with SiteMap, your existing drone footage, as well as any drone footage GPRS captures in atypical geospatial infrastructure mapping project, is all stored in your Digital Plan Room. This virtual hub empowers your team to manage the interconnected maps and plans of your facility or campus, and to export or integrate to other Geographic Information System (GIS) software platforms of your choosing.

Why are Drones Beneficial Geospatial Infrastructure Mapping?

The University of Southern California’s Dornsife Special Sciences Institute says, “Drone technology has been crucial in developing modern GIS applications and for maintaining up-to-date GIS data. Remote-controlled drones have played an important role in lowering the cost of collecting geospatial data and making it easier to collect spatial data in dangerous environments. Since the integration of GPS technology with these devices, it has also become possible to fly drones over much larger distances and BVLOS, or ‘beyond visible line of sight.’”

  • Cost: The use of UAVs is significantly less costly than using a satellite or higher-altitude unmanned aircraft to capture the same footage. DroneBlog points out, “Today, drones are relatively affordable upfront, and they can reduce expenses over the long-term too. […] The reduction in the amount of time it takes to collect data also means reduced costs, as does the fact that smaller teams can collect the same amount of data using unmanned vehicles.” Even with maintenance costs, professional UAVs still costless than the previously mentioned alternatives: operators should consider battery life, replacement panels, software updates, and other light hardware maintenance throughout the life of the drone.
  • Coverage: Remote-controlled drones have a coverage span far beyond natural human capabilities, and the enforced altitude limits mean that these UAVs provide a micro view of the intended site, in comparison to satellites and other aircraft.
  • Replenishing existing data: Even though your site may have existing footage and data from drones, campuses change over time. Using updated UAV technology helps to refresh your existing data, noting any changes from above that may not be immediately visible or fully captured in blueprints. Strides inUAV technology, including its camera and instrument components, mean that updated drone footage can result in higher-resolution, and more accurate data than ever before.
  • Disaster relief: In the unlikely event that your campus or property site is affected by a disaster such as extreme weather, UAVs are often swiftly deployed to assess the impact on infrastructure. The Global Drone Conference reports, “Manned aircraft are often too expensive to use, satellite mapping does not meet high-resolution needs, and both take too much time during emergency situations. […] Drones can be deployed quickly, generate high-resolution and 3D mapping, identify hotspot areas that are likely to face calamity or monitor areas that have sustained the most damage and upload the data in real time to coordinate relief efforts.”


At SiteMap, powered by GPRS, we thrive on the cutting edge of geospatial infrastructure mapping technology to Intelligently Visualize The Built World™ for our clients. The use of drones is just one way that we simplify your mapping project — leaving you with precise, clear, and centralized data about your facility or campus. As a powerful all-in-one solution, we combine the quality and expertise required for drone operation with the analysis and display of your site’s comprehensive data. Contact us to learn more about how SiteMap’s technology can guide your infrastructure mapping.