Drones in Surveying: The Benefits and Limitations

In recent years, the emergence of drone related technology has completely transformed the landscape of digital photography by providing consumers with a piece of equipment that is versatile, high quality and easy to use. The continuing advancement of these drones has also meant that users are able to take a series of images and produce a highly detailed 3D map of a certain area.

A significant advancement that has led to the use of drones for 3D imaging becoming a routine practice within the surveying profession. Professional bodies, such as RICS, have already noted the multitude of benefits that the devices can provide a surveyor and their company.

Despite its advantages, however, there are also several legal and ethical concerns that the introduction of this technology brings to many businesses.


Better quality of image: As was just mentioned, the inclusion of a high-resolution video camera, coupled with the device’s ability to hover at such low altitudes, has meant that detailed 3D maps can be created at significantly higher resolutions.

Saves time: The quality of these images does not come at the cost of a surveyor’s time, however. The software can take autonomous control of the device, meaning that the timeframe spent gathering relevant data is greatly reduced.

Reduces potential risk: Drones can also be used to eliminate the need for surveyors to put themselves in peril by traversing potentially hazardous environments. For example, in the instance that they are inspecting a flooded area or dilapidated property.

The data is clear and convenient: In addition, the use of drones also has benefits for surveying clients. This is because the data is captured in an incredibly detailed and accurate visual, meaning any jargon or complicated statistics are clearly illustrated for the consumer.

It allows access to previously unreachable areas: Lastly, drones can allow surveyors to view areas of a property that, up to this point, they have been incapable of reaching. This includes: Rooftops, roadways or any property situated in a congested city.


Can be expensive: Whilst you can purchase a midrange drone for a relatively inexpensive price, anything that is a bit more specialist can quickly become a costly investment. And this is without considering the prices involved in training the surveyor to use it as well as purchasing the necessary processing software.

The technology is very disposable: What’s more, as a result of the equipment still being relatively new, the constant developments, updates and new models means that the current designs may quickly become obsolete.

Risk of legal violation: With the laws and regulations surrounding drone flight constantly changing, the growing list of restrictions surrounding air space could potentially lead to financial or legal fines. For commercial use you will require a licence.

Potential risk of privacy violation: On the same note, the drone’s ability to access difficult to reach areas also raises concerns for the privacy of surrounding residents. Especially when conducting a survey in a crowded cityscape.

Restricted by the weather: Unlike a surveyor, drones are much more dependent on weather conditions. For example, extreme forms of rain, fog or wind can all inhibit the devices ability to fly or even record the required space.

Related Articles

If you enjoyed reading this article on new technologies in the surveying industry, then spare a moment to check out some of our related posts from the list below: