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Full-scale Aerial Photogrammetry Services vs. UAV / drone.

Choosing the best option for your project requirements and deliverables.

With various photogrammetry providers and data capture options currently available on the market, it is important to understand the differences between each. This will enable you to make an informed decision that best meets your budget, project requirements and deliverable expectations.

(Video: showcases 80km stretch of the M1 motorway that was captured using full-scale aerial photogrammetry - this could only be achieved by using manned aircraft systems.) 


Full-scale Photogrammetry

1. High resolution image acquisition.
High-quality equipment ranging from 50 megapixel DSLR’s to 80 megapixel aerial mapping cameras fitted to our aircraft platforms.

2. Limited perspective distortions.
Flying altitudes range from 1,000 - 5,000 feet enabling photo coverage to have a wide footprint.

3. Standby times are almost instant.
Ready to fly over local sites within 1 hours’ notice, interstate within a few days, or internationally generally within a weeks’ notice.

4. Ability to cover large areas or multiple sites in a single flight.
Flight times can be several hours long without the need to refuel. Transit speeds can be up to 200km/hr directly between sites. For example: A 1 square km site can require only 8 minutes to capture 2cm image resolution.

5. Operations can be conducted in highly populated areas and over traffic.
(We do need permission if it is required to fly below 1,000 feet)

6.  Able to operate in light rain or moderate winds when required.


UAV / Drone Mapping

1. Quality of image capture is limited.
UAV's / drones typically consist of off-the-shelf systems configured with medium quality optics such as a 24 megapixel small format (cropped sensor) camera.

2. Flying altitudes for drones are strictly limited to 400 feet to avoid aircraft.
Even with wide-angle lenses the image footprint is limited. This can often cause large distortion effects or tilted objects in the resulting deliverables.

3. Additional set up costs and time.
Drone operations must include mobilisation and setup of safe working spaces, and equipment setup. Unless this is already established on a permanent site, there will be  delays on one-off projects whilst planning is undertaken.

4.  Limited flight time.
Flight endurance on UAV’s / drones is limited by battery capacity and weight of the system (typically 15 – 30 minutes). Example: A 1 square km site may require 60 minutes of flight time to capture 2cm image resolution, plus associated travel time and setup procedures. Multiple site locations will require multiple setups and additional travel time.

5. Limited to areas of safe operation.
Not available over populous areas, and must avoid being closer than 5.5km to a controlled airfield or airport.

6. Weather conditions including light rain or moderate winds can halt drone operations.


In short, if you have large areas or multiple sites that need to be captured with minimal access then full-scale aerial photogrammetry will be the most efficient and cost effective method, particularly as we fly regularly.

Our photogrammetry division factors in all available methods and technologies during the quotation phase. They will take into consideration your budget and requirements, and propose the best method for data capture. In majority of cases a manned aircraft option will enable the greatest client benefits.

Since 2014,  our team has carried out over 100 Photogrammetry projects (both small and large) across Australia and further abroad. Contact us today to discuss options and organise an obligation free quote (07) 5631 8000.

Related Article: Photogrammetry Survey ensures that M1 continues to flow...

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