Professional drone surveying applications

Terrestrial, aerial or bathymetric survey helps in establishing plans on which the topography of a township, town, village, urban area, agricultural area, valley, pit, open pit mine, or a river, lake or lagoon is represented with its natural and artificial details. The surveyor or topographer creates these plans with topographic measurement devices: electronic tacheometer, 3D scanner and GPS.

Hélicéo offers a whole range of innovative products allowing surveys to be carried out automatically via aerial drones, multirotors, vertical takeoff aircraft or aquatic drones. Hélicéo also designs terrestrial photogrammetry tools and vehicles for urban or technical surveys.

Hélicéo offers several platforms, all compatible with DroneBox, which cover all types of surveying  and measurements missions.

Terrestrial photogrammetry mission

Terrestrial survey is a technique that provides accurate and important details. This is the ideal solution for missions such as facade surveys, industrial inspection, interior surveys, volume or cubature calculation, civil engineering surveys, etc.

This technique allows for precision measurements in a restricted area. It can be used for 3D modeling of objects, walls, corridors, ceilings, arches, etc. It can also be used to complement a terrestrial or aerial mission.

terrestrial photogrammetry foxywalkterrestrial photogrammetry foxyrun

Hélicéo offers FoxyWalk: this light and easy to use platform for photogrammetric data acquisition allows you to perform exterior and interior terrestrial missions on a variety of sites. With the help of image surveying in the GNSS RTK mode, the user is able to perform a wide variety of terrestrial missions with centimeter accuracy.

Aerial drone missions

Hélicéo’s aerial platforms offer a comprehensive view of a territory. Civilian and professional drones designed by Hélicéo provide experts in geomatics, topography, architecture and civil engineering with accuracy in terrestrial measurements.

With the photogrammetric camera onboard, it is possible to model an area in 3D, enabling the measurement of lengths, areas, volumes, and thus generating an accurate map.

The Fox multirotors and the Foxy vertical takeoff aircraft allow a wide range of missions to be completed, from precise surveys of up to 10ha with Fox4 or SuperFox6 to large scale surveys of up to 100ha with Fusion. With the RTK DroneBox and HASK software developed by Hélicéo, the aerial acquired data is georeferenced in real time, allowing a quasi-automatic processing and avoiding the need for ground control points.

Aerial drone missions fox4Aerial drone missions fox6Aerial drone missions foxyslim

Interior drone surveying

Interior surveying consists of providing a large number of measurements in order to produce a geometric representation of a building at any point. There are many applications: industrial buildings, public buildings (sports halls, exhibition hall), historic buildings (museums, castles, churches), archaeological sites, etc.

Modeling buildings enables the production of plans, models and thermal balances which help in monitoring and documenting the evolution of a structure. This is a key issue for better management of buildings. Good knowledge of the structure allows for implementation of evacuation or contingency plans.

Interior drone surveying

There are two techniques for this type of survey:

Lasergrammetry, which reconstructs a 3D point cloud using the distances and angles recorded by a dynamic laser scanner device such as LiDAR.

lasergrammetry drone

Photogrammetry, which uses 3D scenes and measures of spatial positions using a calibrated digital camera with a wide angle lens.

photogrammetry drone

In contrast to exterior surveying, georeferencing cannot be achieved by GNSS. Therefore, the site must be referenced to the building through external measures.

Interior surveying may result in several types of rendering:

Interior plans (architecture, evacuation plan).
3D models / models (BIM, architecture, 3D tour).
3D point clouds (measuring, technical inspection).

With the range of Hélicéo vehicles and, in particular, FoxyRun and FoxyWalk, it is possible to carry out interior surveys and generate 3D scenes, textured models and orthophotoplans (facades).

Exterior drone surveying

Exterior drone surveys involve measuring all elements observable from outside. There is a wide range of survey techniques: terrestrial photogrammetry, aerial photogrammetry, laser scanning, LiDAR, tacheometry, GNSS rover, etc. Survey vehicles are also very diverse (see types of surveying): mobile mapping, drones, VTOL airplanes, backpack, etc.

For aerial photogrammetry, a large number of application fields stand out:

Drones in the mining industry:

An open pit mine or quarry is a place from which building materials such as rock, sand or different metallic or carboniferious minerals are extracted. This involves a complete industrial facility: a place of extraction and machines for processing the extracted rock (pit run materials), storage facilities, workshops in which blocks of rock are cut and shaped. It is particularly dangerous and time-consuming for the operator to carry out surveys of stocks or the pit or mine face: risk of land or rock slide, quagmire. Survey by drone is very efficient and allows a more comprehensive result. Fox6 for pits up to 100ha or FoxySlim VTOL and FoxyPro VTOL for more than 100ha. FoxyWalk is capable of measuring stocks and carrying out face surveys. FoxBathy is able to survey stocks under water or retention ponds All of these tools and vehicles are compatible with DroneBox RTK.

Drones in smart cities:

Urban planning is both a disciplinary and a professional field which covers the study of urban phenomena, urbanization and organization of cities and their territories. It requires true expertise, shaping our everyday surroundings with activities such as land use planning, creation of pleasant public places, implementation of bike lanes, etc. Urban planners need to know the current state of the city in order to better project themselves into the urban environment of the future, realize city planning projects and better harmonize utilization. What could be easier than to fly an aerial survey drone such as Fox4 or Fox6 (in compliance with current regulations), or to walk or roll a FoxyWalk terrestrial survey tool, which in less than a half-day allows the planner access to accurate and updated plans regarding study areas - always with centimeter accuracy thanks to DroneBox RTK.

Drones in land surveying:

Since times of old, the concept of land ownership has been a necessity. The oldest found record of this concept is on a clay tablet dating 2300 BC discovered in the province of Dhi Qar in Iraq. It features a dimensional drawing indicating surfaces and describing a group of land plots. Of religious origin, as with the Etruscans, or for the Romans, used as a tool to impose taxes, or for the taille, a direct land tax in the French Middle Ages, the cadastral plan has been and remains a structuring tool for our civilizations. Today, land ownership is materially represented by landmarks. In antiquity, it was the society of agrimensores (land surveyors) which performed cadastral plans and demarcation. In France, under the old regime (16th century), royal surveyor offices and the title of "sworn" surveyor were created. Nowadays, royal surveyors have become "licensed" or "chartered" land surveyors and the law of May 7, 1946 officially conferred them the authority and monopoly of parcel division and demarcation.

But ultimately what is the difference between a cadastral area and the area measured by a licensed land surveyor? The cadastral area is used for the calculation of property tax, whereas the area measured that the land surveyor is used to determine land ownership.

And what role does the drone play in this? Thanks to the rapid setup of Fox6 or FoxySlim, and the centimeter accuracy of the DroneBox RTK, the quality of measurement as well as the accuracy of survey maps are enhanced. A true win-win solution for the surveyor and the client.

Drones in agriculture:

Agricultural land is often a large area that is plowed, fallowed or cultivated. Agricultural fields are spaces where crops are grown. As these are generally such large areas, terrestrial surveying methods can be rather time consuming. Due to their autonomy and speed, drones allow farmers and surveyors, to save time when surveying. Different kinds of sensors may be used for this application. Digital cameras process images in the visible spectrum. Multi-spectral or hyperspectral sensors are useful for image analysis at specific frequencies. Thermal sensors are used for detecting water stress for example. FoxyPro is capable of carrying multiple types of sensors simultaneously, reading and analyzing the agricultural field in different frequency bands which means only a single mission is necessary. The combination of DroneBox RTK and FoxyPro or FoxySlim brings centimeter accuracy to images and plans without ground beacon installation.

Technical inspection of structures

Intended to ensure the safety of users, technical inspections for monitoring and maintenance of structures are essentially carried out by sight. Depending on the type of structure, such inspections can be costly and dangerous for persons on site especially in areas that are difficult to access.

In most cases, the inspections are conducted using platforms, scaffolding, overpasses or rope. However, these devices are expensive and risky. The main advantages of using civilian drones for these inspections are minimizing restrictions (in terms of cost, time and risk), enhancing quality of the data collected (accuracy, volume, topicality) and digitizing the condition of the structures. For the inspection of a bridge, using rope access technicians may not allow access to certain areas and may take two to three times longer than using a drone for visual inspection.

There is a wide range of infrastructure requiring inspection and diagnostics, such as:

  • Railways
  • Tunnels
  • Viaducts and bridges
  • Retaining walls
  • Overpasses
  • Oil & gas industrial sites

For most structures, monitoring is based on the observation of defects and cracks in 2D through photos or videos. Sometimes 2D is insufficient and the analysis requires 3D observation of deformations. Different methods of measuring and 3D modeling via drone allow these changes to be dynamically and automatically tracked over time using photogrammetry and lasergrammetry.
For all of these missions, Fox4, SuperFox6 or FoxyWalk meet requirements in the field.

wind turbine inspection drone

bridge inspection drone

Natural risk zones

Natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, landslides) regularly cause considerable damage to infrastructure and buildings. However, for disaster relief and interventions or repairs, it is important to determine the accessibility and condition of each site.

risk zone inspection drone

The Hélicéo drones, equipped with RTK DroneBox, enable the real-time production of drawings and georeferenced 3D models. They provide precise mapping and ensure operator safety. They allow emergency mapping of a territory in response to disasters. The user gets a clear picture of the disaster area and can therefore manage relief and repairs as well as estimate the extent of damage. For long range sites such as earthquake sites, Fusion VTOL is a very effective tool.