Topographical Drone Surveying

What is Drone Surveying?

Drone mapping and surveying combine capturing high-resolution images and accurate GPS data from the ground through ground control points and checkpoints, processing the data to create outputs.

These outputs are usually a point cloud, a digital elevation model, a digital terrain model and an orthomosaic. We provide survey-grade results through our RTK-enabled UAV drone surveying equipment, surveyed ground points and processing workflow.

Our data outputs can then be imported into CAD and GIS applications so analysis can be done on the topography. Within third-party applications, creating a TIN surface allows contours to be generated at specified intervals, usually 0.5m or 1m.

Applications of Drone Surveying include

  • Cut and Fill volume calculations
  • Slope analysis and gradient
  • Contour generation of the topography
  • Point grids
  • Topographical Surface generation
  • Terrain comparison
  • Detailed terrain change analysis

How much does a UAV aerial survey cost?

The simple answer is that pricing varies based on several factors. 

The location, size of the project, time of year, weather, airspace and surrounding areas such as roads and buildings structures can all affect pricing. 

We consider all these and provide a custom price per job based on these variables.

Drone Services Ireland is recognised as one of Ireland’s leading drone survey companies, providing the highest quality digital aerial surveys.

We have spent thousands of hours perfecting our workflows and heavily invested in the latest hardware and software to give you the best results.

Adding high-precision GPS or an RTK/PPK solution increases overall accuracy. Surveyed ground control points (GCPs) can be input to orthorectify the image and to verify the accuracy when used as checkpoints.

We use a combination of RTK and PPK workflows, depending on conditions, such as mobile data coverage on the project and use the most suitable drone surveying workflow. We cater to all sites, from a few acres to hundreds of hectares. We price accordingly; the more significant the survey, the more time and processing will be involved. 

This highly detailed output is accurate regarding global position and elevation, and it can be output in local coordinate systems such as Irish Transverse Mercator (IRENET95) and Malin Head vertical datum.

How is a drone survey conducted?

Completing a successful aerial drone surveying mission requires as much planning before turning up to the site as it takes time on-site to complete. We take the requirements from the client as a boundary KML or a screenshot from Google Earth of the area. 

We import the boundary into our flight planning software, UGCS, selecting the appropriate drone for the mission while planning. We set up the job parameters; these vary based on requirements and include front and side overlap, GSD calculation, flight height limitations etc. 

We conduct a risk assessment following our Specific Category Authorisation, and then we check the weather to ascertain when we can complete the mission. When on-site, we lay out ground control points in pre-determined locations and survey them. We launch the drone when all our pre-flight checks are completed, and it captures the data based on our flight plan. 

On completion, it’s back to the office to process the data.

How accurate is a drone survey?

We have conducted many aerial photogrammetric surveys and have spent hundreds of hours in the field, at the computer and working with experts to deliver survey-grade results with our workflows. We have worked with surveyors and have in-house surveyors that verify the work we complete. We achieve <5cm accuracy in X, Y and Z coordinates.

What are the benefits of drone surveying services?

The significant advantage of drone surveying over traditional surveying is the speed at which data can be delivered. Drone Surveys can cover much larger areas more quickly than traditional surveying methods. 

Drone Surveying is also safer; people do not have to walk in dangerous places. Where ground control is required, this can be planned and placed safely without the risk of twisted ankles or breaks. 

Why are our surveys more expensive than some other operators?

Recent regulation changes have significantly impacted some operators, and regulators are clamping down more on illegal drone operations that put people at risk. We have gone the extra mile to attain a SORA, which allows us to operate where others cannot. Many factors and planning are involved in drone surveys, and we continuously operate safely and only take on jobs we know we can complete.

We use the latest aerial survey equipment to provide the highest-quality data deliverables.

Another reason why we may seem more expensive is that we process the data ourselves. Many drone operators throw the data at a cloud processing service and send the client the outputs. We manually process and verify the data through our established workflows to ensure we deliver quality, accurate data. 

We do not use cloud-based data processing; your data is securely stored and processed locally.

We are always fair in pricing and are happy to discuss if you receive cheaper quotes. We do discount ongoing work or for repeat customers. We are professional drone operators and hold an EASA Specific Category SORA, which allows us to complete more complex projects that others may not be able to do legally.

What are the limitations of drone surveys?

In Ireland, there are two main limitations, airspace restrictions and weather. In nearly all cases, we can apply for permission to fly in restricted areas; mother nature is something we cannot control. 

Wind and rain are the two main issues, but a low-cloud base can also be challenging. Whilst our cutting-edge equipment can fly in 15m/s winds, the data quality may be affected, and we won’t take the chance on that. Also, while nadir data capture is standard for drone surveying, if raindrops get on the lens, again, the data quality is compromised. We plan our jobs when we can safely capture the best quality data.

drone survey quarry contours
Drone Surveying point-cloud output
Point-cloud generated from drone survey


  • 2D Orthomosaic
  • 3D Point-Cloud
  • Digital Surface Model / Digital Elevation Model
  • Digital Terrain Model – bare earth
  • Contours generated at 0.25m / 0.5m / 1m
  • Point Grids
Some of the typical outputs of a topographic survey