Drones Versus Planes: A Conversation on Aerial Surveying

Drone for Aerial SurveyingDrones and airplanes are currently two of the most common methods used in analyzing a region from the air. An aerial survey has several applications in land development and construction. They are also valuable tools for capturing topographic data for environmental exploration and monitoring. High-powered sensors, such as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) also enable surveyors to generate accurate measurements and a 3D model of a location.

Both drones and manned vehicles have the ability to glide over a landscape from varying heights and capture high-resolution images and accurate information. The glaring difference is that surveying planes require a pilot and surveying professionals to operate the camera or sensor, while drones are unmanned and could be run by a few people on the ground. Both offer many benefits but are no without drawbacks and complications.


Before the arrival of drones, planes, as well as helicopters, traditionally provided a cost-effective method of exploring vast land areas. Planes are equipped with LiDAR, digital cameras, and powerful computers to capture spectral data in great detail. The biggest advantage to using an airplane to perform a land survey is that pilots will have more control over which location the camera will pass.

The analyst on board can also make sure that software and computer systems are operating properly throughout the survey. Safety is a primary concern with regards to manned aerial surveying. But, with an FBO setup, pilots can address some concerns, such as preventing operation delays and making sure the aircraft is in its best condition to perform the survey.


Many scientists and agencies consider the adaptation of drones to be revolutionary. It is set out to be the land surveying tool of the future. Drones provide more detailed modeling of site topography. And because they are affordable and don’t put the pilots at risk, they provide an ideal alternative for performing surveys into dangerous zones.

The biggest drawback is that current computer systems in drones are likely to malfunction, resulting in loss of technology and potential damage to property on the ground. Nevertheless, it appears as though drones are to be the future of surveying, as they are less expensive to maintain and operate.

Both aerial surveying methods offer accurate data and high-resolution images. As technologies improve, so will the content of land surveys, and that’s all that matters.