Aerial Survey Companies & the Types of Surveys They Offer

When looking for an aerial survey, you should be aware that there are three major types of survey you can invest in: drone, helicopter, and plane. While the actual land surveying technology may be separate (either LiDAR or photogrammetric), the method through which the data is captured will have a significant impact on the cost of the survey, as well as the accuracy of the survey. Here’s what you need to know about drone, helicopter, and plane surveying. 

Drone Aerial Survey

Drones (UAVs) have many advantages over traditional surveying technologies—which is why UAV and LiDAR scanning has become an industry standard. They can perform land surveys quickly and close to the ground, delivering high resolution images within just a few hours. UAVs are not manned, and therefore they don’t carry with them a significant risk of potential injury. They are less expensive than other options because they are unmanned and due to the lower cost of the technology. UAVs can navigate into virtually any area with little preparation. 

However, there are a couple of disadvantages to drone-based technologies. UAVs may not be able to fly in windy environments, as they are lightweight. Further, UAVs are party to a number of regulations and restrictions. While these regulations are still being explored, they can occasionally present a barrier.

Helicopter Aerial Survey

Helicopters are able to hover while using LiDAR technology, remaining stable even in bad weather. They are often desirable over ground surveys because helicopters can go virtually anywhere. Compared to airplane surveys, helicopters can fly lower and therefore acquire higher resolution imagery. Helicopters are more maneuverable in high winds than drones, and they also aren’t subject to the same types of regulations.

In terms of negatives, a helicopter does still involve a flight crew, which can be potentially dangerous. If a helicopter does crash, people could be seriously injured and a project could be delayed. Helicopters are more affordable than airplanes, but they are not as affordable as UAVs. Operational delays may also factor in, as manned crews will need permits and licenses to fly. 

Airplane Aerial Survey

During an airplane survey, an airplane uses LiDAR technology as well as GPS coordinates to very quickly scan an area as it passes above. Airplane LiDAR surveys are very fast and can be effective over virtually any type of terrain. Airplanes tend to be a superior way of getting scans over very large areas quickly, such as when doing preliminary surveys before a site is selected. Airplanes also cannot be dissuaded by issues such as inclement weather or high winds. 

Of course, there are also some disadvantages to conducting LiDAR via airplane. Airplane LiDAR tends to be very expensive, as not only do you need to pay for the aircraft and the LiDAR, but you also need to pay for the crew of the plane as well as the fuel. Further, airplanes need to fly fairly far away from the ground to remain safe, which lowers the resolution and accuracy of the scans. Like helicopters, airplane scans may also be dangerous to the crew.


Each type of survey has pros and cons, depending on the project that you’re completing. In general, if the area to be surveyed isn’t party to anti-UAV regulations or high winds, a UAV will be the preferable option. If there are high winds or other dangerous weather, an airplane or helicopter may be better, as budget allows. A UAV will be able to get closer than an airplane at a reduced cost, but a helicopter provides a solid middle ground between the two.

Consulting with a land survey company can help you determine which type of survey technology is best for you. While there are many companies that have recently opened offering UAV-based surveys, Landpoint is one of the few surveying companies that offer all three types of surveys. For more information about the types of surveying available, contact Landpoint.


6 Considerations When Selecting a Wind Farm Surveyor

When conducting a wind turbine survey, time and accuracy is of the essence. If your land survey is delayed, then your project will be delayed. Wind farms rely upon the accuracy of their land surveys to plan out the most efficient, effective routes for their turbine placement. The more accurate a land survey is, the more productive the wind farm will be. All of this makes selecting the right wind farm surveyor critical.

Here are six important questions to ask.

1. Are They Able to Cover Large Distances Quickly?

A ground survey is going to take a lot of time—time that a wind farm project may not have to spare. Wind farms tend to be over very large expanses of land, land which can be overgrown. If the environment is right, drone-supported LiDAR technology can be used to scan an entire project in as little as a few hours, depending on the size of the project. Airplane-supported LiDAR surveys can complete large surveys even faster—ideal early in the process of site selection. 

2. What Methods of Scanning Do They Provide?

Many companies provide drone, helicopter, or airplane scanning, but very few provide all of these types. When looking for a wind farm surveyor, ask about the options the survey company has available. Depending on the size of the project and the weather, you may need to pivot between types of survey. If the area is windy, a helicopter or airplane will be better than a drone; if there are large areas to cover, an airplane will be better than a drone or a helicopter. Your needs for survey may change, depending on whether you’re using the survey for initial site location or turbine placement.

3. Can They Provide 3D Data? 

Accurate data is absolutely critical to the success of a wind farm project. Wind farm projects demand a certain type of environment; once surveys are completed, a wind farm is going to need to be prepared for expensive, heavy, and advanced wind farm equipment. Landpoint’s ​LiDAR technology can provide up to 1 centimeter to pixel resolution. These LiDAR scans can then be used to create a 3D model for simulations and modeling. The entirety of a wind farm project can be simulated and tested before it begins. 

4. Are They Able to See Through Overgrown Regions?

LiDAR has a clear advantage over traditional, photogrammetric analysis: it can see through overgrowth wires, and even thin cloth. If you need high resolution data that can cut straight down to the ground topology, then LiDAR is the best choice. Wind farms need to be placed extremely accurately if they are to be effective, and unexpected changes in elevation will need to be addressed during the process of development. Photogrammetric analysis can only map the topology that is visible to cameras, while LiDAR can go beyond the naked eye.

5. Can They Process and Analyze Land Survey Data Quickly?

If a surveyor provides in-house data analysis, they can likely produce land survey data quickly. If a surveyor needs to outsource their data analysis, it may take much longer. Relying upon a third-party to analyze the data that is produced by the survey can lengthen the amount of time a project takes, as both parties will need to wait on the other. It can also increase costs, as an organization that develops its data in-house will be able to reduce the total amount of overhead needed for each service. 

6. Are They Able to Provide Both Initial and Monitoring Surveys?

Initial land surveys aren’t the only type of survey a wind farm may need. Monitoring surveys, when paired with sensors, are an easy way to quickly identify maintenance or repair issues with wind farm equipment. Through GPS tracking, the drones can immediately report the exact position of any identified issues. Drone surveys can save a company money when compared to on-the-ground surveys, which can lead to having more surveys completed and better maintenance overall. 

Through aerial drones, planes, helicopters, and LiDAR, the right wind farm surveyor will be able to quickly survey a large wind farm plot with exceptional accuracy. At Landpoint, not only is advanced LiDAR technology used to produce high-resolution topological data, but drones and sensors can be used for both land surveys and continued monitoring services. For more information about the advantages of LiDAR, contact Landpoint.