Drones for


X, Y and Z
made easy

There are several reasons why land surveyors are increasingly adding drones to their portfolio of instruments.

Firstly, using a drone can vastly reduce the time spent collecting accurate data. By acquiring raster data from the sky  in the form of geo-referenced digital aerial images, with resolutions as sharp as 1.5 cm (0.6 in) per pixel  you can gather millions of data points in one short flight.

More time still can be saved by using a survey-grade drone such as the eBee RTK.  Such GNSS/RTK receiver systems are effectively flying rovers, capable of receiving data corrections streamed from a base station or via VRS to achieve absolute X, Y, Z accuracy of down to 3 cm (1.2 in)  without needing Ground Control Points.

With collection made so simple, you can focus your energy on using and analysing data, rather than working out how to gather it.

With such a large increase in the amount of physical data being collected, this does mean an increase in office time spent processing and utilising this data. However this expansion is cancelled out many times over by the huge time savings a drone produces out in the field. Many of senseFly’s surveying customers say, for example, that large jobs that once took weeks can now be completed in just a few days, and that a week’s worth of traditional data collection is now achieved in just one day.

Last but not least, less time spent on the ground means staff safety is improved by minimising risk to surveying teams when measuring sites such as mines, unstable slopes and transport routes. Simply choose take-off and landing locations that are out of harm’s way.

Typical drone surveying workflow

Flight planning

  • Choose/import base map
  • Highlight coverage area (rectangle/polygon)
  • Set desired Ground Sampling Distance (i.e. 5 cm (2 in) / pixel)
    • Flight altitude defined automatically as a result (e.g. 5 cm/pixel = 162 m altitude using default eBee WX camera)
    • This altitude determines maximum single-flight coverage possible
    • Automatic definition of flight lines & image capture points
  • Set image overlap
    • Necessary for stereo coverage
  • Define safe landing zone

Setting of on-site GCPs

  • For absolute X,Y, Z accuracy of down to 3 cm / 5 cm (1.2 in / 2 in)
  • No GCPs required, to achieve similar accuracy, if using eBee RTK
  • Optimal size & shape of GCP targets defined by GSD of imagery


  • Autonomous flight
  • Monitor progress/change flight plan via flight control software
  • Automated landing as per defined landing zone

Import images

  • On-board SD card contains images and flight log (.bbx file)
  • Images geo-tagged according to flight log during importation
  • Generate Quality Report on site, in Postflight Terra 3D, to verify quality and coverage

Generation of orthomosaics and 3D point clouds

Analysis/production of deliverables

  • Creation of break lines, reference points, digital elevation models, contour lines
  • Calculation & analysis of volumes and stockpiles
  • Export of output files (geoTIFF, obj, dxf, shape, LAS, KML tiles etc.) to third-party software as required (see below)

Final report/deliverable creation in third-party software

Flying the Guayllabamba point cloud

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Case studies & reports

Explore how surveying professionals around the world are increasingly using mapping drone technology to collect their data in place of traditional surveying instruments.


Angry birds at altitude

Tasked with a large and topographically challenging survey near Quito in Ecuador, AOC Ingeniería used an eBee UAV to collect its point data. But the terrain wasn't the only problem its team faced.

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Drones vs traditional instruments: corridor mapping in Turkey

Awarded the Turkish government’s first UAV survey contract, Artu Harita used an eBee to map a 140 km-long rail corridor — impressing its client and outperformed its traditional surveying counterparts.

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eBee saves the day: mapping Greenland’s Zackenberg Research Station

When COWI was employed to map 125 sq. km in remotest Greenland, its staff took two drones into the field: a long-range UAV system and a backup eBee. When the larger system developed technical issues, the senseFly proved its mettle

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Assessing flood damage at one of Europe’s largest mines

When the Serbian government urgently needed to map water damage at the Kolubara lignite pit, it turned to GeoGIS Consultants, whose team used an eBee to provide the client’s deliverables in a matter of days.

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Mapping the Matterhorn

Read how a team of senseFly engineers teamed up with Drone Adventures, Pix4D and Mapbox to create the first ever 3D digital model of the Matterhorn, Switzerland's 'beautiful mountain'.

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NewFields independent UAS accuracy assessment

McCain Murray of consulting firm NewFields ran a full survey and accuracy assessment with the senseFly eBee drone, finding it "capable of generating products with accuracies that meet the expected relationship with the survey GSD and NSSDA standards".

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Surveying a repository site in Chile

See how OZS Ingenieria surveyed a windy, dusty repository site in Antofagasta, Chile, creating an orthophoto and digital elevation model.

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Mapping and modelling a Bulgarian mountain

Using drones to create a large-scale topographic map and 3D model of Buzludzha, a historical peak in Bulgaria's Central Balkan Mountains.

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Monitoring material usage during road construction

Colombian company Dymaxion SAS used a drone to monitor the materials and equipment used during the construction of a new road, in order to comply with safety regulations.

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Golder on using unmanned aerial vehicles

As the commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) industry rapidly accelerates, Golder’s own program is expanding as well to cover real-time inspecting, documenting, monitoring, and survey work.

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Drones are taking off in Canada

Read how drone technology is booming in Canada (includes an interview with Cenovus Energy's geospatial specialist Wade Ewen).

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Accuracy of automatic photogrammetric techniques on ultra-light UAV imagery

This paper analyses several UAV datasets and examines their accuracy, finding that drone technology "can compete with traditional mapping solutions".

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Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) for volume estimation

This Honors College Thesis examines how stereo imagery obtained by a small UAS can be used to respond to natural disasters by estimating volumes, "on a par with terrestrial LiDAR sensor technology".

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What users say

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The eBee has given me the best R.O.I. of any surveying tool I own.

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Prof. Tosa Ninkov Ph.D., owner, GeoGIS Consultants

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We evaluated the swinglet CAM against the national standards for producing municipal cartography in Portugal. We were impressed with how easy it was to plan and execute the flight. The waypoint flight planning was strictly followed; take-off and landing were both simple and safe. The plane safely returned to the starting point when faced with excessive wind conditions. Our studies also confirmed the positional and thematic accuracy of the post-processing products generated from the flight: true-orthophoto, digital elevation model and stereoscopic models. senseFly always provided good support, replying to all our doubts and questions.

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Luís Serra, Msc Geomatic Engineering

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The eBee provides the best overall performance of any UAS system we’ve tried. It can fly at high altitude, behaves reliably in unstable wind conditions, and it doesn’t require extra additional take-off and landing equipment. Its pre-flight software also makes it easy to create your flight plan and its photogrammetry program generates very precise 3D models.

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Eric Romersa, co-founder, WSdata3D

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