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HowellKline Surveying, LLC and D. L. Howell & Associates, Inc. recently added Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) capabilities to their list of services.

Recent rules published by the Federal Aviation Administration have cleared the way for businesses to utilize UASs or “drones” as they are commonly known for a wide range of data gathering applications. This aerial platform is a useful addition to HowellKline Surveying’s “toolbox”, which includes robotic total stations and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers.

The UAS is a remotely controlled quad-copter equipped with a high resolution camera. The high resolution pictures can be digitally stitched together to create what is known as a digital ortho-photograph. An ortho-photograph is a photo that has any distortion removed, thereby allowing accurate measurements to be taken between points in the photo. Three-dimensional point clouds can also be generated from the photographs, allowing for measurements in 3D as well.

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Original Point Cloud Data being prepared for conversion

It is the accurate measurements in both 2 and 3 dimensions that can be obtained from the imagery that is of interest to surveyors, engineers and ultimately to our clients. One of our first opportunities to use the UAV to capture surveying data was to as-built a storm water retention basin system. The basin was irregular in shape and had a number of detailed plunge pool / settling features in the bottom. By utilizing the UAV we were able to survey the intricate basin grading and minimize our need to walk in the basin bottom and disturb the final grading.

Video of the stages from UAS image to 3D model to Final Drawing. Click on the Play button to see the transition.

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High resolution image generated from UAS

3D model

3D model for generating contour data

Other uses include aerial photographs for presentation / marketing purposes, pre-construction site condition documentation, construction progression, utility as-built documentation, post construction as-built surveys, and vegetation surveys.  If you think that any of these uses may be beneficial to your current or future projects please feel free to call the staff at HowellKline Surveying / D.L. Howell.