Virtual Surveyor | Drones - Accuracy and Opportunity for Surveyors

        Our Consulting & Services Manager, Shawn Herring, wrote a great article on surveying industry insights on drones. Here's a portion of the article:

Drones, drones, drones!  Over the past few years this may be the biggest industry trend for land surveyors and civil engineers, and probably just as important of a shift as GPS data collectors.

I started a surveying firm in 2010 with a focus on ALTA surveys, general boundary and topo projects, mass volume calculations, as well as construction staking.  We then got into a little LiDar scanning and really jumped into aerial data capture about 5 years ago and have never looked back!

I love data capture, whether from the ground or from the air, and trying to keep up with the daily technology trends and advances can sometimes be overwhelming.  I thought I’d put together this article on some of the lessons we’ve learned over the past few years when it comes to utilizing a drone in our survey department.

Virtual Surveyor

            The fact that this simple machine that flies through the air, captures photos and then somehow returns usable, actionable data is just fantastic!  But what do we do in production softwares such as AutoCAD, Civil 3D and Bentley with the data?  We can bring in the ReCap (or LAS) file, then what?  Connect some dots, draw some lines, but it all just seems too much of a manual process.

I’ve been in the reality capture industry for years and have really taken to the drone space, but have always struggled in creating a useable existing conditions map from the data within Civil 3D…until now!

A couple years back I got introduced to Virtual Surveyor ( and feel that this is one of the best, if not THE best, tools out there to bridge that gap between drone and CAD. 

You can easily accelerate your survey workflows with the productivity tools in Virtual Surveyor (VS). The software produces the bulk of the output. You only need to review, remove and add some points or breaklines to complete the job.

You will see that Virtual Surveyor is a simple, easy-to-use user interface.  There are not a ton of overbearing tools within the software. Along the left side you will find your project data.  As you create layers for points, breaklines, topo, etc., they will show up in this dialog box.  Simply export the data out to CSV or DXF and bring it into your CAD platform.

If you'd like to learn more insights on drones in the land surveying industry, click here.