Lift off for UAVs at The Survey Association’s sell out industry event


A conference hosted by The Survey Association (TSA), in partnership with English Heritage, saw 90 delegates converge on Newark Showground for a fact finding day on the latest developments and applications using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for imaging and mapping.

TSA members and non-members travelled across the country to put their questions to expert speakers, service providers and manufacturers.  Networking sessions in the exhibition area allowed delegates to discuss the opportunities and challenges this technique presented for their own businesses.

Peter Barker, Chairman of TSA Technical Committee and Director of SUMO Services Ltd said, “The use of UAVs for survey, mapping and aerial imaging is a particular area of interest and we aimed to give industry professionals a format that would make taking a day out of their business thoroughly worthwhile. The positive feedback we have received on the speakers and content of this first event is very encouraging and TSA is considering the possibility of hosting a similar conference day on an annual basis.”

The industry has rapidly adopted ‘UAV’ as a catch-all label for both fixed wing and rotary wing platforms.  During an informative presentation on the safe use and accreditation requirements for professional UK operators the guest speaker from the Civil Aviation Authority clarified the terminology.  In the commercial context, Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) using Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) are the correct terms.

By contrast, Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS), the equivalent body to TSA in the USA, still awaits a final decision from the Federal Aviation Authority which would permit the commercial use of SUAs.

Fitted with either compact or DSLR digital cameras and pre-programmed with a flight plan, SUAs use GPS to navigate to and position the captured overlapping images. The audience was shown how new multi-image photogrammetry solutions such as Photoscan (AgiSoft) and Pix4D have been developed to process this imagery into new 3D Digital Surface Models (DSM) and ortho-rectified datasets.

Following a short flight demonstration of the Gatewing X100, the presentations included   case study examples of restoration and monitoring projects, most notably a series undertaken by Sky Futures, which used multiple SUA platforms to overcome the survey challenges presented by remote and inaccessible topography.

The collective knowledge of the conference presenters will be used in the development of a TSA Client Guide on the use of SUAs for survey and mapping.  The content will include information on regulation, accreditation, health and safety and risk assessment. The Client Guides are the definitive reference on industry best practice that professionals can download from the website free of charge.

Paul Bryan of English Heritage said, “After such an informative and successful day I very much hope that TSA will consider a follow up event next year, perhaps including presentations from client organisations like English Heritage and Historic Scotland who already use SUAs within a formal procurement mechanism. There would also be scope for demonstrations of both rotary and fixed wing designs and an illustration of the complete workflow.”

For further information about The Survey Association