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6 Ways to Improve Accuracy In Your Drone Surveys

Drone surveys

Last updated on

February 5, 2024


    Accuracy is the bedrock upon which every decision and design is built. There is nothing more frustrating than completing a survey and realising during post-processing that the data missed the mark a few times.

    Fortunately, multiple methods are at your disposal to manage factors that may impede the precision of your projects, including the best-kept secret of top-notch surveyors, ensuring pinpoint accuracy every time.

    We’ve summarised 5 tips to make the most out of your drone and get you the best results for your next batch of data.

    1. Know Your Ground Sampling Distance

    Before you fly your drone for a survey, it’s crucial to figure out the Ground Sampling Distance (GSD) you need. GSD is about how much detail you can capture from the ground; it tells you how close together the points in your images will be. The right GSD ensures your survey data is accurate and matches your project’s requirements.

    For example, if a drone captures a GSD of 5 cm/px, that equals one pixel on your digital map, which corresponds to 5 cm in reality. 

    In simple terms, a lower GSD means more detail. To find out the best GSD for your drone’s camera, check out Pix4D’s calculator here.

    Getting your GSD right affects the quality of your survey data. So, take the time to plan this step carefully to achieve the best results for your project.

    Survey Success Secrets: Best Practices For High-Quality Data

    Read the insider tips for securing high-quality drone survey results.

    2. Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) License

    The secret to the best surveys is an RTK (Real-Time Kinematic) license.  This enables the drone’s GPS receiver to access correction signals from a ground reference station, enhancing location accuracy to within centimetres. This precision is vital for surveying, mapping, and construction applications to achieve highly accurate data collection and measurements.

    RTK license

    RTK uses information from Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers and applies real-time positional corrections to increase accuracy to 1-3 cm.

    When you fly a drone without RTK, several distance measurements measure the camera positions from GPS satellites. This is inaccurate and leads to an accuracy of only up to 2-5 meters in your survey data.

    Stockpile Measurements

    With an RTK license, complete on-demand surveys in a fraction of the time, reducing downtime by 50%, leading to cost-savings of 60% in short-term projects.

    Premium Positioning offers accurate and flexible license options with monthly and unlimited versions and excellent support. They have EU Certified ETRF coordinates and 99.8% uptime since 2018. See if it works yourself, no strings attached with a 14-day free trial here.

    3. Image Overlap

    Photogrammetry requires image overlap, which refers to the repetitive coverage of consecutive images taken during a drone flight. For accurate drone surveys, it’s essential to get at least 75% overlap for images in the front and 60% on the sides. This is vital for ensuring that the stitched image is seamless and free of gaps. It’s better to capture more overlap when unsure, as you can always discard extra data but can’t fill in gaps from insufficient overlap. Following these overlap guidelines boosts the quality and reliability of drone survey data.

    4. Add Margin to Your Capture Areas

    To ensure precise data, capture images beyond your area of interest. Drone mapping relies on overlapping images, and insufficient margin can lead to biased or inaccurate reconstructions. Expanding your flight plan to include margin enhances accuracy, mitigates errors, and offers flexibility. Discarding excess data during processing is easier than recapturing missed details. In summary, expanding the areas of capture is a critical factor in achieving reliable and accurate drone survey data.

    5. Use The Right Equipment

    Selecting high-quality drone equipment is crucial for accurate survey data. Key factors include the camera’s sensor size, pixel density, and shutter type. A camera with a larger sensor and higher pixel density captures more detailed images, essential for precise maps and models.

    A mechanical shutter is preferred over an electronic one to avoid motion blur, ensuring sharp images even at high speeds. Investing in a drone with these advanced camera features enhances the reliability of survey results. It’s important to do your research or speak to an expert.

    6. Choosing The Right Software

    Selecting the right software is crucial for drone survey accuracy, directly impacting data quality and reliability. Key considerations include processing speed, ease of use, geospatial accuracy, and spatial resolution. Additionally, specific features tailored to project needs, such as 3D modelling or orthomosaics, should guide the selection process. Aligning software capabilities with project requirements ensures not only the accuracy but also the efficiency of data collection, leading to informed decisions and successful survey outcomes.

    Check out the top 5 mapping software here.

    Bonus Tip

    It can feel like there is a lot to learn when starting with drone surveying, and if you feel like you’re in a rut or can’t seem to push through to that professional level, then you may want to consider training. We own the UK’s leading training platform, Coptrz Academy, with 400+ CAA-approved training modules to help you develop your skills. For surveying, we recommend the Level 4 Complete Knowledge of UAV Surveying course to help you break through into the expert stage.

    Check out Coptrz Academy here.


    If you haven’t tried these tips, you may not be making the most out of your drone. Drone surveying can be tricky to get started, but once you’ve got the hang of it and you know how to optimise your data collection then you can create beautiful and crisp 3d models. Check out the details in this 3d model. 



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