Using drones and photogrammetry in Housebuilding

drones and photogrammetry

At Drone Scotland we’ve been working with housebuilders for over 4 years. We’ve flown 100’s of flights across new build housing developments. Housebuilders engage our services from site concept through to completion. We work closely with teams at different stages of developments including Land buying, Technical, Production, Commercial and Sales & Marketing. Using aerial photogrammetry we provide drone surveys from the land buying stage through to site completion and infrastructure handover. In between, we support planning, site design, site redesign, progress management, conflict management, security, health and safety, communication, collaboration, asset management, earthworks strategies, boundary management, ecological. And environmental considerations and financial projections.

The introduction of drones to UK construction site has been citied as one of the top 4 tech trends which are transforming construction. With 80% of construction firms planning to use drones in the future, lets have a detailed look into what services we currently provide to housebuilding sites throughout Scotland:

  1. Aerial photogrammetry
  2. Pre purchase drone surveys
  3. Design & planning
  4. Ecological and geological surveys
  5. Site design/redesign and asset management
  6. Earthworks strategies (cut & fill)
  7. Production progress monitoring
  8. Sales & marketing
  9. Site handover & infrastructure drone surveys

Housebuilders we work with

Since many of our services utilise our photogrammetry service I thought it would be useful first to explain photogrammetry and how it is being utilised in the construction industry.

Aerial photogrammetry

Photogrammetry Drone Photogrammetry Building inspection
Aerial Photogrammetry – Drone Scotland, November 2021

Photogrammetry is the art, science, and technology of obtaining reliable information about physical objects and the environment through processes of recording, measuring, and interpreting photographic images and patterns of recorded radiant electromagnetic energy and other phenomena (Wolf and Dewitt, 2000; McGlone, 2004)

Photogrammetry makes precise measurements of three-dimensional objects and terrain features from two-dimensional photographs. Applications in construction include the quantification of distances, heights, areas, and volumes; the measuring of coordinates; the preparation of topographic maps; and the generation of digital elevation models and orthophotographs.

At Drone Scotland we utilise aerial photogrammetry to allow our clients to make accurate measurements, prepare topographic maps and create digital elevation models.

Pre-purchase drone surveys

3d image from photogrammetry
Aerial 3D image of land development

Traditionally, the decision to buy land was to ‘put boots on the ground’ and walk the site. Companies would send out buyers, designers, planners, architects, engineers, surveyors and so on. Accompanied by their cameras, they would survey the site from the ground. With the introduction of drones, many of our clients now engage us to conduct preliminary site inspections. Our high quality aerial data can capture the entire site and identify hazards or opportunities that you simply cant see from the ground. Be it from photogrammetry, 2d orthomosaic maps, 360 degree panoramas, digital surface models or orbital videos, aerial data is the most advanced way to get a global perspective of your site.

Remote collaboration has become more widespread since Covid 19. Companies have had to adapt and accommodate changes to how we all work. The beauty of cloud based aerial data is that it enables our customers to collaborate without being in the same room. Collaboration isn’t just internal but can also be used with other stakeholders, sub-contractors and with regulatory bodies including SEPA and other local authorities.

Of course boots on the ground is still very much required but our data helps your workers arrive on the site with advance knowledge of the site. This in turn lets them focus on areas of importance or investigate potential hazards. rather than hiking miles to see what can be discovered.

“We presented this information at our site ‘concept meeting’ which is to understand the site. Whilst it is best practice to physically visit the site, having helpful 3D tools like this is helpful for those who have not yet been to the site/are not familiar with the area – particularly with the wider masterplan setting.”

“brings the site to life and has formed many of our briefings”

Design & planning – using aerial photogrammetry

DJI M300 with Zenmuse H20 camera
DJI M300 flight – Drone Scotland, November 2021

Site design and planning permissions is the pre-works stage that your customers don’t see. Our topographical surveys are fast, accurate and repeatable. Accurate to within 30mm X & Y and 50mm on the z axis, we can confidently supply your designers with the ‘as is’ site elevations as well as surrounding infrastructure. This data can then be used in your planning application stage to help ensure you receive sign off from the local authorities. Access and egress routes can be quickly identified and pre works conditions surveys of surrounding routes captured. Site boundaries can be fenced off and verified from the sky and design overlays can be placed over maps to help visualise the proposed development over the existing land.

“great opportunity to support planning applications if we get the footage done early enough”

“covid has meant we cant attend site in larger groups but with use of the drone it gives us the opportunity to review as a team”

Ecological and Geological drone surveys

Every site requires completed surveys prior to build. Our surveys are often used to help ensure our clients legal obligations are met. Data captured can be used to highlight areas of concern including contamination, vegetation, danger areas, wildlife risks and site drainage. Traditional surveys include generic images taken from the ground or out of date low resolution maps. Utilising photogrammetry, our high resolution maps are up to date, can include annotations and can be quickly shared to internal and external parties at the click of a mouse. You can even locate your position on the site using a mobile phone on the maps we provide.

“You will see also below that our Badger sets have been highlighted and there is also the potential to add a picture to a dig permit detailing services.”

Site design/redesign and asset management

More and more often we observe site managers migrating to the digital world of drones. Traditionally, site managers have been perceived as being more comfortable with paper and a pencil. However, our experience is that they are truly buying into technology and automation. Tomorrow (17/11/21) I will be attending two sites to spend time training the site management team of one of the UK’s largest housebuilders. I’ve been invited out at their request as they want to learn more about how they can adopt our tech on their sites.

Site management use the data for a variety of purposes including the layout of the site and the future layout of the site as it nears end of build. They look at the size and shape of the compound, parking facilities, delivery areas, traffic management, pedestrian walkways, fencing, security, progression reporting, asset management and health and safety. All of which can accessed and interacted with on our world leading digital platform.

“the potential use of the footage with creating a lifting plan and a detailed calculation of distance can be created from the slab to the intended location of the crane”

I think we all found it to be really helpful to set the scene for the site, rather just relying on paper plans which don’t provide much depth”

Earthworks strategies (cut & fill)

From an engineering perspective, the data we can provide is a genuine game changer. Highly precise point clouds and DSM/DTMs can be produced and then reproduced at a later stage. Every client we have provided this data for has become a repeat customer and continues to trust Drone Scotland for this data. Not only is it accurate but also delivered fast. At Drone Scotland our turnaround from survey to results is generally 1-4 working days. In some instances same day results can even be produced. And we don’t know your elevations then you can trust our data really is what it is.

Using photogrammetry, drone surveys pick up up literally millions of unique points, each with their own xyz location. By aligning these points to your chosen coordinate system, we can provide full site surveys in hours rather than weeks. Once captured, the data is processed, quality checked and cleaned so that your systems can both handle and process it. This enables you to make prompt and reliable decisions regarding your earthworks strategy and, in turn, save money and the environment. One of our clients recently told us that a single Drone Scotland survey identified a £300,000 saving and at a fraction of the cost of a traditional survey.

“-Ability to use as part of our groundworks strategy, cut and fill game plan etc”

“-being able to clearly see existing levels and constraints, has helped inform the team better than a site visit could in many ways”

Production progress monitoring

Construction drone inspection - photogrammetry
Construction drone survey using FPV goggles

The very first service we provided for a construction project was in Johnstone back in 2017. Our client was looking for progress monitoring. This had multiple purposes including the client being able to track the progress, getting a global view of the buildings as well as surrounding infrastructure and the ability to share the progress with the overseas investors. Today we deliver progress monitoring to many of the UK’s largest construction firms including several of the largest housebuilders in Scotland. Aerial maps and images provide an unparalleled view of any project and helps keep projects running on time. Delays in construction are costly and most projects are delivered late. Many of our clients use our data to properly track their projects and identify problems before they arise. Once identified, areas of concern can be quickly and easily shared with others. in 2021, we will have flown over 300 progress monitoring flights over Scottish construction sites – many of them new build housing developments.

“Drone Scotland provide a fantastic service”

Sales & Marketing

Housebuilding marketing photograph - photogrammetry
Drone Scotland – Housebuilding completed site

The ability to promote your development is directly related to how well you can get your potential buyers to engage, gain their interest and excite their appetite. After all, your house ought to be aspirational and drones certainly help set the scene. Many of our clients engage our filming and post production services to help them promote their developments. Shot in 4K with industry leading drones, we have 5 years experience providing aerial media to many of the UK’s leading companies and we are the go to aerial company for STV commercials. Within the housebuilding sector, we have captured marketing footage for contractors including Cala Homes, Springfield Properties, Advance Construction, Ogilvie Homes, McTaggert & Mickel as well as others.

“Amazing…just downloading just now. Delighted with it. Thank you again”

Site Handover & infrastructure surveys

Pre build and post build site surveys are becoming ever more popular. Our aerial images/maps can capture the condition of the site and its surrounding areas before work commences and then at handover stage. Evidence recording has been predicted to be one of the biggest benefits to to the UK construction sector. By capturing the land as it is on a specific date, we can provide valuable time stamps which can help resolve conflicts. Whether that be a home owner who claims their fence is in the wrong location or a local authority claiming your vehicles have damaged surrounding roads. In some instances the fault could be yours or that of one of your contractors. In other instances, the fault may have already existed or the claim may be false. In any instance, it’s great to have evidence to support your business.

For more information on how Drone Scotland can support your Housebuilding or Construction project please contact the team at or 0141 302 4685

Written By Bjorn Aaen – Founder of Drone Scotland. Bjorn has successfully designed and implemented drone programs for some of the leading housebuilders in Scotland.

For related articles see How Drones are helping housebuilders reduce their carbon footprint and Construction Drone Services

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