How Can Drones Be Used for Topographic Mapping?
Topographic maps can be captured by drones using cutting edge survey and mapping techniques.

How Can Drones Be Used for Topographic Mapping?

Topographic Mapping with Drones

In the past, creating topographic maps could be a laborious task before the advancement of computer technology in the 20th century, which revolutionized the process. Gone are the days when topographic maps were hand-drawn with ink and paper on site after the tedious process of measuring a series of points, using tape and compass traverses, and determining elevation with an aneroid barometer were completed.


Today, surveyors make use of global positioning system technology (GPS) to take precise measurements with boots on the ground in the field. In some situations and locations, manned aircraft are used. This is done with either helicopters or small airplanes. Another method for surveying land is using unmanned aerial systems (UAS/drones), which can cover a much larger area with minimal labor and training.

aerial survey cost

Aerial Surveying: Manned vs. Unmanned Aircraft

Drones aren’t necessarily a replacement for the use of traditional manned aircraft in the surveying world, but they are an additional tool for the aerial surveying profession. Drones are often used for topographic mapping in different situations than a manned aircraft would be used in. Having both methods available makes surveying in a variety of environments and situations possible.


While manned aircraft are typically used in situations where a large area of land needs to be surveyed, drones are used when greater detail is needed or to reach areas where a manned aircraft is unable to go due to size and for the safety of the pilot. Drones can get closer and often provide more detail than a large, manned aircraft can. Plus, drones tend to take high-definition images. 

Another important aspect to consider when deciding whether a drone or a manned aircraft is best for the project is the size of the area being surveyed. As previously mentioned, a manned aircraft can cover a much larger area in a smaller amount of time than a drone can. A manned aircraft can stay in the air much longer than a drone can. A manned aircraft requires a fairly large area of open land to take off while a drone just requires a small space. Depending on the situation, either option can be considered.

Land Assessment and Comparison

Drones used for topographic mapping of an area can provide detailed images and survey data that is essential for many municipalities and counties, for example. This is a way to keep a close eye on changes to the land and structures in an area and gives the ability to assess and compare images of the site quarterly, yearly, etc. This data can be essential for making decisions regarding the project.


Problems can be detected and prevented before becoming financially costly or even environmentally detrimental. Drones can be used to survey storm water and drainage channels, to calculate landfill capacity, for civil engineering, land development, and to survey coastal areas/beaches and other natural sites. The benefits of surveying are countless.

Florida Aerial Survey Technologies Aerial Survey Photograph of Golf Course with residential area surrounding and paved areas that are made using asphalt
Florida Aerial Survey Technologies has experience with producing data for various asphalt companies just like this one that provided material to produce the paved areas of this golf course and the surrounding areas.

Measurements & Calculations

Topographic maps can be created based on information that drones collect and images that are captured which makes these useful for inventory management. Because of this, surveyors and experts can calculate stockpiles and inventory asset turnover for loss prevention reasons. 


Drones can also be used for large earthwork projects. Drone surveying and mapping is considerably faster than traditional surveying methods. Because of this ability, using drones can save time and prevent projects from running overtime and costing the company extra money. It allows the ability to track the movement of the dirt on the job site and to see the progress to ensure that the project is running on time and to standard.


There are a variety of sites and projects that can benefit from topographic maps created by using drones. Golf course design can take considerable planning and calculation to ensure the land is perfect for the ultimate golfing experience. Aerial surveying is also used in the mining, metals, and materials industry to monitor the efficiency and analyze data for seasonality and hours of labor versus the material produced.


Florida Aerial Survey Technologies has employees to pilot drones used for topographic mapping and surveying. More information can be found by visiting the Florida Aerial Survey Technologies website and blog.

topgraphic map example
This topographic map shows contour lines for volume calculations of stockpile.

Can we help you with a topographic map?

If you are interested in using our services for a project you need topographic maps on. Feel free to contact us below. We have experience surveying thousands of acres and would love to help you on your next project. 

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