News and updates from Professional Land Systems

UAV/Drone Aerial Surveying

When you need to know, knowing is our business.

How mini-drone Orthophotos save time and money

A narrated overview of an orthophoto of an ALDI store taken with the eBee UAV. Orthophotos have many benefits for record keeping, due diligence, surveying, and engineering. Because distortion is removed from the orthophoto, the end user is able to obtain true planimetric data with accurate dimensioning. Heads-up digitizing of the photo increases productivity, minimizes mistakes, and reduces communication down-time for field crews. This brief video explains how our orthophotos save time and money.

Ned Ferguson

How UAV Drone Mapping is Revolutionizing Disaster Response

Amtrak disaster in Vermont

An Amtrak passenger train derailed in Northfield, Vermont on October 5, 2015, injuring six people of a total of 98 passengers and four crew. One crew member was injured seriously. The train was en route to Washington, DC when the drailment occured. In wake of the disaster, authorities decided to turn to the  Spatial Analysis Lab at the University of Vermont to quickly document the wreck with a high-resolution orthomosaic photo using the eBee drone by Sensefly (the same platform used by we at PLS.) The team at Spatial Analysis Lab documented 280 images within an hour of arrival and were able to provide exact spatial coordinates of the wreckage. Such information is invaluable for planning an effective emergency response and site repair. Drone reconnaissance is rapidly becoming a standard part of disaster response around the world. Read more about the Amtrak derailment and how the University of Vermont was able to help using drone mapping at

F-16 Fighting Falcon collision with Cessna 150

On July 7, 2015 an F-16 fighter jet collided with a Cessna 150, creating about a 7-mile debris field over Berkley County in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. The fighter pilot ejected safely but the father and son in the Cessna were killed. The F-16 struck the Cessna broadside. The disaster area presented a difficult challenge for search and rescue since the wreckage was located in a swamp. Much of the debris was submerged and made difficult or impossible to see from helicopters because of ripples in the water due to rotor wash. Approaching boats faced a similar challenge because the boats also caused water turbulence, stirring up mud and debris from the swamp bottom. Drones were able to bypass these problems as they were able to investigate the crash site with virtually no environmental disturbance. Investigators were able to obtain wreckage and debris coordinates directly from aerial drone photography, then proceed efficiently to the desired coordinates. “We cut days off the search and recovery time,” said Tom Fernandez of Skyview Aerial Solutions, who donated his services for the search.

According to Slate, “Disaster response drones have been used in Nepal, Haiti, and Vanuatu and are increasingly finding their way into the toolkits of disaster response teams in the U.S”

Bringing true UAV surveying to East Tennessee

We at Professional Land Systems are excited and enthusiastic to be the first to bring true aerial drone surveying to Tennessee. Why the distinction “true” aerial UAV surveys? We’ve found that there is some confusion about the meaning of aerial surveying. Some companies using a quadcopter they bought from Amazon to take photographs claim that they do aerial surveying. That is just not the case. Do they produce high resolution geoTIFF’s or orthomosaic photographs? No. 3D geo-referenced point clouds? No. Volume calculations and contouring? No. Do they even understand the meanings and implications of the aforementioned phrases? I seriously doubt it. The type of equipment we use is far more sophisticated than the typical hobbyist drone. But enough negativity. We are here to punctuate the positive potential of UAV aerial surveys. We chose the eBeeRTK by Sensefly for our platform. Please see our introductory post here.

First, UAV data collection is very fast. A typical flight of less than 100 acres takes 15-20 minutes. The real work is then done in the office. Meaning no production delay for clients that formerly had to wait for ground personnel to arrive, do the work, and clear the site. Since our UAV flies at an altitude of 400 feet, almost no one even realizes the work is being done. What previously took survey crews hours to do in the field can now literally be done in minutes!

Secondly, the diverse projects that can be completed with the UAV are virtually unlimited. Accident reconstruction, quick site assessment for development, environmental impact studies, disaster assessment, crop health assessment, stockpile volumes, construction progress monitoring, and more. This is truly incredible technology, limited only by imagination. Sensefly even has a demo project where they mapped the Matterhorn.

We’ve decided to dedicate this separate website and blog to our drone survey division. We’ll still be providing the same great conventional surveying services through our other site. Please ask any questions that come to mind and we’ll try to answer them in future posts.

Ned Ferguson