How Much Does a Drone Survey Cost?

Drone surveying, or drone mapping, as I often call it, has come out as a reliable and cost-effective alternative to manual surveying. Not to miss out on its accuracy and 100,000 times better data collection capabilities! 

But how much does a drone survey actually cost? What factors determine its cost? Is it worth switching from manual to drone surveying? 

In this article, I’ve answered all these questions. So, let’s get started without further ado. 

How Much Does a Drone Survey Cost?

How Much Does a Drone Survey Cost?

To find out how much a drone survey costs, I decided to talk to some professional surveyors through my contacts. 

Here’s what I found: 

The average cost of a drone survey per acre is around $30 to $120. On the other hand, a complex survey that requires specialist equipment, like HDR cameras, LiDAR sensors, or thermal imaging cameras, can cost you up to $2000 to $5000, or even more!

But I would like to remind you that these are only ballpark figures! As the surveyors also told me, the actual costs vary with several factors that come into play, as discussed next.

How Is the Cost of a Drone Survey Determined?

The following factors determine the overall cost of a drone survey: 

Type of Drone

The most important factor on which the majority of the cost of a drone survey depends is the type of drone to be used. 

Typically, a larger drone with a more advanced camera setup and capabilities will cost more than a smaller model with a basic camera mounted. 

Area to be Surveyed

By ‘area to be surveyed,’ I mean not only its size but also its type. Is the plot to be surveyed on a mountainous terrain or densely forested territory?

If yes, it’ll need more flights and a longer time for the survey, resulting in higher costs. 

On the other hand, the survey of a horizontal plane will take fewer flights and less time. And thus lower the costs.

Survey Scope and Complexity in Drone Survey

Next comes the survey scope and complexity of the drone survey. To explain in simple terms, this scope of work outlines the required deliverables, flight time, data processing, and other aspects. 

Remember: 

More the scope of work, the higher the survey costs

Here’s a quick example for your better understanding: 

Let’s say you want a drone survey of your 1-acre residential plot for planning purposes.

This scenario requires a relatively short flight time due to the small area, minimal data processing, and only one primary deliverable, i.e., georeferenced aerial images. 

As a result, the cost will be relatively low. 

Flight Time or Number of Flights

As it goes without saying, longer flight times or more flights will likely elevate the overall aerial survey cost. 

Other Factors

In the list of other factors, I would like to add the required resources, travel and accommodation charges, specific land survey documentation, etc. 

What Types of Additional Fees Might Be Associated With Drone Surveys?

Other fees that might be associated with drone surveys primarily include: 

  • Permits from your local government and FAA (if required) 
  • Airport clearance if the survey area is near an airport. 
  • Post-processing fees for drone surveys. 
  • Establishing ground control points (GCPs) for better data capture accuracy. 

One of my friends recently got their dad’s office space surveyed by a company, and the total bill also included an insurance fee and equipment replacement charges. 

Later on, I learned that the latter was added since the company’s drone suffered damage during the survey! So, keep this in mind as well! 

Advantages of Using Drones for Surveys Over Traditional Methods

Drone surveying offers several advantages over traditional surveying methods. Here are a few of them: 

  • Drones designed for surveying/mapping come with LiDAR sensors that cover large areas quickly, reducing the time and resources required. 
  • Aerial surveying is more cost-effective than manual surveying. 
  • Drones can capture data through foliage and clouds, simplifying surveying forests, mines, and coastal areas.
  • No area is hard to access for drones, be it steep slopes or other remote locations with complicated topography. 
  • Data captured through aerial surveying is much easier to analyze. 

Lastly, drones can collect 100,000 times more data than manual surveyors with the utmost accuracy. 

5 Professional Drone Surveying Services

Based on their experience, pricing, and popularity, I’ve shortlisted the following professional drone survey service providers: 

You can check these out in detail. 

Conclusion 

Here you go, guys. That’s all about how much a drone survey costs. 

While a basic survey can cost you anywhere between $30 to $120 per acre, the same can go up to $2000 to $5000 for a complex survey that requires specialist equipment. 

Nevertheless, the various advantages of aerial surveys outweigh everything else. They are cost- and time-effective, reliable, safer, and suitable for all types of surveys. 

How much does a drone survey cost in your city? Let me know in the comments below. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Are There Different Rates for Various Types of Surveys?

A: Pretty much yes! There are different rates for various types of surveys, depending on multiple factors. I’ve discussed all of them in this article. 

Q: What Factors Should I Consider When Budgeting for a Drone Survey?

A: The list of factors to consider while budgeting for a drone survey is quite extensive, but the following are some important ones: 

  • Flight time
  • Number of required flights
  • Post-processing and analysis
  • Type of drone
  • Size of the survey area
  • Complexity of the project 

Q: How Does the Size of the Survey Area Affect Overall Costs?

A: As a thumb rule, the size of your survey area is directly proportional to its overall costs. In other words, as the area increases, so will its price. 

Q: Are There Industry Standards for Pricing Drone Surveys per Acre?

A: As far as I know, there are no industry standards as such for pricing drone surveys per acre.

Several drone surveyors I talked to for this post typically charge $30 to $120 per acre for a basic survey. Some even charge an hourly rate, like $20, $30, or $40 per hour (on average.) 

Q: Do I Need to Consider Travel and Accommodation Costs for the Survey Team?

A: Frankly speaking, it’s difficult for me to comment on this. I’ve seen several companies and surveyor teams who manage travel and accommodation costs by themselves, provided the project site isn’t too far and the project isn’t supposed to take long. 

Otherwise, they will pass on these additional costs to you. 

Q: Are There Regulatory Compliance Fees for Drone Surveys?

A: Yes, there are regulatory compliance fees for drone surveys. 

Author
Diptesh Das

Diptesh Das is your friendly ‘content maniac’ and drone enthusiastic! Being passionate about content writing. He is a firm believer of the power of words and thereby ended up leveraging them to create an impact by sharing his drone knowledge and experiences.

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