I have been involved with UAV's (aka drones) for three years and started using them as an add on service for various existing clients. Since then the drone side of the business has grown and having practiced as a chartered surveyor for over 20 years I could see the huge potential they have for the property sector. In addition in light of my previous life in the aggregates sector I could see many applications where drones would be more efficient, cost effective and provide a better solution. Over the three years I have focused my drone work on providing clients with data outputs which add value to their business. A key part of this has been providing clients with orthomosaics, digital elevation models and point clouds. 

I attended the The Survey Association three day photogrammetry course last year which was an excellent grounding. Whilst being a Chartered Surveyor the general perception is that you are qualifed to carry out "surveys", that is far from the case. We are qualified in different sectors, I am in the Agriculture and Minerials & Waste Management divisions. So whilst having experience in and having managed traditional surveying departments there is always scope for further training.

Andy's career has been in photogrammetry and analysis having been trained and worked for the RAF. As with many others who have been in the "Services" their level of skills and knowledge in their chosen field is comprehensive. I guess it needs to be when you job is to find things on imagery that everyone else is trying to hide!! We were all provided with course materials with the broad agenda being Day 1 in the classroom, Day 2 practical data capture and a bit more classroom work. The attendees were all active drone users with some having just started on the PfCO route and with a few of us with more experience.

The first day is "full on" covering many aspects of the theory behind photogrammetry but also and most importantly best practice in capturing aerial imagery, planning and understanding what outputs you can excpect to deliver. For those who have litte or no experience in photogrammtry it would have been a steep learning curve. However Andy was always prepared to take questions and explain in further detail if that was necessary. Added to that other attendees were also able to add their thoughts and experiences. 

Day 2 gave all attendees to fly a site (a grass airstrip) and get the opportunity to plan their own flight and capture the data. To give it a bit more complexity Andy asked each persion to capture the data at varying resolutiuons so a bit of maths was required to deterimne the height at which the flight should be conducted. We spent the remainder of the day looking at the various software applications that can be used to capture imagery.

Photogrammetry is one of those dark arts that only a few years ago required a good technical knowledge on how it worked to enable you to deliver meaningful results. Advances in software have changed this. It is quite possible for someone to buy a drone and with readily available software create "outputs" with a matter of days on purchasing it. However that is one very small part of the equation, the important bit is understanding what the client needs, how they are going to use the data, in which formats they need it. A further important aspect is understanding the "accuracy" of these outputs and some newly qualifed PfCO operators have fallen into the trap of telling the client they can deliver surveys to mm accuracy. Some drone operators can deliver this level of accuracy but to achieve this there is a lot of skill and knowledge required together with years of experience and the right equipment. Balanced against this with the right training drone operators can deliver high quality outputs which are fit for purpose and meet clients needs. This was endorsed by Ian Titchener (Ely Aviation and out host) how provides surveys and photogrammetry outputs for a wide range of clients.

So in summary this is an excellent training course for anyone involved in the drone sector who wants to be able to deliver photogrammetry solutions for clients. It doesn't matter if you are new to the subject matter or have some existing knowledge and experience you will come away the wiser. I did. Andy knows his stuff, is an enthusiatic presenter and delivers an excellent course. His web site is here.

PS - Thanks to Ian for hosting the course and keeping us fed, watered and supplied with coffee. The only thing that did not go to plan was the chance to have a "Fenland Pie" for supper. Ian directed us to the Land & Flag at Welney and unfortunatley they don't do food on Sunday evening. 

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