How to Become a Drone Surveyor

July 5

Drone surveying has quickly become one of our industry’s most in-demand skills. With the ability to capture huge amounts of data in short flights, drone surveying offers serious cost and time savings to projects of all sizes.

The demand for drone surveying means there are plenty of opportunities for anyone who’s looking to break into the industry. But drone surveying is a skilled career, and we often hear from students who aren’t sure where to start.

Today, we’ll go over how to become a drone surveyor and provide step-by-step instructions for getting started in the industry.


What is a Drone Surveyor?

A drone surveyor is a professional UAV pilot that uses drones to collect survey data, such as photos, videos, 3D models, terrain information and more. This data is typically used to map and measure an area of land (or structures that are on the land) for construction and engineering projects.

While drone surveying is a relatively new discipline, surveying has played a major role in construction projects for hundreds of years. Survey data was traditionally collected by teams on the ground. Using common measuring equipment, these surveyors would assess the size, shape and location of a building site, and provide insights to assist with:

  • New construction and engineering projects
  • Monitoring changes in the land after events like earthquakes and floods
  • Planning infrastructure routes for roads and railways
  • Ensuring completed buildings meet engineering specifications

This information is critical to the success and safety of projects. The main challenge is that surveying projects can take hundreds of hours of work to complete. Drone surveyors bypass this issue. By using drones to record survey data, a drone surveyor can collect huge amounts of information during the course of a short flight, greatly speeding up project planning.


How to Become a Drone Surveyor in Australia

Drone surveying has quickly become one of the industry’s most in-demand skills. There is huge potential for drone surveyors to work in lucrative roles across Australia, and getting started is relatively easy:


1. Obtain Your Drone Licence

In Australia, drone licences are issued by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). Your drone licence – more commonly called a Remote Pilot’s Licence (RePL) – allows you to operate most types of drones on a commercial basis. If you’re planning to be a drone surveyor and offer services to other businesses, you’ll need an RePL.

Anyone aged 16 and over can apply for an RePL. This is typically done through an RePL training provider. Your training provider will offer hands-on experience as well as theory-based learning to help you build your skills as a drone pilot.

As a bonus, many RePL training providers are able to issue your RePL upon successful completion of the course. This saves you from applying directly to CASA, which may take several months.


2. Figure Out if You Need a Remote Operator’s Certificate

A Remote Operator’s Certificate (ReOC) allows an individual or business to trade as a drone service provider. While your RePL authorises you to fly drones on a commercial basis, you can only offer professional services through an ReOC holder. After obtaining your RePL you have two main options. You can:

  • Work for an ReOC holder. You can use your RePL to find employment with a business that already holds an ReOC. There are dozens of companies offering drone surveying services across Australia, and this is the simplest way to kickstart your career as a drone pilot.
  • Obtain your own ReOC. If you intend to work for yourself or establish a drone surveying business, you’ll need an ReOC. The best way to obtain an ReOC is to work with a drone training provider. Training providers are equipped to help you develop and submit your application, which can significantly reduce the time it takes to complete the ReOC process.


3. Familiarise Yourself with Drone Surveying Techniques

Your employer will offer on-the-job training, but you can make yourself a more appealing candidate by familiarising yourself with the four major surveying technologies:

  1. Photography and videography. Drone surveyors use photography and videography extensively. These images are used to monitor, map and measure sites during project planning.
  2. Laser scanning. Many surveying drones are equipped with laser sensors that use invisible light to capture information about structures and terrain. This data can be translated into detailed 3D models using surveying software.
  3. Photogrammetry. Photogrammetry allows pilots to use drones to map an area and take accurate measurements from the photographs.
  4. Multispectral imaging. Drones with multispectral cameras can be used to capture electromagnetic data that is useful when monitoring crop health in the agriculture industry. 

    4. Invest in the Correct Hardware

    If you choose to work for an existing drone service provider then you typically won’t need to supply your own equipment. If you intend to establish your own company, or if you’d like to purchase your own drones, you need to do serious research before investing.

    Importantly, not all drones do the same thing, so you’ll need to decide which services you intend to offer. For example, platforms like the DJI Matrice M30T are ideal for services such as terrain mapping and 3D modelling, but they’re less versatile than models like the Matrice M350RTK that can accept dozens of different payloads.


    5. Build Your Portfolio

    Drone surveying is just like any other industry – experience counts for everything. A portfolio is a great way to show off your skills and market yourself as a drone surveyor.

    It’s a good idea to keep detailed records, photographs and videos of any jobs you complete. This information can be used to build out a portfolio that shows your work and the results you have been able to achieve for clients.

    We’d recommend creating a website to showcase your portfolio. Even if you’re working for someone else, your website is a great marketing tool, and it can help you demonstrate your work when tendering for projects or moving to a role at a new company.


    6. Expand Your RePL Endorsements

    The drone industry is always evolving, and that means it’s your job to stay on top of your professional development. While you can offer many common drone surveying services with a standard RePL, you can significantly expand your career and service offerings with additional RePL endorsements.

    Budding drone surveyors should seriously consider additional training in things like drone photography, night time operations, powered lift (VTOL) and larger drone platforms. These additional endorsements make you more attractive as a potential employee, and they allow you to command greater value when providing drone surveying services.


    Start Your Career as a Drone Surveyor with Courses from Toll Uncrewed Systems

    Drone surveying is a highly skilled role that requires a combination of training and on-the-job experience. If you’re just getting started, the best place to begin is with obtaining your RePL from Toll Uncrewed Systems.

    We’ve been training drone pilots for years, and our courses include everything from basic certifications to advanced drone surveying programs. If you’re ready to kickstart your career as a drone surveyor, we can put together a training package that helps you achieve your goals and reach new heights.

    You can browse our course catalogue online at any time, or contact us to find out more about the courses you need to become a drone surveyor.

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UAV Training Australia and Advanced Aerial Solutions have merged as Toll Uncrewed Systems