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A Church Captured Using Photogrammetry From Drone Images

Drones In Surveying – James Pick

James Pick is the leading drone surveying expert at COPTRZ. He provides companies of all scales with the training, equipment and support needed to integrate drones into their surveying workflow. This includes providing CAA approved pilot training, offering a range of drones and sensors such as DJI, Wingtra, LiDAR and Phase One cameras, and giving training in software such as Pix4D. We were fortunate enough to have a conversation with him about his career and his thoughts on the use of drones in surveying.

Starting Out

James has always had some interest in geospatial technologies and aviation. After leaving school he began to learn more about the sector and enrolled at Newcastle University to study Surveying and Mapping Science. During his dissertation he used a drone, which the university had recently acquired, to map the Northumbrian coastline.

Following gradation he joined Scopus Engineering working as an offshore surveyor. This involved doing dimension control in all manner of exotic locations including, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana and even the North Sea. This work gave him experience in data collection, processing and modelling. After four years working offshore he returned to terra firma and began work at SCCS, providing surveying and engineering companies with UAV sales advice.

A photograph from James' time as an offshore surveyor


In late 2017 James joined COPTRZ as a business development manager, helping surveying and construction companies to enable drones into their workflow. The companies he works with range from small individual businesses right the way through to global construction companies such as Jacobs, Kiers, Costain, Arcadis and Laing O’Rourkes.

COPTRZ Team with one of their drones the M600 Pro
Some of the COPTRZ team with an M600 Pro

COPTRZ is a fast paced and enjoyable environment to work in. The company is only 4 years old but has already established its self as a leader in the geospatial industry. He is given a great deal of autonomy and provided with all the support that he needs to achieve his best. One of the things he enjoys about his role is that he is able to get out of the office and meet a wide range of clients. There is also a good amount of variety in his work as he still gets to process data and go to site as part of his demonstrations.

Using Drones In Surveying

In the next 12- 18 months James can see every survey company having access to a drone in one way or another, as it will become an essential piece of equipment. One piece of advice he offered was that surveyors often wait to be asked by clients to use a drone, but really they should be looking for opportunities as to where it can already be used in their existing business.

An example of this is a 200 acre topographic survey which he conducted in an hour and twenty minutes of flying that would have taken three weeks using traditional methods. The main advantage of using drones in surveying is that a large amount of data can be captured quickly and accurately. In addition, it is often safer as it doesn’t require “boots on the ground”. In terms of accuracy James believes it is possible to obtain a +-50mm accuracy with a good methodology, and higher levels are possible, for instance Plowman Craven’s Vogel UAV system is able to get an accuracy of 1-3mm on Network Rail projects.

A Church Captured Using Photogrammetry From Drone Images
A Church Captured Using Photogrammetry From Drone Images

His final offering was that survey companies should get a drone as soon as possible as they will be left behind and playing catch up otherwise. If you would like to know more about how drones can be utilised in your business, you can get in touch with James at: or 07950 523050

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