Innovators in Technology Series

Surface Surveys Using Fixed-Wing Drones: Interview with Lyndon Nance

Published
American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

While multi-rotor drones have flexibility and can work in tight spaces, they may not have the enough range and cannot carry enough weight for large projects. Fixed-wing drones can often provide the solution needed for a large surveying or surface geology study. Welcome to an interview with Lyndon Nance, who discusses his experiences with large mapping projects in which he uses fixed-wing drones.

What is your name and your connection to drones?

Lyndon Nance, Land Surveyor. Use drones for data collection

How did you get interested in working with drones? How did you get started?

I was introduced to them by a friend who wanted to test the capability of his Phantom 2, he wanted to know what size of property he could map in a 15 minute flight to provide to realtors. We were on a 25 acre site that had 5 acres of heavy brush. I was impressed because when flying at 400 feet we received data covering 65 acres and we were able to identify the trees in the heavy brush, I needed this for city development. Then with a little experimenting and survey data input we were able to extract topographic data. This experience is what really opened me up to the possible uses for surveying.

How have drones and drone use changed in the last few years?

The size, capability, and reliability have all improved making the industry more marketable for commercial use and public enjoyment.

What is a fixed wing drone, and what are the advantages?

A "fixed wing drone" is simply a plane. The advantages of flying a plane vs a copter are you can carry more weight and cover a larger area. I chose a SurveyMaster from AutonomousAeronautics after researching the industry for about 6 months. It has a 2 hour battery powered flight time and can cover 1,000 acres.

The disadvantage of a fixed wing is you need a "landing zone" this isn't always a problem but it can prove difficult for heavy brush. I have been impressed that within the last few months I have been seeing more vertical takeoff and landing fixed wing drones coming out the market.

Please describe one or two of your projects. What made the projects special? What were some of the breakthroughs?

We have been working on a 9,000 acre ranch in west Texas and the north border is the Pecos River. Typically I would bring up a Johnboat and it would take roughly 3 days to survey the meanders of the 7 miles of river, we were able to cover the entire river in an hour and 15 minutes. The client also requested an aerial image and topographic data for the ranch. We are able to provide all of this along with boundary data without hiring a third party contractor and we can fly on our schedule or during water breaks and we can work directly around the weather as clouds or storms move through and wind rises or calms.

I can't call it a break-through but the simple fact that typically it would take us roughly a month to provide a topographic survey on a 9,000 acre ranch but we have been able to cover this property in 6 days. This technology has made our capabilities to cover large acres open to more people by drastically reducing the price of our end product.

What do you have planned for the future?

I am excited about the future of the thermal imaging markets, and lidar capabilities, we are actively pursuing both and looking at weights of different instruments and results of the data.


Lyndon Nance will be giving a full presentation at the "New Opportunities with Drones" GTW Dec 1-2 in Houston.

Contact Information

If you want to contact me directly for a quote or questions: Cell: 361-537-8890 or .
Thanks, Lyndon Nance

Comments (1)

Contact Information
If you want to contact me directly for a quote or questions: Cell: 361-537-8890 Email: [email protected] Thanks, Lyndon Nance
10/18/2016 11:31:27 AM

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