Survey / Mapping / Inspection / Post Processing Hourly Rate

maxx4wd

Member
Sorry if this has been brought up before but recently a local county has asked for hourly rates for general topographic survey (not survey grade - more like plan check ball park 1' accuracy) / general inspection and post processing hourly rates.

I don't want to go too low nor be way out of scope and be too high...what do you guys generally charge for these services. We are a group of civil engineers that do a ton of high end work on the civil side but also are supplementing our business with some basic industrial inspection and in-progress mapping. We usually absorb the cost ourselves in our parent company on our own jobs but this is a little bit different for us.

Here's what I was thinking (and know it's california so some areas may be higher or lower)


Site flying - survey autonomous - single operator (<5 acres) $90 / hr
Site flying - survey autonomous - single operator (5-40 acres).... $110 / hr
Site flying - inspection - manual flight - single operator - pilot .... $100 / hr
Site flying - inspection - manual flight - visual observer or camera operator .... $75 / hr
Site flying – inspection – flight crew – support (if required) … $50 / hr
Post processing - ground control adjustment / point cloud processing / aerial imagery adjustment ... $75 / hr
Post processing - point cloud / DTM generation / mosaic overlay / contour map generation ... $90 / hr
Video editing / CAD drawing / Model rendering ... $85 / hr
Travel Time ... (location dependent) $
Insurance ($25/hr) Verifly per instance cost - direct cost $10 – 25 / hr
Flight planning / airspace clearance requests (if applicable) / Genral admin ... $75/hr

This is totally off the cuff and would love some input...I know our engineering CAD / post processing costs and have those nailed down but some input would be awesome...we've internally already decided what we sent in our contract but just wanted to use this as a sounding board plus it may help us as an industry normalize stuff as well.

(edit for clarification - we are merely setting an hourly cost for drone inspection services for the county in order for them to determine if they should keep these services in house of farm them out to independent contractors...we have no horse in this game directly)
 
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Is there an alternative way for them to get this work accomplished and what would that cost? I would say no its not unreasonable. If anything you may be a little low. This field is so new that's it can be hard to price. If that's what you can do it for and still make a profit then go for it. I would guess that the people wanting the survey work would not have a problem with these figures. A local competitor would be reluctant to reveal their rates for fear that you will underbid them. I think were all wondering how much the other guy charges and how we should price our work. In a few more years maybe things will even out and the rates will become competitive but for now were all kind of feeling it out. Those seem like good numbers and you might be surprised to find out that you have just set the bar in your area.
 

maxx4wd

Member
Is there an alternative way for them to get this work accomplished and what would that cost? I would say no its not unreasonable. If anything you may be a little low. This field is so new that's it can be hard to price. If that's what you can do it for and still make a profit then go for it. I would guess that the people wanting the survey work would not have a problem with these figures. A local competitor would be reluctant to reveal their rates for fear that you will underbid them. I think were all wondering how much the other guy charges and how we should price our work. In a few more years maybe things will even out and the rates will become competitive but for now were all kind of feeling it out. Those seem like good numbers and you might be surprised to find out that you have just set the bar in your area.

Yes I totally understand competitive bidding...we bid on contracts all the time but we aren't in a competitive bid situation - we are giving this particular county a benchmark to estimate if drone work is worth taking in-house or farming out to a independent contractor. I'm only listing the actual survey particulars - we have a whole other section dedicated to the cost of the drone / licensing / insurance / etc.

I guess what I was looking for was some feedback for a range of costs for these types of services...we don't have a stake in this game (not directly at least) but we are rather helping the county out by establishing some base numbers...forgive me if that wasn't clear from my initial post...I was putting basically average values for these services. We are basically setting the bar so I didn't want to set it too low nor too high - I've factored in almost everything except maintenance of aircraft / insurance / etc as that usually is explicitly the cost of doing business (at least it's always been in engineering so I can reasonably think its true for this as well) but we did include direct costs like software leasing as this may or may not be a typical and constant form of work (at least not yet).

For a fixed wing manned aerial survey we usually see $5-10K depending on how much detail is required and what contour interval is required. That's also a registered professional surveyor signing off on the work...this is more like a site scan or in-progress quick ball park survey or inspection type flight with reasonable deliverables.

The listed values may in fact be a bit low...when we actually performed one last week it took quite a bit more post-processing time then anticipated but we were also comparing our results to an actual certified survey which is why we're showing these as an hourly rate.

I know that on this and other boards a lot of discussion has been laid out for the costs and pricing for real estate type work so I was just hoping to do the same for similar but skewed for inspection / in progress field services...

Thanks for the input...much appreciated.
 

rstekeur

Member
Is the price your charging including any other processing? I did a 70 acres site, single operator for $350, It dd include 1.5 hrs travel time. This is new for me other than client jobs on Dronebase which they probably 50% of what they charge. I would think it would be hard to charge by the hour, I flew 70 acres on 1 battery on my P3P
 

maxx4wd

Member
Is the price your charging including any other processing? I did a 70 acres site, single operator for $350, It dd include 1.5 hrs travel time. This is new for me other than client jobs on Dronebase which they probably 50% of what they charge. I would think it would be hard to charge by the hour, I flew 70 acres on 1 battery on my P3P

It's a line item deal and obviously varies between jobs - I'd say most jobs <5 acres could easily be done within 1 hr (onsite time) maybe 2 if you fly it more than once (we always fly redundant back-to-back flights with different cards just in case one fails or you get bad imagery). More if we have to tie into ground control and it's outside of our planned operating area. We've never had to use the 2nd data set but it it interesting how lighting can affect orthography so to be on the safe side it's easier to fly twice then come back and re-fly - also most of our flights are in canyons or have limited internet access so have to be processed back at the office. With that said we don't usually charge for travel time (but we also do most of the engineering for our own projects so this is like a value add type service for the clients...stand-alone pricing as shown here will be a bit higher not much though).

The deliverables / point cloud weeding / etc is all based on actual editing time and is per project...on average I'd say for a normal half developed site like we'd normally scan...probably $1500 to $2500 for all processing / cad work / final deliverables...maybe less if the client just wanted a cool model but most of ours are tied to the engineering drawings in some capacity so we almost always incorporate the mosaic and re-establish the "as-built" contours etc and overlay them onto the site specific line work. All this is very time dependent and as technology the UAV side matures I'm sure the data capture portion will reduce as well as the manual labor required to get usable models...plus it has to be worth it for us or anyone to do the work or else what's the point (not trying to nickel and dime the projects to death either but find a happy medium).

We might be to high in some areas and too low in others...that's whats so nice to hear the feedback so hopefully collectively we can set standards...the development process in general is laden with red tape and fees from every angle - I'm not trying to add to it but I also think we can reduce the aerial part in half if not more from the traditional manned aerials... (surveyor's are still needed to tie the boundaries, etc. so no avoiding that but at least the raw data could be gathered a bit easier and will improve the process.) ---sorry I forgot to actually hit post reply...
 

Old Man

Active Member
I have trouble understanding how a group of "civil engineers" are having trouble establishing their value. It's pretty easy to determine what your hourly rate would be as an independent contractor and add to that for services additional to your engineering specialty.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

maxx4wd

Member
I have trouble understanding how a group of "civil engineers" are having trouble establishing their value. It's pretty easy to determine what your hourly rate would be as an independent contractor and add to that for services additional to your engineering specialty.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


If you actually read what I'm writing...I'm not having trouble with establishing it - what I'm asking is what others are charging so that we can get a range as I'm basically setting the tone for the particular area that we are in. If you've been around drone business at all, in almost all the other areas of our business there is almost always this same pricing information shared except for the aerial inspection which is primarily done behind the scenes...I'm just trying to get some info out there...nothing more. Basically doing a typical check-and-balance (which all bidding does - just maybe not in an open forum). I have all of our "engineering services" nailed down (as stated in the first post)...Just trying to make sure we are doing a reasonable job representing the inspection side...
 

Old Man

Active Member
I did read your previous from top to bottom and the rates that were reflected indicated the fee structure was significantly lower than most professional level hourly rates. Where site flying/inspection has a two person crew going for less than a single person operation suggests something isn't quite right. Had it stated "per man hour" it would have almost made sense. That anyone would even consider a single person operation in a commercial endeavor generates questions. When a reasonably good technician, without a professional degree, earns upwards of $35.00/hr +benefit package, allowing for the cost of overhead before mark up, equipment depreciation and maintenance reserves, then adding for local, state, and federal taxes, your fee structure at best only offsets the cost of doing business. No business that desires to remain one does so when profit is confused with wages. Executing a business on that basis suggests stepping back and enrolling in some courses in economics and business management would be highly beneficial, or that you're on a fishing expedition to obtain data that would permit low balling currently established aerial services.

One think I know and understand is engineers. What they do best revolves around numbers, and they loath arriving at a conclusion until after completing exhaustive research and even then won't conclude with a finding or design unless there is consensus. They don't understand business decision making and make lousy managers since they weren't trained for those activities. The costs associated with your original post reflects all of that since the rates are much too low.
 
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maxx4wd

Member
I did read your previous from top to bottom and the rates that were reflected indicated the fee structure was significantly lower than most professional level hourly rates. Where site flying/inspection has a two person crew going for less than a single person operation suggests something isn't quite right. Had it stated "per man hour" it would have almost made sense.

The intention was for it to be a line item (each user is a separate line item) (i.e. if you had a remote PIC and say 1 crew member you'd use two line items...at for instance a rate of $100 for the RPIC and $75 for a visual observer so combined it is $175/hr for a multi person crew. Sorry if that was unclear I can change the wording to ensure the line item bidding is a bit more clear.


That anyone would even consider a single person operation in a commercial endeavor generates questions.

Sorry to disagree with you here but there are plenty of single op missions that do not need more than a single operator...site inspection for most autonomous small site work fits right into that category...if you had congested airspace or other then i'm with you but otherwise to have another person out there to twiddle their thumbs is just a waste...not sure what clients you have but ours are pretty keen and unless mandated for safety more people onsite is not necessarily a great thing.

When a reasonably good technician, without a professional degree, earns upwards of $35.00/hr +benefit package, allowing for the cost of overhead before mark up, equipment depreciation and maintenance reserves, then adding for local, state, and federal taxes, your fee structure at best only offsets the cost of doing business. No business that desires to remain one does so when profit is confused with wages. Executing a business on that basis suggests stepping back and enrolling in some courses in economics and business management would be highly beneficial, or that you're on a fishing expedition to obtain data that would permit low balling currently established aerial services.

Not trying to be argumentative but at 3x the payout rate for the operator, I'm not sure what overhead you have but maybe you need to rethink your business plan (if you can't perform your business with a 3x billing rate and make say a 30% profit then maybe you need to cut some costs)...we've operated all over the country on small and large jobs, with professional and non-professional (tech) employees for 20+ years and you're suggesting rates that exceed the 3x rule of thumb and approach rates for a technician that are more representative of a licensed professional...sorry but it's not going to happen with our clients and I would be laughed at if I proposed that to a regulatory agency. Sorry but in no way shape or form is a 107 or 333 pilot going to pull rates that a licensed land survey or civil would be billing out. Great for you guys if you can get it but wouldn't happen in our industry. Now post processing and tie-ins for GCP performed by a licensed land surveyor or civil (for non-boundary use) can pull those rates but that's outside the scope of this estimate.

One think I know and understand is engineers. What they do best revolves around numbers, and they loath arriving at a conclusion until after completing exhaustive research and even then won't conclude with a finding or design unless there is consensus. They don't understand business decision making and make lousy managers since they weren't trained for those activities. The costs associated with your original post reflects all of that since the rates are much too low.

Agreed which is exactly what I'm asking...there is nothing fixed about these numbers and may be a bit low but they're not nearly as low as you may suggest. Hence the question posted here (for "research" and "consensus" aka fishing as you also refer to it) - maybe my choice of forums was poor...but I'd figure I'd just ask the actual community which the work is based.

I appreciate your response and will adjust the rates a bit to reflect them being a bit low, I appreciate the challenge to my approach as well and will check my internal numbers as well as anyone can make a mistake. I don't appreciate the needless attach on my person but being a public forum that to be expected to an extent, but if it makes you feel better to attack others for asking a question then so be it. Clearly our overhead is wildly different then your current business model, we operate a pretty lean staff and get a ton of work done for our size so maybe we are a bit biased but to be competitive that is our advantage, and we take pride in competing with firms far larger.

To wrap, I'm not seeking to low bid anything but rather represent a solid average cost for general site inspection / periodic "as-built" or progress site conditions and to help those seeking the same information. Most operators (at least in our area) are either independent single-man or small crew operations or are large construction companies that have dedicated staff to perform these type jobs. Each comes with their own issues and challenges. Appreciate your comments and the best of luck with your flying...
 

hi , we can offer big uav drone to you .

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