How to successfully process manned aircraft data with AirWorks

Ever since aviation took off (pun intended!), land surveyors have employed manned aircraft to capture data on the ground.

Although some of these data capture practices have evolved to include more modern technologies like UAVs, the use of manned aircraft for survey data collection will continue. 

Both types of aircraft are well suited to different scenarios and will prove beneficial depending on the type of work that needs to be done. Manned aircraft are best for covering large areas quickly, while UAVs are the better choice for smaller areas or projects with an expedited schedule. Both can be used together to produce a better dataset with high resolution in the critical areas while still covering the entire project. 

Land surveyors will carry on with this practice for the foreseeable future because it allows them to cover large areas quickly, along with other benefits. For many surveyors however, the sudden growth of UAVs has increased their choices for aerial surveying equipment, all at a fraction of the cost. 

Despite the common belief that our autonomous CAD drafting software only works with data collected with UAVs, you can successfully process manned aircraft data with AirWorks. 

Read below to find out more.


Does flight altitude matter to AirWorks?

As long as we are able to see it, our software can draft it, but there are limitations to what can be accomplished at higher flight altitudes.

Given their larger size and capacity to carry more weight, manned aircraft have to fly at a higher altitude, but are usually equipped with large cameras that can collect an incredible volume of high quality images. Even though UAVs usually fly closer to the ground, these high resolution images that are captured with manned aircraft are typically good enough to use in CAD drafting, given certain accuracy requirements, which vary from site to site.


Is my manned aircraft data accurate enough? 

While drones are able to collect imagery at a significantly closer distance and higher resolution, manned aircraft datasets are also suitable for autonomous drafting, as long as the dataset is collected with the certain guidelines in mind (more on that below).

As an example, let's say your project requires drafting of small features, such as fire hydrants. These have the potential to be captured using drone data, but are difficult to distinguish in manned aircraft data and currently not visible when using satellite data only.


My dataset has a higher GSD, what can I expect from AirWorks?

The quality and accuracy of the CAD file we deliver to our clients is entirely dependent on the quality of the input dataset. That being said, no project is created equally, and we understand that the requirements for one differ from others, so we always say that it depends on what you need. 

Below is a table that highlights the quality of the output you can expect from AirWorks for our 10 standard layers, given the variances in GSD for the input dataset. 

Layer Type

Data Quality Requirements

Roads, Sidewalks, Buildings, Vegetation


  • 15cm minimum

  • 7.5cm recommended

Curbs, Manholes, Catch Basins, Water


  • 7.5cm minimum

  • 5cm recommended

Pavement Markings


  • 7.5cm minimum

  • 5cm recommended

  • (symbols and text require under 3cm)

Contours (Major & Minor)


  • RMSEz

    • 0.32' minimum

  • GSD Source Imagery

    • 0.32' minimum

    • 0.16' recommended


  • RMSEz

    • .65' minimum

  • GSD Source Imagery

    • 0.65' minimum

    • 0.32' recommended

For a complete list of all layers and add-ons offered, as well as our recommended GSD metrics, please visit our Knowledge Base

As you can see, AirWorks is more than just a service for processing drone-collected data. As long as your data collection practices are in line with the recommended ASPRS standards, our software will be a viable tool for increasing your efficiency and maintaining accuracy in your engineering and survey deliverables.

If you happen to only used manned aircraft for your data collection, it's likely that you and your team are still having to manually trace out objects and linework in your massive datasets.

AirWorks helps you reduce manual drafting by automating that process at scale so that your drafters can focus on more high-level tasks, project management, gaining new business, and much more. 

To learn more, visit our website at