Cochise County implements drone use for mapping and topography tasks

Drones can quickly and accurately capture data, expediting a mapping process.   File photo

Cochise County has implemented the use of drones to help reduce the cost and time it takes to plan major projects.

The Highway & Floodplain Department is using drones for mapping and topography tasks that were previously performed manually. A group of employees became certified drone pilots after taking a class from Cochise College’s Unmanned Aerial Systems instructor Don Wirthlin. 

“Using the drone will drastically cut the time it takes to go out in the field and gather the information we need," land surveyor Doug Jones, who took part in the training, said. "That also means projects will take less time in the design phase.”

Drones can quickly and accurately capture data, expediting the mapping process from up to two weeks or more to just a couple of days, or less. The county can now handle larger mapping projects instead of outsourcing them, often at costs of up to $50,000.

"The drone creates contour maps that are amazing, as well as 3D images,” Jones said. "My father owned a land surveying company and he was always pushing to be cutting edge. It’s great that the county is doing that also, and that I get to be a part of that."

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