SiteScan from ESRI

Site Scan is cloud-based drone mapping software that provides a comprehensive, end-to-end drone mapping solution. It includes flight planning and fleet management tools that help an AEC project team save time and keep drone operations running smoothly. It lets you securely process drone imagery in a cloud environment to create high-quality 2D and 3D imagery product. In addition, it provides analysis and measurement tools that streamline AEC workflows like surveys and inspections. You can easily share drone datasets and information products across the project team for improved communication and collaboration.

I’ve been using SiteScan since the early days of 3DRobotics (3DR) and with 500+ flights per year the last few years, there is no way we could have pulled off that type of workload without the ease of use and advanced tools that SiteScan has to offer.  Below are some of the brief highlights of SiteScan.

Plan your flight

No, you can’t just show up to a site, drone a drone, and expect to take a nap while the drone magically does your job for you………yet!

There are many things to do prior to flying the drone.  Gain FAA approval if needed, set ground control points (GCP), “prepare” the site by calling in Blue Stakes (811, Julie, etc.), paint some stuff, plan which flight pattern you’ll use, etc., etc., etc.  And each site has its own challenges that need addressed.

With SiteScan, you can increase efficiency by creating and sharing advanced 3D flight plans with your pilots, prior to leaving the office. Overlay 2D and 3D data from ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Enterprise, PDF and more for enhanced flight safety and data quality.

Figure 1

Choose your flight option

SiteScan has several flight options available.  The 2 most common for survey use are the “Area Survey” and “Crosshatch” patterns.

  • Area Survey (NADIR) – This pattern typically consists of no oblique images.
  • Crosshatch – For Example, this flight pattern goes East-West, then flies the same area North-South.  This pattern typically has a 35-degree gimbal angle for oblique images.

So which flight pattern is right for you?  90% of the flights we’ve done the past few years have been done using the area survey option.  I’ve tested over and over the need for a cross hatch pattern, but for most project the data value just isn’t there.  You would think that more coverage is better right?  Instead, the cross hatch causes an increase in field time, an increase in data processing time, an no real major measurable benefit in accuracy. However, crosshatch survey is at times needed.  For areas with highly repetitive land, like crops and dense vegetation and verticality concerns, a cross hatched pattern may be useful.

Figure 2

Upload and process in the cloud

With SiteScan, you have an unlimited amounts of drone flights and drone flight data.  All data is cloud processed into 2D and 3D outputs through a scalable cloud environment. So gone are the days of needing a supercomputer to crunch flight data for hours and hours.  Typically, by the time you leave your site and return to the office, the initial processing has been completed!

High accuracy is ensured through ground control point detection, either manual or automatic. Easily visualize and analyze results directly in a web browser.

Figure 3

Visualize, analyze, and share

Perform drone analytics by measuring distances, surface areas, and volumetrics; conducting temporal analysis; generating cut/fill maps; and measuring change over time. Maintain quality control by comparing your drone data to design overlays—including those in your Autodesk cloud environment—or compare it to drone data captured earlier in the project.

The volume tools are something I use most often, along with the profile tool to visually inspect a cross section at any location in your model.  For the volumes, simply select the volume tool and outline the area you wish to calculate.

Figure 4

With the volume tools, you can choose to calculate volumes based on a 3D Plane (i.e., TOE of Slope), level plane, previous mission and even an uploaded design surface via LandXML!!  The time savings alone in volume calcs would pay for SiteScan.  No need to download data, bring into Civil 3D, convert to a surface, create a volume surface, etc., etc.!

And the profile tool is fantastic!  Go into your point cloud viewer in SiteScan, choose the profile tool and simple cut a section where you want to see the data.  From there, anywhere you drag your cursor along the profile, it will give you X, Y and Z!

Figure 5

Share information with your stakeholders in formats they understand, whether in a 3D view, as a report, or as a map within ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise; invite read-only users to analyze data in Site Scan Manager for ArcGIS; share content and report issues within Autodesk BIM 360; or export in common file formats.

Enterprise fleet management

Fleet management keeps track of flights, drone hardware, and pilot flight history—all in one place. Drone program managers can create custom preflight checklists for their teams and store responses in the cloud.


Site Scan generates several types of files, some of which come in multiple formats. All are available for sharing and downloading from within the Site Scan mobile and web apps:

Orthomosaics (.tiff) is the georeferenced, orthomosaic map of the flight area. Orthomosaics can be opened and manipulated in Google Earth Pro, ArcGIS, QGIS, AutoCAD Civil 3D, Infraworks, and other GIS programs.

DEM (.tiff) is the georeferenced Digital Elevation Model associated with the orthomosaics. The value of each pixel corresponds to an elevation above the ground. DEMs can be opened and manipulated in Google Earth Pro, ArcGIS, QGIS, AutoCAD Civil 3D, Infraworks, and other GIS programs.

DTM (.tiff) is a vector data set composed of regularly spaced points and natural features such as ridges and break lines. A DTM augments a DEM by including linear features of the bare-earth terrain.

Mesh (.rcm, .fbx, .obj) the three mesh formats generated by Site Scan for ArcGIS. .rcm is the Autodesk ReMake native format, optimized for viewing, flythrough videos, and simple volume measurements. .fbx is a second Autodesk mesh format optimized for media and entertainment. .obj is the open mesh format shared across many platforms.

Point cloud (.rcs, .las) the two-point cloud formats generated by Site Scan for ArcGIS. .rcs is the Autodesk point cloud format. Open and edit in ReCap, Civil 3D, Infraworks, or any other Autodesk product. .las is the open point cloud format. Open in PointCloudViz or any CAD software, including Autodesk products.

Contours (.dxf, lines that connect locations of equal value in a raster dataset representing continuous phenomena such as elevation, temperature, precipitation, pollution, or atmospheric pressure.

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Figure 7


There are a ton more features in SiteScan, and I know there is a lot of drone data processing softwares out there, but if you’re looking for something new, or just getting into drone surveys, then I’d highly suggest checking out what SiteScan has to offer.

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