At the HxGN conference in Las Vegas today, there were some very interesting new technologies.
Juergen Dold, President of Hexagon Geosystems, announced a relationship between Leica Geosystems and Aibotix, a company that produces a hexacopter that can carry a payload, typically an off-the-shelf digital camera, of up to 2.5 kg for 20 to 30 minutes. The Aibot X6 can fly preprogrammed flight paths and take predefined aerial photos autonomously. With preprogrammed routes it is possible to make aerial photographs for land surveying, 3D models of buildings, building development, thermography images for the maintenance of solar power systems, detailed aerial photos for the maintenance of power lines or wind turbines or images for the inspection of bridges.
The detail that is possible is at the millimeter level as you can see in the image of a part of a transmission pylon in Austria.
There are some fascinating videos of how the hexacopter has been used inspect transmission line pylons, inspect bridges, to create a 3D model of a ruin of a castle, and other applications.