How to Get the Most Out of Your Survey Equipment Rental

September 14, 2023
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We get requests just about every day from companies all over the world asking about renting survey equipment

Purchasing aerial, mobile, and terrestrial survey equipment is significant financial investment, especially for occasional or short-term projects. 

We also meet many companies that are just entering the survey industry who need to win bids and succeed at a few projects before they are ready to buy, or maybe they are expanding into new applications. 

This is where survey equipment rental becomes an attractive option. In this article, we will explore what you need to know to successfully rent survey equipment, focusing on survey aircraft, aerial survey lidar, and aerial survey large-format cameras.

Why Consider Survey Equipment Rental?

Before delving into the specifics of survey equipment rental, let's address the fundamental question: why should you consider it in the first place?

  • Cost Efficiency: Purchasing survey equipment can be a hefty financial burden, especially for small businesses or projects with budget constraints. Renting equipment allows you to access high-quality instruments without the upfront costs. You only need to “pay as you play.”
paper money - variety of currencies
  • OpEx vs. CapEx: A common challenge our clients face is needing equipment later in the fiscal year, but not having anything left in their budgets for capital expenditures. Renting instead of purchasing allows you to leverage operating expenses to acquire the equipment you need, when you need it.
  • During Repairs: We know how disruptive it can be to your business to have to send your sensor to the manufacturer for maintenance or repair. If it needs to be shipped internationally, you may be without that equipment for 3-4 months! Renting equipment can be the best way to keep to your project timelines while your own equipment is not available.
  • Flexibility: Surveying needs can vary greatly from one project to another. Renting equipment provides the flexibility to choose the right tools for each job without being tied down to a specific set of equipment.
  • Access to the Latest Technology: Surveying technology evolves rapidly. By renting, you can become familiar with state-of-the-art equipment before you invest in a large purchase.
small aircraft in front of hangar
  • Reduced Maintenance and Storage: Owning survey equipment means you're responsible for maintenance and storage. When you rent, there are no annual maintenance fees and you don’t have to worry about where to keep your equipment safely when it’s not out in the field. And for aircraft, rental is extremely cost effective. You have no routine maintenance, no overhauls, and no monthly hangar fees to worry about.
Attention Equipment Owners! If you own survey equipment that is sitting idle, consider making it earn revenue for you as a rental. Keep reading to learn more about what equipment is in high demand, setting your terms, and minimizing risk.

Which Survey Equipment Rentals Are Most in Demand?

Now that we've established the benefits of survey equipment rental, let's delve into the types of equipment that are in high demand and worth considering for your projects.

Survey Aircraft:

The large majority of our clients are engaged in large-scale aerial mapping and data collection, and require survey-modified aircraft with hatches. These survey aircraft integrate advanced technology to capture high-resolution images, lidar data, and other geospatial information. 

Survey aircraft rental is particularly sought after for tasks like:

  • Aerial Mapping: Survey aircraft are used to acquire the data used to create detailed maps of vast areas, such as forests, urban landscapes, and coastlines. They are indispensable for topographic mapping, land-use planning, insurance assessments after natural disasters, and environmental assessment.
  • Emergency Response: In disaster management, survey aircraft can quickly assess damage and help coordinate rescue efforts. They provide critical information for first responders and decision-makers. 
  • Infrastructure Planning: For large infrastructure projects like highways, railways, and pipelines, survey aircraft help gather accurate data for planning and design, as well as ensuring that these areas are clear of vegetation or other obstacles.
Revolution Flight Cessna Caravan

Companies that specialize in aerial survey aircraft rentals are informally called “Platformers.” They provide the “platform” that flies aerial survey equipment such as lidar and cameras. Most platformers provide the aircraft and a pilot. Others may also rent a sensor and even a sensor operator.

Attention Survey Aircraft Owners! If you own a survey aircraft that is sitting idle, consider listing it on our Survey Aircraft Leasing Marketplace! We can help you find renters.


This next section focuses on survey equipment rentals of lidar.

Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) technology uses laser pulses to measure distances and create highly detailed 3D maps. Lidar is indispensable for various applications, including:

  • Forestry Management: Lidar helps assess forest health, estimate timber volumes, and monitor tree growth, aiding in sustainable forest management.
  • Flood Modeling: Accurate elevation data obtained through lidar is essential for floodplain mapping and flood risk assessment.
aerial view of railway tracks
  • Archaeological Exploration: Lidar can reveal hidden archaeological features by mapping terrain, even under dense vegetation.
  • Corridor Mapping: Lidar is often used to capture the layout and features of linear spaces like roads, railways, pipelines, and power lines. High-resolution elevation data displayed via 3D models makes it invaluable for corridor mapping projects, enabling accurate planning, design, and maintenance of linear infrastructure.

When renting survey lidar equipment, you will need to consider the sensor's resolution, range, and scanning speed to ensure it meets your project's requirements. 

You should also make sure you are staffed with an experienced lidar operator and have the appropriate post-processing tools to interpret the data acquired by the lidar.

Which lidar systems do we see most in demand for rentals? Our most commonly requested systems are:

Large-Format Cameras:

Large-format cameras are designed to capture high-resolution, georeferenced images from aerial platforms. These cameras support lower-altitude engineering applications and high-altitude orthophotography projects. 

When renting large-format cameras, consider the camera's sensor size, resolution, and lens options to ensure it aligns with your project's objectives.

Which camera systems do we see most in demand for rentals? Our most commonly requested systems are:

Avoid the blur! In addition to renting aircraft, lidar, and cameras, we often get requests for gyro-stabilized mounts. If you have a GSM3000 or GSM4000 available for rent, let us help you find a renter.

What Terms and Conditions Should You Consider?

Whether you are an owner or a renter, it's essential to understand the terms and conditions of a survey equipment rental agreement. Here are some key considerations:

  • Rental Duration: Determine the rental period carefully to ensure it aligns with your project timeline. Because survey equipment is valuable and often quite expensive to mobilize and demobilize, many owners will prefer to rent for a minimum of one or two months, particularly if the equipment is crossing a border. 
  • Cost Structure: Understand the rental rates, including any additional charges for insurance, carnet, expenses, per diem rates, or transportation. 
  • Insurance: Renters will need to provide a Certificate of Insurance for the replacement value of the equipment, with the owner listed as the beneficiary.
  • Shipping: Renters will generally need to pay for all shipping and temporary export costs at the start and the end of the rental. Ensure these details are outlined in the agreement. Consider that it may take 5 days for domestic shipping and 10 days for international shipping in each direction. 
  • Training and Support: If your team is unfamiliar with the rented equipment, inquire about training options provided by the owner. It is in everyone’s best interest to make sure the equipment is installed properly, is in good working order prior to use, and the renter is comfortable with using the equipment. Many survey equipment rental agreements include having an engineer or operator from the owner’s company provide onsite or remote training and support.
  • Terms of Return: Understand the condition in which the equipment should be returned. Document its state before and after use to avoid disputes over damage.
reading glasses sitting on top of legal contract
  • Cancellation Policy: In case your project plans change, be aware of the terms to end the agreement. If you are not sure exactly how long you may need the equipment, consider setting a fixed period with an option to extend the lease on a daily or monthly basis.
  • Equipment Failure: Be sure the rental agreement terms are clear about what happens if the equipment does not function properly. We all know that survey equipment is fragile and even when used carefully, sometimes components fail. Work with the owner, and if appropriate, with the manufacturer to troubleshoot the problem. If the equipment must be sent for repair, keep the channels of communication open to ensure that the equipment gets to where it needs to go for repair and the agreement terms are followed.
  Attention Equipment Owners! We have rental agreement templates that you can review and modify as you prefer.

How Do I Mitigate Risks?

While survey equipment rental offers numerous advantages, it's essential to mitigate potential risks. Here are some strategies to minimize risks::

For smaller equipment such as drones, drone lidar, terrestrial and hand-held lidar, you can find many reputable rental companies. Do thorough research and choose one with a track record of reliability and customer satisfaction. Read reviews, seek recommendations, and check references.

For larger equipment such as aerial lidar systems and cameras, you will be renting from private owners. You can reduce risk by working with an experienced broker and keeping the lines of communication open. 

When you receive the rented equipment, conduct a thorough inspection to ensure it's in proper working condition. Document any pre-existing damage or issues. Do the same when you prepare the equipment for return. 

Remember, you are renting a very expensive and fragile asset. It is in everyone’s best interest to take the appropriate amount of time to ensure the rental agreement is reviewed carefully, insurance is in place, and the proper steps are taken to ensure safe shipping and proper training. Rushing into a rental is not advised.

Attention Equipment Owners! We will ensure that you feel comfortable with any rental. You are responsible for executing the rental agreement with the renter, with the terms and conditions that are most appropriate for your business. We will advise you if we feel a rental is impractical or risky. Every rental needs to be a win-win for everyone involved.


Survey equipment rental provides a cost-effective and flexible solution for many companies in our industry. 

By carefully considering your equipment needs, understanding rental terms and conditions, and mitigating risks, you can maximize the benefits of survey equipment rental. 

Let help you rent the equipment you need, or get your idle equipment earning for you as a rental. 

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