Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) as a data acquisition platform and as a measurement instrument have become attractive for many surveying applications in civil engineering. However, their performance is not well understood for these particular applications. The specific scope of the presented work is the performance evaluation of a UAV system that was built to rapidly acquire mobile 3D mapping data for large earthmoving construction sites. Details to the components of the developed system (hardware and control software) are explained. A novel program for photogrammetric flight planning and its execution for the generation of 3D point clouds from digital mobile images is explained. A performance model for estimating the position error was developed and tested in several realistic construction environments. Results to these tests are presented as they relate in particular to large excavation and earth moving construction sites. Results and experiences with the developed UAV system are in particular useful for researchers or practitioners in need for successfully adapting UAV technology for their application(s).