May, 2016How technology has changed surveying practices

Since the 1990’s, Global Positioning System (GPS) has become a very important tool in the surveyor’s armoury.  Prior to its general use, positions and levels to the Ordnance Survey National were established using measurements from trig pillars and Ordnance Survey Bench Marks. 

Nowadays, an Ordnance Survey position and level can be measured in minutes using a single survey grade GPS receiver receiving corrections from an Active Network  to an overall accuracy of better than ±20mm. Trig Pillars and OS Bench Marks are still used but with caution as they are no longer verified by the OS. These will soon surely become a mere reminder of how surveying was previously carried out.

Along with GPS, there are a number of different types of instrumentation and techniques that can be used when surveying.  These include;

  • Total station with sub one second of arc and millimetre distance accuracies.
  • Digital automatic, bar-code reading spirit levels capable of ±0.1mm accuracy.
  • Laser Scanners capable of measuring a million points per second and in effect taking an accurate 3d image of any area of detail.
  • Hand held disto-meters that replace the standard tape measures and can communicate via blue-tooth to on site survey software thus eradicating the possibility of booking errors.

Most calculations are now automated utilising specifically designed software which reduces the possibility of errors in each survey.

There are an infinite number of variations on the above, all designed to carry out surveys to a suitable specification in a cost efficient way for the user and their clients.  For example, a laser scanner would not be used for a simple boundary survey where only several points of detail are required, but for a complicated bridge structure where the amount of deformation needs to be assessed, the laser scanner would be the perfect tool.

In summary, the advancements in technologies of the past 20-30 years has meant that we can collect accurate information, faster and more reliably.  Surveys can be sent to clients in the form of a multitude of deliverables of their choice.   The crucial decisions for each project now rest on which equipment to use to collect the appropriate information needed for the client and how best to present that information in its most useable format.

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