How Is Land Surveying Accomplished and Why Is It Important?

Land surveying is the process of taking measurements and mapping out the land. While it may seem like a straightforward process, surveying the land requires precise calculations, engineering skills, and the right hardware. In order to properly survey an area, land surveyors may have to field different kinds of high-tech equipment, but these two are considered the most important part of the hardware for modern land surveying:

Automated Total Station – A device with a swiveling telescope and a laser/infrared pointer used to take measurements of both horizontal and vertical angles for the purpose of triangulation (older versions required separate devices for measuring angles). Automated versions use a series of miniature electric motors to turn the telescope to the precise orientation and to make sure the device stays leveled.


GPS receivers – Pole-mounted digital devices designed to give exact coordinates of certain points in an area by receiving signals from multiple satellites on the earth’s atmosphere.


The Land Surveying Techniques

There are two main approaches to surveying the land – Total Station Surveying (Using theodolites and levels) and GPS Surveying. While there are debates concerning which technique is better, each has its own strong points, making them both viable options today.

Total Station Surveying

Total station surveying requires mounting an automated total station on a leveled tripod and establishing a point of reference (usually marked by a stick or a pole). Once mounted, the land surveyor can change the settings to make sure the station is properly leveled. An automated total station require very little fine-tuning and will automatically orient itself before taking the right measurements such as distance and slope and then sending the information to a computer.

Total station surveying is considered more versatile than GPS methods since it works anywhere and it also measures elevation.

GPS Surveying

GPS surveying requires less setup than total station surveying but also requires mounting one or more receivers on tripods, usually portable antennae. In one GPS-specific method, the receivers stay in place for at least 20 minutes even as the control device records their coordinates, while another requires one stationary receiver and another “roving” receiver. Data is sent to a computer and analyzed using dedicated software.

GPS surveying is accurate and fast, but it does not work in areas where signal may be blocked by interference. Examples of such locations are the inside of caves or tunnels, and in some cases, heavily forested areas.


Importance of Land Surveying

Land surveying plays a crucial role in developing land. Almost all kinds of development ranging from landscaping to construction requires surveying to make sure the land is safe to build on. It also allows engineers to plan out how to best make use of the available land space, which is especially important when laying down new roads or establishing new habitable areas.

Outside of construction, land surveying is frequently used to help define a property’s limits. This helps give the owners an idea of what part of the land belongs to them, which is a factor in filing for extended insurance coverage or as evidence when settling disputes over property ownership.

Accurate assessments and well-defined scope of operation are vital in any industry. This also applies to land development and general construction, where both can only be achieved by proper land surveying.