Think about your smartphone and its capacity to do the things that it does on a daily basis. The iPhone was first unveiled in 2007, and the first commercial portable cellular phone was released in 1983…at a not-so-affordable cost of $3,995 at the time (which would be roughly $10,000 today). Now think about land survey and how technology has taken a similar path. Just a few decades ago, survey crews were using compasses and tape, and now, seemingly every crew has access to robots, GPS, and other electronic devices that make measuring and recording much easier than it’s ever been. So what does that say for the future of land survey? We are seeing a few things that we have either used or seen used that will probably be more prevalent in the near future.
The first advancement is the use of drones (or “unmanned aerial vehicles”, as they are often called) to collect data in places that are tough to reach or navigate. This is a unique way to capture data, particularly over larger areas, and one that also is useful for instances where one might need to scale difficult or dangerous terrain. As software continues to evolve along with the drone equipment, the ability to capture even more, detailed data grows as well. As drones, and their software, continue to become more affordable, we expect to see more flying across the industry.
Another more modern technology that we are using more often is LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging. This technique is essentially three-dimensional laser scanning, which works by having a series of scanners emit laser points, resulting in a data point cloud, which can create 3D models or documents with great detail. The use of LIDAR is especially helpful in both hard-to-reach areas, as well as highly trafficked spots. Think about traditional survey methods across a busy highway or active railway – with LIDAR, surveyors can collect the data they need quickly and without putting themselves in a dangerous environment. LIDAR also creates models that mesh well with modeling programs like CAD. The downside to LIDAR is that there is so much data that it gathers, this volume can really bog things down from a technological storage and performance perspective. As technology continues to evolve, one hopes these methods become more efficient.
While it is difficult to predict what other advances and techniques are on the horizon for the industry, we’re sure that whatever methods emerge, they will be designed with efficiency and accuracy in mind.
Meet the Team
Paul Charette has an Associate degree from Wentworth Institute of Technology in Civil and Highway Engineering. Paul draws on his more than 40 years of experience as Survey Party Chief. Outside of work he enjoys spending time riding and wrenching on motorcycles.
Ray Critch, LLS is a Senior Survey Analyst in our New London, NH office. A licensed land surveyor in New Hampshire, Ray has been with the company for 4 years. Ray enjoys outdoor activities such as snowmobiling, hiking, and fishing, and spending his indoor time supporting the Patriots.