Survey advances on almost daily basis

September 30, 2019  - By
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Real-time network availability grows in appeal, extent

State of the GNSS Industry respondents who identified themselves as being from the survey sector constituted 28% of the total, roughly corresponding to the percentage of the magazine’s readership.

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In similar results to 2018’s study, the most promising and practical way to gain the increased accuracy that survey and other high-precision applications demands, the choice was “dual-frequency, dual- or multi-constellation GNSS,” followed by “real-time kinematic.” The newest application in the survey, ”real-time network (RTN) availability,” came in a close third. GNSS receivers with inertial correction devices or remote sensing capability, while increasing in product exposure and advertising, continue to remain low on the respondent’s agenda.

While not surprising that dual-frequency, dual- or multi-constellation GNSS would remain on top of the list with RTK capability coming in second, what is surprising is how RTN availability is a primary choice of many of those answering the poll questions. Coverage of RTN networks is expanding, so many surveyors must be taking advantage of them, seeing the value of not relying on a base station RTK setup.

With the advancements in 5G cellphone coverage, it would not be startling to see this category increase significantly in the coming years. I also foresee an increase in precise point positioning (PPP) usage with UAV implementation because the cost of entry is quite reasonable.

What is the most promising and practical way to gain the increased accuracy that survey and other high-precision applications continue to demand?

What is the most promising and practical way to gain the increased accuracy that survey and other high-precision applications continue to demand? (Chart: GPS World)

The Role of Drones. This year’s question on what role drones (UAVs) will play in the next three years for the survey sector was expanded to include the broad range of remote-sensing modules being added to the aerial vehicles — and based upon the responses, rightly so.

More than 32% of the poll-takers replied that UAVs with remote-sensor capability will perform up to 50% of our field survey tasks. Those who feel that drone technology will only perform one-tenth of the survey tasks fell to 35%, down from 42% in 2018.

However, those who felt UAVs will perform up to half of survey tasks rose significantly, from 9% last year to 23% this year. Bringing up the bottom were those who felt drones will perform 80% of field tasks along with gradually phasing out field surveyors, coming in at 5% each.

What role will drones (UAVs) play during the next three years in the survey sector? (Chart: GPS World)

What role will drones (UAVs) play during the next three years in the survey sector? (Chart: GPS World)

The expansion of remote-sensing methods (photogrammetric, lidar, hyperspectral, etc.) now available on UAVs has increased the viability for more data collection by autonomous and pilot-controlled methods. Increases in software capability, ease-of-use and storage capacity is leading to more surveying and mapping implementation in everyday tasks.

The overall increase in those who see UAVs becoming more prevalent in a surveying department’s service offerings should not be surprising as more firms adopt the newer technology to maintain a competitive edge. We will continue to watch this trend, noting how the surveying profession both adapts to emerging technology and how that will affect the workforce. The rise from 1.3% to 5% of those who feel traditional tasks by field surveyors will begin to disappear is not troublesome, but may be a sign of changes in our near future.

The surveying industry continues to embrace GNSS and UAV technology along with the advancements happening on nearly a daily basis. More professionals are upgrading to remain current with the market trends, so staying in tune with the technological advancements is a major key to success.


TIM BURCH is a professional land surveyor and secretary on the board of directors, National Society of Professional Surveyors.

This article is tagged with and posted in From the Magazine, Survey

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Tim Burch, GPS World’s co-contributing editor for survey, is director of Surveying at SPACECO Inc. in Rosemont, Illinois. He has been working as a professional land surveyor since 1985, and is the secretary, Board of Directors, National Society of Professional Surveyors.

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