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A Brief History on Surveying
Surveying has been an integral part of a civilization since the beginning of mankind. Technological advancements started with the invention and use of a theodolite (composed of a telescope and compass on a tripod). The advancement of the theodolite developed over centuries. Prior to this, ropes, pegs, and the memory of a general consensus of people were used to identify boundaries.
In addition to technology, the approach to surveying evolved. Triangulation was first used by Snel van Royen in 1615 to measure the distance between two cities 116km apart (with an error of 3.6%) . It was this project that established the idea of surveying a primary network of control points and locating subsidiary points inside the primary network at a later time.
Further, technological breakthroughs occurred in the 1950s with inventions such as the Tellurometer and electronic distance measurement (EDM) equipment [2,3]. These technology marvels enabled long distances to be measure accurately while saving days or weeks that were previously required to measure distances over a kilometre long. The advancement of EDM equipment gave rise to the Total Stations in use today. With recent improvements in satellites and receivers, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) with Real Time Kinematic (RTK) allow for a highly accurate measurement to be taken in seconds.
The Next Generation Surveyor
Within the last few years newer technology has emerged which is revolutionizing the surveying industry. The used of 3D laser scanners with LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) allows for large quantities of accurate data to be obtained from a local environment. Also, the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones) to collect images for photogrammetric processing has risen. This concept takes the same approach (triangulation) that Snel van Royen took in 1615 but also taking advantage of modern day computing power.
As a result, with an UAV survey, hundreds of millions of data points can be collected to provide never-before-seen detail of a relatively large area. The advantage is that the perspective of the UAV allows for quick data collection while maintaining precision.
High levels of accuracy are achieved with the use of Ground Control Points (GCPs) or Benchmark Points which are established via RTK enabled GPS. Depending on the size of the property, three to nine GCPs fix the position of the scan. The location of other points are established based on this primary network of points.
Drone technology has come a long way in the last five years and is an important tool for today’s surveyor to incorporate into their work. They allow for more efficient data collection, reduce costs, and provide multiple orders of magnitude in resolution.
-  Wreede, L.C. (2007). Willebrord Snellius (1580-1626): A Humanist Reshaping The Mathematical Sciences. Utrecht, Netherlands: Utrecht University. ISBN: 978-90-393-4628-0
-  Sturman, Brian; Wright, Alan. The History of the Tellurometer. International Federation of Surveyors. Retrieved 2014-07-20.
-  Mahun, Jerry. Electronic Distance Measurement. Jerrymahun.com. Retrieved 2014-07-20.
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