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Land Survey Technology Enhances Project Success

The origins of land survey dates back thousands of years. While the fundamentals of measurement and mapping still remain the same, technology is making it possible to acquire data more accurately, efficiently, and safely than ever before. “Project success begins with land survey and advancements in survey technology play a crucial role,” explains Eric Miller, PLS, Survey Business Unit Leader for Snyder & Associates.

With survey projects spanning both civil and structural engineering, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), HyDrone survey boats, and Leica laser scanners are among the most significant advancements in recent years. Each technology has specific applications and for the most part, they’re all used to supplement traditional survey methods. However, in some instances, these advancements also open up completely new avenues of important information. Before recent advancements, there were occasions where assumptions had to be made due to the lack of limited information accessible by traditional survey equipment. Technology allows data collection from hard to access locations with ease.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Improve Efficiencies in Surveying & Construction Activities

two snyder employees getting ready for drone flight

Whether performing construction observation or capturing images of project sites, UAVs are able to complete numerous aerial duties at a fraction of the cost of previous methods.

More commonly referred to as UAVs in the survey industry, these remote-controlled aircrafts provide an efficient way to conduct construction progress, observation, inspection, and monitoring. The high-resolution data gathered by a UAV has been found to rival that of traditional survey methods. They’re also useful for capturing photo and video of large or difficult to access project sites, including stockpiles or basin areas. In addition to projects with access or safety concerns, UAVs are useful on projects centered on sprawling industrial plants or facilities, wind farms, or large, undeveloped tracts of agricultural land.

“The data we’re able to capture helps our clients make informed decisions early on during project development to keep things moving forward,” passionately shares Miller.

Depending on project site size and weather conditions, among other factors, UAV flights can be completed in an hour or less. However, there’s a lot of work that goes on in advance to prepare the flight path set up and ensure FAA approvals are in place if required. After a flight occurs, technicians analyze and process the UAV data to make it usable for survey and design applications.

HyDrone Boats Capture Underwater Surface Data in Hard to Access Areas

Yellow HyDrone sitting on the ground next to a Snyder & Associates land survey truck.

Sonar-equipped HyDrones are portable and easy to deploy. These features make them ideal for performing bathymetric surveys in small lakes and streams.

Before the HyDrone survey boat, surveying of mid-size lakes and streams or near dams was extremely difficult. The addition of the HyDrone allows our team to survey bodies of water that are too small for a full-size boat or unsafe for to complete with waders due to depth and other factors.

A HyDrone is a remote-controlled catamaran developed specifically for a bathymetric survey. It’s lightweight, wireless, and easily portable, making it ideal for project sites that are inaccessible by boat or ground crews. Only one person is needed to operate a HyDrone, which is a benefit over a full-size survey boat that requires a three-person staff. It uses a sonar unit with a single-beam acoustic signal to gather depth and location information, providing engineers with a detailed understanding of underwater features and surfaces.

The HyDrone has proven particularly useful in comparing design elevations with current surface elevations to determine silt concerns, investigating underwater scouring, and comparing pre- and post-construction underwater surfaces for bridge projects.

Scanner Elevates Transportation & Vertical Infrastructure Projects

Transportation projects pose a safety risk to surveyors in the field. Using a scanner, the Snyder & Associates team can gather high-level survey data and reduce time on-site in less than ideal situations. In addition, this piece of technology allows our team to easily scan the interior of buildings and other vertical infrastructure projects.

A scanner is an advanced piece of technology that rests on a tripod. The unit uses light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology to generate a point cloud within the scanner’s field of view. The scanner can collect a point cloud of everything within its 360-degree line of site. The point cloud allows for a very accurate and detailed recreation of the site in a digital format that can be used across many platforms. Miller says the scanner is also useful in assisting architects with remodeling and renovation projects because it enables the team to essentially recreate plans that no longer exist.

Looking Ahead: Future Advancements in Survey Technology

Regardless of project type, in the meticulous world of civil and structural engineering, land survey plays a critical role and technology is an integral component. Not long ago, surveyors measured distance using tape. Since then, electric distancing equipment and computers have changed the landscape, allowing crews to be more productive and precise.

“These [survey] technologies allow us to capture pretty much a mirror image of any site feature or structure with data points. Using that information, surveyors and engineers are able to provide our clients with a solid design that guides construction success,” concludes Miller.

As he looks towards the future of land survey, Miller says he’s excited to see what’s in store. UAVs, HyDrone boats, and scanners are quickly becoming commonplace, and as technology continues to advance, the ability to provide safe, efficient, and highly-detailed survey information will follow.

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