Surveying – An Industry in Upheaval

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Thanks to digitization, there are many ways to carry out a survey. More and more industries can also use surveying for their own purposes, including the construction industry. Surveying accompanies every phase of a construction project. That is why surveying is particularly important in this sector. The following text gives you an overview of the development of the surveying industry, including future changes.

What Does Surveying Mean? -Shortly Explained!

A survey provides the basis for numerous fields. On one hand, for the field of geosciences and natural sciences, for example to create maps. But surveying can also be used for documentation in all areas. Another large area is construction and architecture. Databases or information systems can be created for different applications. The result of these databases can be work with BIM or a digital twin.

We, DiConneX, have specialized in building surveying in the field of construction. Based on this survey, it is possible to make buildings virtually and digitally available. During a survey, the various technologies record data, process it and make it available for further use. The surveying technology used depends on the wishes of the customer, the level of detail and the geometry of the building.

How Was Surveying Done in the Past? Comparison with Today.

Ever since humans have existed, they have observed the earth, their habitat, and tried to explore the shape of the earth. Later, the first steps in surveying began. So it is a topic that has accompanied us for many centuries and has been constantly developed over time.

In the Middle Ages, units of measurement were given in relation to humans, such as cubits, feet or stride length. An exact and uniform determination of measurements was therefore not possible. Later, towards the end of the 18th century, in addition to scientific advances in measuring methods and calculating aids, a great upswing can be observed in all other surveying-related work. The introduction of the land tax cadastre as a result of the demand for “equality” in the French Revolution led to a complete and continuous measurement of all properties and their archiving. The second half of the 19th century also saw the end of the era of different units of measurement in almost all of Europe, with the introduction of the metric system, the meter. Over time, four sub-areas of surveying developed, some of which are still valid today, although the boundaries are fluid. The sub-areas include earth surveying, land surveying, field or property surveying and engineering surveying. The last sub-area, engineering surveying, is within our field of activity. In the 20th century, there were further important changes and improvements. Land surveying, previously carried out by military authorities, was taken over by civilian authorities. Aerial photogrammetry also brought about a major innovation in the production of maps and plans. The construction and functioning of the measuring instruments also adapted to the electronic age.

But especially in the last few decades, thanks to digitization, there has been a major upheaval in the surveying industry. In the following paragraph, you will learn more about the development of individual technologies and their application today.

Terrestrial Laser Scanner- Stationary Distance and Direction Measurements on the Ground

A terrestrial laser scanner is a stationary 3D measurement method on the ground. During the survey, the scanner releases a laser beam in all surrounding directions, measuring every angle and surrounding distance. The object is measured from several points of view so that it can be displayed more accurately later. With the large number of measurement points, the object is displayed in a 3D point cloud. The automatic measurement method is very powerful, easy to use and versatile. Where a total station or digital close-range photogrammetry was used in the past, the terrestrial laser scanner is now seen as a competitor or as a complementary method with expanding possibilities.

Since its market introduction about 20 years ago, the terrestrial laser scanner has undergone rapid development. Increased scanning speed and lower noise of the results are consequences of this development. The number of measured points per second could be increased considerably. Initially, only 1000 points per second could be measured. Now, it is 2 million points per second. Of course, the laser scanner itself has also become lighter and smaller.

Photogrammetry – The measurement of objects using images

Photogrammetry is a method whereby the measurement is not carried out directly on the object, but indirectly via images. Information can be extracted from these images, whereby the spatial position or the 3D shape of the object can be determined. Special measuring cameras enable this non-contact reconstruction. During the surveying process, numerous images are created. Based on the intersection points of the images, data of the object can be calculated.

A large part of photogrammetry is aero-photogrammetry. Here, the measurement images are taken from the air. This is done with airplanes, helicopters or drones. For us, surveying with drones is the most important approach. The terrain is flown over in strips to take pictures of the object, which are later compiled into a model. With multiple flyovers at different times, the changes to the target object can be documented. Over the last two decades, drone technology has become increasingly popular and rapidly developed. For comparison – in the past, only two measurement images were taken from the air, which had to be precisely superimposed optically in post-processing. Today, the images are automatically inserted and automatically calculated.

In our technology overview, you will find a detailed description of how the technologies mentioned here work today.

How has the way of working changed?

The work processes have changed fundamentally over time, and so has the job description of a surveyor. In the past, a survey of a building took several days – today, a simple survey is completed many times faster. Size, accessibility and the reason for the survey play a major role. Therefore, not every survey can be completed equally fast.

The number of surveyors involved in a project has been reduced over time. In the past, three people were needed for the same work, for which only one person is needed today. The reason for this is automated processes. For example, until the 1980s, only one angle measurement could be done with surveying instruments. The distance measurement was done laboriously with a tape measure. Later, this was replaced by electro-optical distance measurement, until today automated measurement is possible in all directions. Paper documentation has also become lesser known in the industry.

In addition, the development of ultra modern measuring devices has significantly shortened the duration of a measurement. High-precision laser scans can record large amounts of building data in a short time. A large part of this data can then be automatically transferred into CAD/CAFM models. In addition, the measurements are becoming more and more precise, which is why fewer control measurements are necessary. The surveying time is also shortened by state-of-the-art and highly accurate GPS receivers. This saves the often time-consuming connection to existing measurement marks.

The technology has also been continuously developed in post-processing. Manual work becomes less, due to the automation of the processes. In addition, the quality of the results is much higher. For example, in post-processing, the faces that are visible in the panoramic images have to be pixelated. Today, image recognition algorithms are able to very quickly and precisely search masses of image data for faces and automatically pixelate them.

With this development, the technologies can be partially simplified so that a survey is also feasible for the end customer. Instead of hiring an engineering firm and surveying classically from point to point, it has evolved so that even private individuals or construction workers can record a part with their mobile phones and survey it via photogrammetry. Nevertheless, this cannot be compared to a professional survey.

What will it look like in the future?

The surveying industry has evolved rapidly in recent years. For example, 20 years ago, three surveyors drove to a job and a tape measure had to be held to carry out the survey. Today, only one person and no tape measure is needed for this work. The reason for this is improved technology and automated processes. So it stands to reason that in the future even that one person could be replaced. With the further development of driving and walking robots as well as flying drones, a large-scale As-Built survey or building monitoring can be carried out automatically without a person having to be present on site.

During a survey, it is necessary to pay attention to the sequence so that fewer errors need to be corrected afterwards. The usability of the recorded data must also be assessed. Despite the automated processes, there is a lot of data and information behind a survey that has to be put in the right position. Accordingly, a great deal of knowledge is required for this, which is why a survey cannot simply be carried out by a layperson. However, digitization will change the field of work. Surveyors will be needed less in the field, but more in the area of data management and allocation.

Despite all this, surveying work will not disappear, and it will not make the job any less important. Quite the contrary, in the future, more surveying will be needed because everything is becoming more digital. Just like the abdominal sector. Today, buildings are being digitized, which was unthinkable in the past. DiConneX has specialized in this area. Various technologies are applied to achieve a suitable result. Our combination of being important and constantly developing results in ideal conditions to be forward-looking – and that is exactly what we do!

The work of a surveyor is therefore the work of the future. This is what makes the profession so versatile and interesting.  Send your request to the survey now! To support this, we have created a free e-book with a checklist for your request.

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