Land Surveying Will Be a Thing of the Past in 2050

Land Surveying is one of the oldest professions in the world. With the evolution and transformation of technology, will it still stand until 2050?

Land Surveying Will Be a Thing of the Past in 2050
Photo by Valeria Fursa / Unsplash

Land Surveying also known as cadastral surveying, is one of the oldest professions that still exist.

Land surveying is an ancient practice that dates back at least to 1,400 B.C. when the ancient Egyptians used land surveying for the taxation of land plots. Four thousand years ago, Egyptians used measuring ropes, plumb bobs, and other instruments to gauge the dimensions of plots of land
Source: ResearchGate

One question that exists in the modern-day is, Will the profession exist and last forever?

This is a topic that raises a lot of argument and the atmosphere could become real tense especially in a physical environment.

Well, good thing we are all virtual now so I can express my thoughts freely.

The thoughts, views, and expressions contained in this article are of the author (Surveyor-Jr) and therefore do not represent the position on any organization that the author is affiliated with in any way. 

Let's talk about self-driving cars for a bit. Who thought that one day a driver would no longer be a driver but a passenger instead? I do. The Innovators. The talk of a future where one would no longer need to drive started some time back and when it finally happened, the world began to believe the power of technology.

Photo by Brock Wegner / Unsplash

Tesla has been at the forefront of this initiative by introducing driverless trucks. No need to hire truck drivers anymore. You can either have your horse-powered vehicle do the heavy lifting or instead, have an algorithm deliver your goods to your intended destination.

One thing I like and applaud is, Automation means less carbon emission. And GIS is at the center of it all.

Let's move on to the world of drones. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have been the major topic in Africa even way before Rwanda began to use them for Medical purposes and delivery systems.

Most startups you hear pitching at any entrepreneurship event, are focused on the use of drone technology. At least most of them are using them for good anyway.

We used to walk through our fields to assess the crop health and status just to make sure everything was okay. Today, we just fly a UAV past our fields to collect data and we use computer algorithms to tell us what is happening on the ground.

Golden Hour 🌅
Photo by Max Böttinger / Unsplash

Time spent in the field, energy needed to be in the field is all reduced. The crop science experts are now moving on the learn more about imagery interpretation to provide the best services to the farmers.

In the case of mapping, drones seem to have mapped a larger portion of land now than how we used to do it back then. A client comes to you requesting a Topographical map, you just fly a drone which is even way cheaper and faster.

What about a case of Land Surveying?

When it comes to Land Surveying, accuracy and precision are of importance. This is probably why in most countries, you need to be licensed to deal with and handle people's property boundaries. In Africa as I know it, one does not simply become registered like 1...2...3.

RTK survey in quarry
Photo by Valeria Fursa / Unsplash

The need for higher accuracy when dealing with people's land is the main point of concern when it comes to cadastral surveys with drones especially in Zimbabwe. But how long will the resistance last?

Carrying out a land survey with a GPS is even considered unethical by some who prefer the old tape and theodolite methods. In some instances, the regulations are taking a slow turn at considering the developing technology into the equation.

In the world of construction, they have begun using Robotic Stations. This new instrument allows remote operation, meaning you only need one operator and can perform far more calculations and inspections in less time than the traditional instruments preferred by some.

What does this mean?

  • the working staff is reduced
  • the job is executed in a timely and quick manner
  • fewer errors (human errors)
  • in most cases, the survey becomes a bit cheaper (since the cost of doing the job is also reduced).

As much as Land Surveyors can resist change, technology is coming and evolving at a faster pace than we can imagine. The more the resistance and ignorance to technology the easier traditional Land Surveyors can be wiped out and replaced by those willing to accept the change.

In a case in Korea, they have adopted the usage of the Internet of Things (IoT) for Beacon Control Points across the nation as the old methods were not sustainable due to changing environmental conditions. Now control points are stored in the cloud and can also be retrieved from the cloud. How amazing!

Photo by NASA / Unsplash

Certain organizations and individuals (names withheld) are also looking at using Drones for placing survey control points and marks. This means the Land Surveyor needs to know how to fly a drone to keep his fieldwork job if he still needs it.

Now imagine combining the electronic beacon storage in the cloud and the ability for drones to place control points and also collect data?

We all know there are a lot of control points existing out there. If these are turned into electronic (digital), it only takes interpolation algorithms to get the location of an unknown and check using autonomous means with UAVs.

Now here is an imaginary workflow I have constructed:

  • client requests for a land survey
  • technically equipped Land Surveyors retrieves existing control points from the cloud and uploads them to a drone
  • the drone flies over the land parcel using built-in and additional algorithms to carry out the land survey.
  • while that occurs, the data is stored in the cloud and processed in real-time.
  • once the survey is complete, the records, diagrams, and additional documentation can either be downloaded or automatically sent to the responsible authorities for approval using digital means.
  • client gets what they need and everyone is happy.

Remember this is just an imaginary workflow from my mind. There could be people out there working on a better technical approach that is ready to launch anywhere around the world.

Will the technical resistance last until the year 2050? To be frank, based on the imaginary workflow, the only skills relevant are communication, drone piloting and operations. If this technology actually comes into play, it will be up to the regulations to allow anyone to perform this work, which is a topic for another day.

Still, thinking of keeping that tape and old theodolite?