• Tadaris

The hard (but nice) job of land surveying

Mis à jour : 6 nov. 2018

Surveyors of the American Cadastral Survey Program (source: Bureau of Land Management)

If you work in the field of geodetic measurement, you are likely to have some hesitation when you're asked the following question:

"Oh, and what do you do for work?"

Whether it is for answering your future father-in-law who would have preferred something more obvious as a doctor, lawyer, teacher or even police officer... or whether it is for an intervention in your child's class, in front of the questioning eyes of his little classmates and his teacher, explaning the job of land surveyor is not that easy.

So sometimes it is more exciting and fun to talk about the experiences and conditions of this job than about its definition....

The job of surveyor, in 2 words

When we were preparing to present our startup project to people far from this field, ready to listen to us but only having a few minutes, a bit like an elevator pitch, we ended up finding a fairly synthetic and rather clear definition:

"Topography is the art of modeling a real field in 2 or 3 dimensions through precision measurements. The surveyor is the person who performs this modeling."

Needless to say, after this short but effective definition, there was usually a certain silence in the room, until we decided to add "you know, the people who are on the construction site with their big tripods and who seem to be taking pictures looking into the device that is on it?". And then, as if by magic, the room was breathing again... "Oh yes! Indeed...". Oh, my God! We were saved.

A job sometimes between MacGyver and the CrossFit

First of all, the surveyor is a professional who works partly outdoors. And like all these kinds of jobs, the number of funny (or not) anecdotes increases in proportion to the hours spent outside the office.

At Tadaris, we know very well a former surveyor who used to send his friends pictures taken with his smartphone with the caption "This is the view from my office today". On the picture, no screen, no desk or even a window but in the foreground fields with some cows....

Monotony? No way!

So first rule already, and not the least, do not blindly trust your car GPS for your itineraries, otherwise you risk going around in circles for hours.

The locations to be measured are not always well known to the general public GPS datums. And then, generally, when you call a surveyor to measure, it is rarely after the signs with street names and numbers have been placed.

An itinerary for a field survey, especially in the countryside, must be prepared as a mini-expedition. Locating the place on a map or plan, identifying physical landmarks, checking your vehicle, charging the batteries of your devices, including your phone, having a minimum of cash just in case, checking your water, your food... Okay, we exaggerate a little... but hardly!

To keep on with this aspect a little bit "Paris-Dakar" Rallye, the job requires an essential quality, a cleverness or a certain pragmatic sense.

Often, things don't go as planned: the exact location of the field, its accessibility, the functioning of the equipment, the weather, the neighbours....

Measuring is sometimes dangerous near electric fences

From the animals that can be encountered (boars, wild cats, stray dogs...) to physical obstacles such as fences, some of which are electric (!), the surveyor is required to be vigilant and careful to what surrounds him.

He has also learned to be reactive and creative, otherwise he will drag on with his mission or carry it out in several stages. Needless to say, this is a problem when the land is tens or even hundreds of kilometers from the office or home.

Then, in addition to being MacGyver, this job introduces you to the joys of CrossFit: strength, muscular endurance, heart rate, balance, coordination... everything is there to make you an athlete. Then, it's up to you to see if measuring some complicated points is worth climbing with a total station of about ten kilos on your shoulder, or to hang on to a trunk while holding your GNSS pole at arm's length on the edge of a small precipice.

In the end, unless you do a field survey in the Australian bush or delimit agricultural plots in North America, what will not change is that you will still have to enjoy walking.

Walking for miles in different weather and field conditions: under the sun or in the rain, in dry grass, in snow, clay or water, the surveyor learned to be organized with his dressing and his equipment to face the natural elements.

This point sometimes makes you wonder about some promotional images or videos of measurement products with "surveyor-models" in suits and high heels.

But this is another subject... that we might one day discuss, who knows?

The surveyor… a top of zen attitude!

Finally, like many outside jobs, the surveyor must be careful to anticipate a certain amount of "social time". All those long minutes spent explaining to people that he meets what he does or rather reassuring them about what he doesn't do.

No, he is not here to make field measurements because the government has decided on a new tax.

No, its total station is not a camera and its GNSS antenna is not intended to collect digital data, nor to provide WiFi.

As you will have noticed, the surveyor is necessarily a patient person, who likes to be in contact with people or at least feels comfortable with it. A lot of people can't stand it when a nice pensioner or a farmer in a hollow day keeps on sticking with him while he does his job, accompanying him on his movements, watching him and asking him a lot of questions.

The triumphant return to the office

Once all these field tests have been completed, the land surveyor finally returns to the office with the Graal: his file of measured points that he will finally be able to use in specialized software to complete the work. When importing it, he will keep his fingers crossed until he is sure of its precision in number and arrangement of points to make the plans and calculations he needs.

The job is therefore a mix between physical effort outdoors and intellectual work in the office. This second aspect is a fairly important part of the profession, which will depend on the organization and specialization of the structure in which the surveyor works. According to his personality and preferences too. But many admit that this is the least exciting part, however pleasant the size, background of the computer screen and CAD used may be.

This is how many surveyors can quickly feel tight between 4 walls, especially since the field is often an opportunity to develop relationships between colleagues, especially when surveying by pair.

It is also for this reason, but not only, that we wanted to extend the "fun" with a solution that allows the collection to be carried out under better conditions and aims in particular to bring the office closer to the field.

The idea is to give you the means to process your data with the same tactile device that was used to collect them, all at the same place.

So, if you like working outdoors, in a modern way on your tactile tablet or with voice commands when you grab onto your tree trunk....

If you hate having to come back to the office to use your data files because you plan to come home early to take your children to the movies,

Or if you simply want to increase your efficiency and flexibility, then Arpengo should be interesting for you.

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