It was only a few decades ago that pulling a tape across the ground was the go-to means of distance measurement for every land surveyor. But as with many other fields, technology has introduced innovative trends for commercial and residential surveying, advancing our industry to places unthinkable even 15 years ago.

As 2018 winds down, Advance Surveying & Engineering in Minnetonka looks at several land survey trends and advancements certain to play a big role in 2019.

3D Laser Scanning

Across the country, an increasing number of land surveys are being conducted with the help of 3D laser scanning. Also known as 3D laser imaging, high-definition surveying, and LIDAR, 3D scanning is used to produce exceptionally accurate 3D models and maps. The technology is also helpful for monitoring construction process, surveying difficult-to-reach areas, and for historical preservation. With 3D laser scanning, a surveyor can, for example, conduct a location survey and create a topographical map of a city – encompassing all above-ground components such as buildings and roads, along with below-ground elements like old building foundations, septic systems, and utilities. Such a map offers myriad uses: for instance, as a foundation for revitalizing a city center. New buildings, traffic signals, and streetscapes can be rendered into the map, offering ultra-realistic glimpses of a future setting.

As this technology advances, it will no doubt become the go-to solution for future survey projects large and small.

Total Stations

Over the last decade-plus, many a commercial survey has made use of a total station, which pairs a distance meter with an electronic theodolite. And in recent years we’ve seen an explosion in the popularity of robotic total stations, which allow local surveyors to operate the station via remote control. Going a step further we’re now witnessing the advent of integrated survey rovers equipped with GPS and video technology. With such a system, a surveyor can pilot the rover with remote control and see exactly what it sees. Georeferenced images are easily attainable for use in photogrammetry, even in bad weather where the operator is confined to his vehicle, trailer, or office.


It’s not an exaggeration to say that GPS has revolutionized the surveying and engineering industry. Information is delivered faster, cheaper, and more accurately than ever before, for all of a surveyor’s requirements: height, longitude, latitude, and more. In fact, one person using a GPS system can survey twice as fast as a team of surveyors. Given the ongoing refinements and advancements made to the hardware, processing software, and satellites utilized in GPS systems, we expect this technology’s importance to increase exponentially.


We could write an entire blog about drones and how far they’ve come in such a short time: state-of-the-art digital cameras, lithium polymer batteries, close-range oblique aerial photography, and other innovative technologies, all available for an increasingly affordable cost. Drones and other UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) have become indispensable to the surveying & engineering industry, prized for their accuracy, cost-effectiveness, and ability to access and survey difficult/dangerous locations.

Contact Advance Surveying & Engineering

Our engineering company serving Minneapolis is excited to see what the future holds for these technologies in 2019 and beyond. Contact us today to learn more about how we use these systems to improve the speed, accuracy, and budgetary aspects of the surveys we provide to our clients.

January 16, 2019 Advance Surveying