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From rope measurement to drones – how technology is revolutionising surveying

By Murray Walter – Executive General Manager, GlobalX Terrain

Surveying is a fundamental craft that underpins the mapping and growth of the world around us. The profession has evolved from when first practiced by the ancient Egyptians in around 1400 BC, to one that employs increasingly sophisticated and intuitive technology.

However, to understand how the art of planning and surveying has got to where it is today, we must first look at where it all began in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians developed simple yet effective tools (such as measuring rope and the water level on which many surveying devices today are based) – while constructing great canals and pyramids. They were also the first to record a land register in 3000BC and detailed farming boundaries were re-established after the Nile River floods and the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Following on from the Egyptians, the Greeks developed the skill of surveying even further through their extensive knowledge of Geometry, while the Romans were the first to make surveying a profession in around 300AD. They implemented basic measurements that divided the empire, which included a tax register of conquered lands.

Fast forward to 1700s Australia and the British Empire used surveying techniques to divide and allocate land to settlers throughout the colony. However, during this early colonisation, the accuracy of measurements was not to the standard we are accustom to today, largely because of the basic tools used and non-standardised techniques for creating boundaries. This led to a lot of confusion and disputes over land. Come the 1900s, Australian surveying measurements had come a long way and were much more accurate and standardised. By the 1970s, electronic distance measuring equipment had been developed to increase the capabilities of surveyors in the field.

Modern day surveying as we know it in 2020 sees surveyors performing complex and detailed measurements and calculations using the latest digital technology. This not only helps improve accuracy compared to the older methods of surveying but has also helped improve efficiency and proficiencies in surveying.

Surveyors can now use a range of market-leading technologies to assist in their work including GPS systems, drones, underwater sonars and digital mapping to name a few.

Access to spatial and land registry information is also critical to the surveying industry. To facilitate a more effective and efficient way to source this information, an online solution was designed by a team of surveying and property technology experts to provide an intuitive, online map-based searching platform for surveyors and property planners throughout Australia. This solution is GlobalX Terrain.

Developed specifically for the information needs of surveyors and professionals working in the built industry environment, GlobalX Terrain streamlines the search process, with the intelligent workflows providing real time land and property information all in one place.

From humble beginnings with just a rope in ancient Egypt to using drones in 21st century mapping, there is no telling how far the technology and tools used in contemporary surveying will advance in the future. As change never stops, GlobalX Terrain will continue to deliver high-quality and innovative map based search solutions to support the modern-day surveyor.


About the Author:
Murray Walter is the Executive General Manager at GlobalX Terrain.