GPS Surveying Equipment

Modern surveying technology has come a long way

A market split has increased the range of kit on sale.
A market split has increased the range of kit on sale.

Modern surveying technology has come a long way from the stand-alone theodolites. Now there is a wide variety of equipment available to suit just about every timeframe and budge.

Not that long ago, construction site surveying comprised of basic instruments such as tape measures and marker pegs, as well as a much more complex device known as a theodolite.

If you are reading this, you will almost certainly know that a traditional theodolite is an entirely opto-mechanical device, with no need for an external power source. Using a complex array of lenses, mirrors and prisms, the equipment appeared to project circles into the middle distance, from which the surveyor can then work out distances and angles.

Now, modern technology means that there are more options. Modern theodolites use CCDs, as found in digital cameras and the reading out of the horizontal and vertical circles is usually done with electronics.

Many modern theodolites are equipped with measuring equipment. These devices are known as ‘total stations’. Phillipe Akl, the regional manager for Topcon explained: “Positioning and land surveying solutions have a vital role to play in construction.”

“They are required to plan, construct, and maintain almost any construction project.”

As electronics get increasingly sophisticated, a split in the market has emerged between companies that offer equipment with the fastest and most accurate measurement times, and from firms that offer slower, less accurate machinery, but at a lower price.

Akl added: “The industry is constantly changing, and in recent years it has been transformed by new technologies, coupled with a strong desire from the market for even
more automation.”

“Today, while some people question this trend, we have reasons - in our opinion very compelling ones - to believe that the Middle East market retains a craving for higher-end solutions.”

“We believe this trend is being strengthened by the tough economic situation, which is encouraging companies to pay a premium for advanced, seamless solutions, which in turn guarantee a genuine productivity boost, aimed at reducing the overall operational cost.”

Not all companies agree with this strategy. Shiva Kumar, a sales manager for surveying equipment dealer Hexagon, said: “The market has now become very price sensitive. The cheaper five second or six second total stations are moving fast. Nowdays it’s a five second market.”

Kumar says this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as many in the construction industry were previously purchasing high-end technology when only a construction-grade total station was required.

Intakhab Alam, a manager at budget supplier Geomax says his firm’s products, which are available in two to seven second accuracy, are between 15% to 30% cheaper than any competitors because the machines are streamlined for basic use.

“The other companies produce machines which are very high-tech and very expensive. There are so many functions which the customer has no need to use,” he says.

However, Akl believes that quality will always be preferred over cost.

“While any GPS-RTK system costs five to six times more than a Total Station, GPS is being applied more and more in the construction industry as a practical tool for boosting productivity.

“Studies, including a Survey Group report, have looked at the productivity improvement gained from GPS implementation in
construction applications.

“The results show that GPS can increase positioning-related task productivity by 40-60% and provide cost savings of between 15-35% over conventional systems,” he said.

Incident scene surveying equipment
It isn’t just construction sites and highway projects that need surveying equipment. In the UK, police routinely use it for taking measurements at sites where there has been a fatal accident, meaning the road can be re-opened quickly.

A spokesman for the UK’s Essex police explained: “We have used the robotic Total Station in its various forms since 1993, which allows one person to survey a site much faster than used to be done with tape measures. However the GNSS is a further development in that it does not require line of sight between its component parts.”

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