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How much do surveyors depend on GPS today?

October 21, 2002
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How much do surveyors depend on GPS today?

Only five percent of the total respondents (102) to this poll do not use GPS in their work at all. That proves how large of an impact GPS has had on surveying. Twenty percent (20 respondents) said they used GPS in less than 10 percent of their work. Forty-four (44) percent use GPS in 10 to 50 percent of their work while 34 percent use it most of their work (51-100 percent of it).

Those numbers would probably grow if we did this poll three years from now as an overwhelming majority (75 percent) of the surveyors who took this poll said that they planned to increase the amount of work they do with GPS and a whopping 60 percent said that they planned to upgrade their GPS equipment in the next three years! Eleven percent said they might increase the amount of GPS work they do and 13 percent said they did not have plans to increase. Of the 60 percent who will upgrade their equipment, 22 percent plan to do it this year and 48 percent will upgrade within one to three years. Another 30 percent had no plans to upgrade their equipment.

Why the trend toward more and more GPS use? Well, 22 percent of those polled said that it saved them time and 72 percent said that it saved them time and money.

Is this trend for the good of surveying? Most of you seem to think so. When asked if surveyors are relying too heavily on technology, 56 percent said no. Their reasons for this were such things as:

“Technology is a tool. Those who don't understand it but use it anyway are asking for trouble. Those who refuse to use it are rejecting a better tool for certain situations. Both cases are tragic losses in terms of time, money and labor.” Ian Wilson, California land surveyor

However, 28 percent of you did feel that surveyors are relying to heavily on all the new technology, giving such reasons as:

“I feel that many surveyors and/or engineers are relying on technology too much. The technology is simply a tool for making the measurements. The surveyor and/or engineer still needs to know how to properly apply the measurements and have an expectation of what the results should be.” Randell E. Gann, PLS, Illinois

“Without proper training, GPS can be pushed 'too far' resulting in errant positions.” Ken Flygare Boise Survey Manager, Idaho

“Some think that just because they use the high-tech equipment, they are better surveyors. Not true! You still need to know your subject matter and know how to use the right tool to get the job done.” Wisconsin Dave Tlusty County Surveyor

“Instead of using GPS as a tool... I seem to find that an increasing number of surveyors, especially the younger ones, use GPS as the gospel. Just ‘cause the math puts you there doesn't mean its correct. Lots of physical evidence is missed-- bypassed by GPSing to the supposed corners.” Allan Ingram, land surveyor, Virginia

In a related question, do you think more surveyors should embrace technology, 76 percent said yes. Taking the comments to the previous question into account, it would appear that surveyors are all for embracing new technology and new ways of doing things, as long as it is done knowledgeably and without blind trust given to the technology.

GPS has changed the way surveys are done, obviously. Are there any problems with the surveys today that can be attributed to GPS? Results for this question were pretty mixed with about 50 percent responding that they do see more problems now and 42 percent saying they don’t see more problems.

We think users of GPS probably want to read about the technology, in order to learn and reinforce what they already know. So we asked you if we were right. Fifty-four (54) percent of respondents said they read the POB column, “The GPS Observer,” and sixty percent said they benefit from the column. Forty-three percent said they read the column sometimes and 6 percent said they don’t read it. Thirty-seven percent said they benefited from the column sometimes.

We also wondered what would help you more in your work, academic, theoretical explanations or practical, hands-on applications. Most people seem to prefer the latter or both. Thirty-five percent said they preferred practical over theoretical and 59 percent said both helped them. Only 2 percent said they prefer theoretical, academic explanations!

We’ve heard what you prefer to read, however, what do you need to know to use GPS effectively? When asked if you think one needs to understand the theory behind GPS, 62 percent of you said yes. Only 4 percent said no (good sign!), and 35 percent said they felt one needed to understand some of the theory.

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