Here at POB, we received the longest “Letter to the Editor” that I have seen in 40 years as an editor. It demonstrates how committed surveyors are to their profession and how engaged they are with their professional community (including POB).

The discussion of the U.S. Survey Foot by Michael Kulish, PLS is not the first time this issue has graced the pages of POB. In 2013, Kevin Kianka commented on a webinar that discussed a point cloud that did not match the constructed model. Kianka observed, “Consultants in the 3D industry who are not trained or are unfamiliar with surveying or geomatics systems may be surprised to learn that there are two different measurements for the length of a foot in the United States….” Granted, “…in a measurement of 10,000 feet, the difference would be 0.02 feet (just less than one-quarter of an inch),” but take a look around this issue (including Kristopher Kline’s column) and there is a consistent theme about the role and responsibility of licensed professional surveyors to get it right. 

While it can sound like surveyors are mired in a love of the past, turning a blind eye to the future, that is far from the case. Even if the U.S. fully embraced the meter tomorrow, millions of records exist based on the U.S. Survey Foot. Understanding history, in this case, protects the future. “Following the footsteps” is not just a clever phrase; it describes the responsibility surveyors take on when they work for the public good and under the public trust. 

Kline talks about surveyors who failed to carry their deed research beyond 1906 to the source document of 1860. For the surveyors, and that property owner, the future was all about the past. The disputed measurement may have been in inches, but it was important to fulfill the surveyor’s obligation under the public trust to do a complete, fair, and impartial job.

While we’re talking about where the past and the future come together, there’s plenty in store for the profession as we collectively dig into technological advances. Surveyors are indicating a keen desire to continue to move ahead with acquisition and application of new technologies while updating the familiar technologies they already employ. 

The impressive growth projections for technologies like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) sound a bit more subdued when you get into survey-grade applications, but the technology must catch up to the high standards required by the profession. 

When GPS was first available to the public, it did not provide survey-grade results. Today, it is an integral tool in every surveyor’s toolkit. UAVs are following a similar path, perhaps at a more rapid pace as the technology advances quickly.

The mythical Janus, for whom the month of January is named, is often depicted looking back and forward simultaneously. The profession needs to teach that core concept to new entrants so they understand their leadership and their commitment to the public trust goes forward from the footsteps of those who preceded them.

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