When POB interviewed Bob Vollmer in 2016, one of the things he said when we asked what advice he had to newer surveyors was “keep up with the technology.” That may not sound like such a novel observation except that Bob was 99 when he said it. Bob retired in February at the age of 102, and photos accompanying the announcement show him still working with current technology. (It may not have been the newest scanner because Bob did work for a state agency after all, and government agencies are notorious when it comes to budgets.)

Making decisions about technology can be challenging under the best circumstances. Weighing the cost of new gear with better capabilities and capacities against the actual value it might deliver is tough. Will that improvement in the field carry over into post production, or is it more of a trade between improved productivity on one end and demand for more resources on the other? That question is asked and answered on a regular basis and was quantified in 2019 in a very thorough examination by Corey Albright pitting a UAV against a conventional RTK GNSS survey.

POB’s current Surveying and Mapping Industry Equipment Study quantified details supporting both Bob and Corey’s positions. Professional land surveyors aren’t shy about new technologies, but they want to see results. Before spending thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on new gear, they need to know it will provide real, measurable results. This isn’t a race to “keep up with the Joneses.” Surveyors clearly temper their excitement for the new shiny object with realistic expectations.

The responsibility surveyors take on when they put their seal on a document can have far-reaching implications. Whether it is a property boundary or an engineering survey or as-built survey, getting it right matters. That’s one reason why having the right tools and training is so important.

The questions aren’t just whether or not to use a laser scanner, they include what type of laser scanner. What is the underlying technology powering the output of that scanner? What are the capabilities and limitations? How does that compare with the alternative technology? What are the differences between this brand’s platform and another brand? How do the models within a brand vary? What is the durability and reliability of the unit? How is training, customer support, and service from not only the brand manufacturer but also the local or regional dealer network?

Long before we get to the question, “What’s in the budget?” there are a number of detailed questions that have to be answered in every technology and equipment decision. The good news is that most surveyors agree with Bob Vollmer that it is important to keep up with the technology. Each decision may not be accompanied by research with the academic rigor of Corey Albright’s UAV project, but they will be thoughtful and well reasoned.

As a beneficiary of those decisions, understanding how true professionals approach their responsibilities gives me added confidence in any property sales or purchases and each time I cross over a bridge or enter a newly constructed building where a licensed surveyor has done his or her job and applied their seal to their product.

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