POB and its research partner, Clear Seas Research, recently concluded a study of surveying and mapping equipment trends. The annual Surveying & Mapping Industry Equipment Study was conducted during the closing weeks of 2019 and released at the beginning of 2020. The Surveying & Mapping Industry Equipment User Study is available at no cost to POB Premium members or for purchase by non-members. A broader market study is also available from Clear Seas Research.
The recent Equipment User Study, along with a companion Surveying & Mapping Industry Software User Study (also available to POB Premium members or for purchase by non-members), show continued strong purchasing activity. The Software User Study was highlighted in the January 2020 issue of POB.
What are the Primary Applications for Surveying Equipment?
Among the highlights from the Equipment User Study, building and construction has continued to rise as the primary survey application performed by respondents. In 2015, the responses stood at 9 percent. The number has remained above one quarter of respondents for the last two years, with the most recent study indicating 27 percent of respondents are engaged in construction.
An interesting parallel development has been the rise in the number of respondents saying their company’s primary survey application is in engineering design surveys. After a drop in the previous study, the current total returned to 24 percent.
The biggest drop over the last five studies was in boundary surveys. Once at 35 percent, the current respondents place boundary surveys at 15 percent. It’s important to note that the question was phrased to ask what is the company’s “primary” surveying application. The results don’t necessarily indicate there are fewer boundary surveys being done; it does imply boundary surveys may not be the primary activity for many survey firms. Put another way, building, construction, and engineering design surveys have become a larger proportion of the business of most survey firms.
What Types of Surveying Equipment are Currently in Use?
The mix of equipment surveyors report as currently in use has been fairly consistent over the last five studies. It’s no surprise that standards like tripods and data collectors/controllers, along with global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), are at the top of the list. One notable trend, however, is the steady rise of 3D laser scanners – now in use at 42 percent of respondent companies.
Another technology experiencing significant growth is the unmanned aerial system (UAS) or aerial drone. One third of respondents report using drones; up from 11 percent in 2015. Regulatory changes helped open opportunities for commercial drone use, but anecdotal evidence suggests the surveying profession is looking for improved efficiency and economic returns from UAS and they are following the evolution of the technology, its application, and any regulatory developments closely and phasing the technology into their operations.
What are the Reasons Why Surveying & Mapping Professionals Invest in New Equipment or Technology?
The last two studies asked respondents to indicate what was most likely to trigger a decision to buy. The top reasons given in each study were: equipment or technology that has become outdated or was damaged, and when the new equipment/technology will increase productivity or efficiency.
More companies appear to be planning more spending on equipment and technology. It is not surprising that the top technologies include UAS, 3D lasers, and GNSS.
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