What legacy will I leave? That’s a question I’ve thought a lot about following trips to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle System International's (AUVSI's) Unmanned Systems conference in Washington and the Surveyors Rendezvous in Philadelphia.
The two events seem unrelated. One focused on unmanned aircraft systems (just don’t call them drones, as you can read in the article on page 20). The other focused on a celebration of the Mason- Dixon Line survey, which began 250 years ago. One looked to the skies for the future, and the other looked to the roots of colonial America for the past.
Yet, for all the differences, the two events shared similarities. At heart, both were searches of discovery in which attendees tried to uncover the past and figure out the future.
Both sought clarity. AUVSI’s conference looked at UAS, and it challenged perceptions of unmanned aircraft vehicles by showing their potential use for tasks such as surveying, mapping and engineering. The Surveyors Rendezvous looked to honor the work of Mason and Dixon by educating the public with historical markers, memorials and ceremonies.
Of course, both also explored topics that have impacted—and will continue to impact—surveyors and their profession for years to come. The events of 250 years ago continue to have reverberations today, and the developing technologies of the present will shape the future.
The two events also raised questions. What is the power of our words and terminologies? Will our expectations and assumptions hold us back, or will we exceed our wildest dreams? What does the future hold, and what effect will the past have on the future?
Those questions and many more deserve serious thought. In the end, though, our opinions and thoughts won’t shape our legacies. Actions will. The willingness to work hard, the daringness to innovate, the ability to tackle challenges and the openness to give back to others all will leave a lasting impact.
Charles Mason—along with his partner, Jeremiah Dixon—did all of those things. Mason and Dixon worked for nearly five years to survey the 312-mile line, and their work exceeded the accuracy specifications of their instruments.
Despite world-class work, Mason thought his contributions to society would be forgotten as he died penniless and buried in an unmarked grave.
But centuries later, he is remembered for his diligence, ingenuity and intelligence. His impact transcends surveying. He left a legacy that affects us all today, and one that we can embrace and build from as we prepare for the future.
Indeed, actions mean everything. They will shape our legacy for years to come.