accurate method of surveying

The Most Accurate Method of Surveying

The continuous advancement of technology made land development easier than ever. Unlike manual tools, technology made it easier for property owners to know their land. Today, land surveyors can do more for a lesser amount of time.

But how do surveyors survey? What method do they incorporate to produce survey maps? What tools do they use to map out large areas and calculate positions of long distances? Why are they able to get an accurate survey of the property no matter how big it is?

Let’s define what land surveying is and why it’s important in the industry.

What is Land Surveying? Why is it Important?

A land survey determines the legal boundaries of a land. Surveyors use this to determine property lots, topography, slope, and more. In simple terms, surveys help you understand your land and its boundaries.

When it comes to property management, surveys are important. For example, selling property requires one. Potential home buyers need to know the measurements of the lot before committing to the deal. Why is it important, you ask? It’s to prevent any future disputes. 

Encroachment is one of the most common reasons for disputes in the US. In addition, it can lead to a court battle. Many homeowners think that fences define their property’s boundaries. But it’s not always the case. As a smart buyer, you must make sure that the property’s legal description is up to date.

If there’s an ongoing dispute, you can settle it by hiring land surveyors to measure your property. They can testify as a witness in court and present the report of their survey.

Furthermore, aside from settling boundary disputes, land surveys can help in construction projects. Even if it’s your property, you can’t have a new structure built willy-nilly. You need to obtain planning permission first, which you can only get after presenting a property survey. Land surveys highlight the possible problems you might arise while the project is ongoing. 

All in all, surveys are essential for both commercial and residential properties. Surveyors, without a doubt, are one of the most important companions of anyone who owns a property.

Direct Methods for Surveying Distance

Surveyors can do various methods of measuring to assess a property. These methods are their go-to when they measure distance in approximates.

  • Pacing. Pacing is as straightforward as it can be. It involves walking over a line while counting the number of paces an individual takes. Surveyors can take an average pace length of 80 cm. But, they must ensure that their pace length becomes standard through practice. They take the distance multiplying the range of the pace with the number of steps taken. Professionals have an accuracy of 1 in 100. Pacing is helpful when approximating for various tasks, such as a reconnaissance survey.
  • Instrumental Method. Compared to pacing, this method produces better results. But this only applies if the area surveyed is smooth. This survey uses speedometers, pedometers, etc., to find the approximate distance.
  • Time Measurement and Judging Distance. Compared to the methods mentioned above, this one produces the roughest estimates. Surveyors assess the distance using the time it took to cover it through walking.
  • Chaining. Among the items on this list, chaining is the most accurate method of measuring distance. This method uses a chain as a measuring tool. For more accuracy, steel tape can take the place of a chain.

How Do Surveyors Get the Most Accurate Distance in a Land Survey?

The methods mentioned above are indeed popular. But most of them only produce approximates. There’s a way to calculate distances that is accurate and efficient. Surveyors do this using surveying equipment under the electronic distance measurements or EDM.

What is an EDM?

An electronic distance measurement EDM measures the length between two points. The device uses electromagnetic waves to do its calculations. Most of these devices can measure distances up to 5 kilometers. Moreover, it has an accuracy of up to 1 part in 200,000, which is twice more accurate compared to the tape measure.

It’s no doubt a bigger and better upgrade from the measuring tape technique surveyors used to do before the 60s. Because of its speed and accuracy, it’s the surveyors’ primary choice to measure big parcels of land.

EDMs give surveyors much more accuracy than metal measurement tapes. Various surveys, such as detail surveys and a control survey, use this technology.

Surveyors calculate the horizontal distance between two control points using an EDM instrument. The device directs the energy to another surveyor holding a reflector. Then, it’ll calculate the elapsed time between the initial emission and its return. The elapsed time becomes the basis of calculating the distance.

Surveyors use three types of EDM instruments: microwave, infrared, and light wave. Microwave instruments, as the name suggests, use microwaves for measurement. These devices can range up to 100 kilometers and come with two units: the remote and the master units.

Meanwhile, infrared surveys use prism reflectors and infrared waves. They have an accuracy of +/- 10mm, and range up to a distance of 3 kilometers.

The last instrument relies on light waves. Its range varies. During the morning, it has a range of 3 kilometers. When the evening rolls in, it changes to 2.5 kilometers. Moreover, it has varying accuracy, somewhere between 0.5mm to 5mm per km.

Commonly Used EDM Surveyor Instruments

EDM has various instruments for data collection. The most popular EDM devices are theodolites and total stations. A theodolite and total station might look like a large camera set up with a tripod. But they are more than that.

These two devices might look similar, but how they work differs. A theodolite can only measure angles, both horizontal and vertical. These angles make accurate measurements of a property. It does this by triangulating an object’s position in a specific area. This device can either be mechanical or electronic.

Meanwhile, a total station is a device that can measure the distances and angles of a property. After that, it processes the data collected and gives the surveyor the coordinates. The device does this by calculating the data using trigonometry and triangulation calculations. Sometimes, these devices even use latitudes and longitudes to get survey lines.

Total stations are the tools used for topographic surveying. This is because it records features or sets them for houses, boundaries, or roads.


Errors can cause a lot of problems in land development. To generate accurate survey results, surveyors must use the right equipment. One of these devices is EDM. An EDM device can assist them with accurate results through quick and efficient work. With these devices, human errors will lessen. Moreover, a property’s exact measurements become obtainable.