Skip to main content

Six Predictions for the Surveyor Role in 10 Years

Lacking time travel as a current disruptive technology, the geospatial profession must look for clues about the future role of the surveyor within the trends and core practices of today. With this in mind—and as part of our celebration of National Surveyors Week—we asked Chris Trevillian, marketing director for Trimble’s Geospatial GNSS division, to jump into his imaginary DeLorean time machine and travel a decade into the future to see how the role of the surveyor will change. 

Chris Trevillian

Here are six developments Trevillian is anticipating may come to fruition in a decade:

  1. Better, Safer Workflows

In 10 years, the surveyor’s workflow will become quicker, safer and easier because of new technologies like scanning, mobile mapping and UAS photogrammetry. Additionally, virtual layout, aided by increasing use of augmented reality technologies, will require fewer physical stakes in the ground allowing for surveyors to convey meaning information without getting in harm’s way. 

Scanning and UAS are great examples where extensive areas can be covered without physical contact. While the surveyor will never eliminate the physical contact required for the location of a section corner or property boundary the advantages of remote data capture available in scanning or photogrammetry will improve safety by extending their reach beyond the property line into a public right of way. 

Aiding in this workflow, the field and office software that accompanies these methods of data capture will be more robust at dealing with different formats and ‘live’ data models like IFC or other data rich representations of the design.  

  1. Digital Twins at Center Stage

As surveyors, we have always focused on the transformation of the physical world into a consumable format like maps. This process used to take a substantial amount of time, however, with new technologies like mobile mapping, scanning and UAS photogrammetry, the collection process will be greatly improved. 

As this transformation of the physical world to the digital world accelerates, the practice of extracting meaningful information from the digital twin will take center stage. Likely, in 10 years, surveyors increasingly will be called upon to translate  information from these models back to the physical reality for an increasing number of project stakeholders. As sites become more complex and conditions or plans change rapidly, the live models will be the nexus of truth and those who can decipher this truth will be essential members of the project team. 

  1. Data Opportunities from Mobile Mapping 

Surveyors and mappers should take heed of capital flows into the autonomous vehicle revolution. The tremendous amount of money pouring into this space will continue to improve sensors, onboard processing and vehicle connectivity, essentially resulting in millions of mobile mapping units around the world. That data may provide an abundant resource for spatial information, yet challenge surveyors to process it into something relevant to their customer’s needs.  

  1. Increased Demand for Services

In this world of abundant “enhanced” data, the need for surveyors will expand. Surveyors will have access to much more data, and so will their customers. With geospatial-centric data finding its way into more realms of business, surveyors will be needed to ensure data accurately represents the physical world. The lay person will struggle to identify and understand good data from bad, increasing demand for surveyors, who are legally bound to provide data accuracy and quality.

  1. More Scanner, Software Use

Cutting-edge surveyors will have invested in proven technologies to provide quicker and safer means for data capture, with scanning top of mind. Those who learn the powerful software programs used to extract data and automate processes will be most competitive. At the same time, the office side of the business will increase, and field crews will be expected to understand a wider variety of data capture methods. GNSS and total stations will still have a solid core in day-to-day workflows, yet the growth of the other methods will be important. 

  1. A Growing Profession

A decade from now, we will hopefully have turned our biggest headwind - finding good help - into a tailwind. Land surveying is exciting and unique. It requires a broad skillset touching on numerous disciplines such as mathematics, technology, history and legal rights. It is our responsibility now to develop educational initiatives and more extensive outreach in order to help the younger generation understand the potential within the survey and mapping industry. 

The challenge will be to introduce this new generation to the amazing world of land surveying, where they will have the opportunities to explore their environment and expand their skill sets beyond a single focus, allowing them to provide a larger impact on a world hungry for accurate and rich geospatial information.  

This blog post expands on a recent article by Trevillian for GIM International. Read it here.