More with Less: Key Priorities for Today’s Surveyors

The continuous development of traditional surveying equipment has boosted surveyors’ productivity. However, innovations in other areas that integrate surveyor-friendly user interfaces and incorporate technology that surveyors are familiar with also create more business opportunities and make the profession more accessible and attractive to young talents. Surveyors nowadays are ultimately “doing more with less” and, on Global Surveyors Day, it’s the perfect time to reflect on some of the trends that are currently shaping the industry, as well as key priorities surveyors must bear in mind to thrive.

Leica GS18 I quickly captures a site in images and measure points from them, either in the field or later in the office. Above, Leica’s BLK2FLY is the first fully integrated lidar flying laser scanner. Both are examples of the modern technology used by today’s surveyors.

Embracing unmanned and autonomous technologies

Surveyors are increasingly leveraging the latest technologies to address everyday challenges and expand their service offerings. According to research by Hexagon’s Geosystems division, 95 percent of surveyors agreed that new technologies have made them more efficient at work while 40 percent admitted to already working with UAV systems. In this context, more surveyors will likely adopt UAV systems in the coming years, which will spawn new use cases for aerial reality capture, including autonomous documentation of buildings. Solutions like autonomous laser scanning modules for robots, are also enabling scanning with minimal human intervention. As an increasing number of surveyors appreciate the accuracy and ease of data collection that laser scanners offer, their use will continue to rise. Surveyors must also pair this technology with the adoption of user-friendly workflow services that enable faster transferring between the field and the office, helping professionals make the most of the data captured.

Growing importance of data management in the surveyor’s role

Advances in technology are opening up some areas of surveying to a broader range of professionals. New solutions make field work easier and enable appropriately trained personnel to complete many surveying tasks that used to require specialists. The professional surveyor will remain essential, but some may shift to data management roles or become key stakeholders in selecting the correct equipment to complete projects effectively with the available personnel. As more weight is put on data, surveyors have a unique chance to establish themselves as the service providers who process, assess, and verify data. Digitalization is a key theme of the evolving surveying profession and embracing as well as mastering it will be a significant differentiator in ensuring the profession remains viable and attractive to the next generation.

Increasing efficiency and streamlining workflows

Historically, growth in the surveying industry has been linked to the construction industry. Today, with construction continuing to boom worldwide, the demand for surveyors remains high. However, talent is increasingly scarce. Fewer young talents enter the industry. That along with consistent cost pressure requires businesses to leverage new technologies that allow them to do more with less. Only businesses that stay current with constantly evolving technology will be able to keep up. Product innovation is allowing for more autonomous working, one professional can perform more tasks in less time, for instance robotic total stations, GNSS rovers with visual positioning meaning surveyors can capture the site quickly and efficiently in images and measure points in the field or later in the office. That also means that, even if additional measurements are needed later, no one needs to travel back on site and the workflow is effectively streamlined. Similarly, total station solutions that automate process steps including tilt compensation, target locking or automatic height measurement, avoid errors on site and mean quantum leaps in terms of productivity.

Upskilling to grow the business

In the past, surveyors were pioneers, charting the uncharted. This has changed significantly over the years–not only has most of the world been mapped, they no longer need days or weeks to bring accurate coordinates to new areas: GPS/GNSS positioning will get that job done in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. In the meantime, surveyors are branching out into new areas. On the one hand, surveyors are already experts in most of the techniques used in structural monitoring. With a flair for analyzing measurement data, preparing reports and delivering the most accurate measurements, surveyors are a natural fit for this speciality. Similarly, some surveyors now also offer mobile mapping as well as utility mapping and detection. Business-savvy surveyors realize that up-skilling helps grow their businesses.  

Tackling talent scarcity

With many surveyors retiring, the profession needs an influx of new talent. We’re already seeing the surveying industry tackling this issue with greater focus since the start of the year and witnessing active campaigning to raise awareness about the profession and make the field attractive to younger people. New tools, including laser scanners, mobile mapping technology and UAV systems, and powerful software will positively affect industry appeal among tech-savvy younger generations. Training programs tailored to make the profession attractive to a broader range of people with varying specialties will also align with the industry’s efforts, including the FIG (International Federation of Surveyors) Young Surveyors group.

Today’s surveyors are ultimately more empowered than ever, not only to further their career and grow their business, but to assist in bringing greater progress to the entire sector with technology that enables them to “do more with less” and the surveying industry to reach previously unimaginable heights.