What Are The Differences Between Traditional And Modern Surveying Techniques? 

by | Jan 2, 2023

People have been surveying land since they first started to build. From the Pyramids and Parthenon to the construction of the first roads, measuring and surveying have always been very important.

But do you know surveying land for construction or urban planning is complicated? In fact, land surveys are an essential component of an infrastructure development plan, and both the government and industry make significant investments to scale up, diversify, and support development.

Besides, before buying any real estate, thorough land surveys are carried out where instruments play a pivotal role.

For instance, in conventional surveying, chain and tape are used to take linear measurements, while compasses and regular theodolites are used to measure angles. But working with these tools becomes very slow and tedious. Hence, the equipment kept evolving to increase precision and make the work faster and less tedious.

What Is Surveying?

Surveying involves measurements, particularly of the earth’s surface, and is accomplished by determining the absolute or relative spatial location of points on or near the earth’s surface.

Different techniques and tools are being employed to make surveying easier.

Objectives of surveying

  1. To gather field data.
  2. To create a plan or map of the surveyed area.
  3. To conduct analysis and compute the field parameters necessary for planning and execution of actual engineering work.

Surveyors use geometry, trigonometry, physics, engineering, metrology, programming, and regression analysis for surveying a site.

What Are Traditional Surveying Methods?

Traditional methods are utilized for leveling or taking linear measurements of a building or location. These surveying techniques often involve manual readings assisted by digital technology and produce analog output. Some examples of traditional instruments are:

  1. Theodolites– an electronic device widely used in the housing sector, triangulation networks, and for scaling purposes for horizontal and vertical planes and angle measurements. The range of measurement accuracy for these angles is 5 minutes to 0.1 seconds.
  2. Dumpy level– a telescope tube-based optical surveying leveling device used to compare heights and distances between various surveying locations.
  3. Measuring wheel– The measuring wheel, sometimes referred to as an odometer, trundle wheel, click wheel, or surveyor’s wheel, is used to measure distances. Using the wheel’s circumference and a counting mechanism, measuring wheels can determine the number of rotations made and the distance traveled.
  4. Tape Measurement– Even though accurately measuring every component of a task is required in construction; mistakes are nonetheless sometimes made. Hence, a measuring tape is a fantastic tool for double-checking work on a building site.

What Are Modern Surveying Methods?

Modern surveying techniques frequently use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and digital equipment to determine various metrics, such as measuring angles, levels, and distances. Some examples of surveying instruments are:

  1. Electronic distance measurement instruments (EDMI)– This equipment measures the slope distance between the transmitter and the receiver by modulating the continuous carrier wave at various frequencies. Then the difference in phase between the incoming and the departing signals at the master station is determined.
  2. This device is also used to measure the horizontal distance between two points, and the distance measured is more precise than measured with a chain or tape.
  3. Total station: This device, regarded as a combined electronic theodolite and EDMI, can record slope distance along with horizontal and vertical angles.
  4. Global Positioning System (GPS)– A two-way receiver and GPS antenna are used in GPS surveys. The receivers are held in the same location over an extended distance, allowing satellite computing to determine their precise position. The software then figures out the variations between these receivers.
  5. GPS was quickly adapted for surveying because it directly provides a position (Latitude, Longitude, and Height) and eliminates the need to estimate the angle and distance between intermediary places.
  6. UAVs/ Drones- This device aids in accessing places that would otherwise be inaccessible to survey using conventional techniques.

Key Differences in Traditional and Modern Surveying Methods

Speed of job

The pace of the job is the first distinction we should discuss here. Simply put, there is a huge chasm between the two. Forget about remote access and aerial flight; modern equipment is lighter, more compact, and more portable. Additionally, it requires fewer people to use it.

The traditional equipment is larger, requiring more time to put up and take down and more people to operate it. Therefore, modern surveying instruments significantly outperform older models when survey completion time is concerned.

Precision and accuracy of measurement

Land surveyors can measure distances accurately to within +/- (2mm + 2ppm) x d using a modern instrument, and it is exceptionally accurate when compared to the findings produced by traditional tools.

And for a fundamental and complex operation like land surveying, modern methods provide extremely accurate and thorough reports of a structure or piece of land, which is then utilized to produce 3D Point Clouds, drawings, elevations, and more.

By replacing an outdated system with one powered by new technology your software will become more durable and expandable.

Scope/ Portfolio

Earlier, surveying methods used to be as constrained in their application as the technologies themselves. These techniques have evolved significantly and are no longer just used for surveying land. They are also being used to survey the sea and airspace to uncover new infrastructure-building prospects and transform land usage.

Operating methods

The physical operation of various equipment types significantly impacts how they function. Current surveying equipment is lightweight, compact, and much easier to carry around and use, and it can also be attached to drones and handled remotely.

Once you finish setting it up, navigating the surroundings is simple and accurate. Simply put, the modern instrument is far better to use when it comes to simple operations.

Overall cost-effectiveness

Many personnel is required to handle the surveying using outdated equipment, which results in significant labor expenditures.

However, with new instruments and technology, a whole surveying crew is optional to complete the task. Hence, fewer workers are involved, resulting in lower hourly wages, lower insurance premiums, and more cost-specific benefits.


The most recent technological advancement has significantly changed modern land surveying techniques’ design and functionality. And there is no doubt that automation and artificial intelligence will result in better tools and methods to make a surveyor’s job easier.

Bishnupriya Pradhan

About The Author

Bishnupriya Pradhan hails from the serene hill station in Odisha, Koraput. As a Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry graduate, she has served as a Veterinary Assistant Surgeon for the Government of Odisha and also worked as a Research Associate in Bharat Biotech’s RCC Laboratories, Hyderabad. Researching and writing on diverse topics has always been her passion. She chose to be a content writer for KloudPortal to exercise her writing skills and creativity and produce a quality write-up that can reach scores of online readers.