Two road construction workers using measuring device on the field
24 Oct 2023

Driving Efficiency with Rugged Technology: A Digital Innovation in Land Surveying

Most construction projects or land transactions involve a land survey.

A land survey is performed to locate, describe, mark, and map the boundaries of contour lines and elevation changes. The result is a legal description that can be used to buy or sell the land or to ensure boundaries are noted to establish ownership. Land surveys are the foundation of property rights and infrastructure development.

Land surveying is a historic profession, dating back to the construction of the great pyramids of Egypt. Professional land surveyors still use the same basic concepts of geometry, engineering, and physics to establish property boundaries.

Today, digitalisation has transformed the practise of land surveying, moving from sticks and strings to digital tools that increase the accuracy and efficiency of land surveys. Rugged technology solutions support this transformation with greater reliability and connectivity that elevates the practise of land surveying into the digital age.

Digitalising land surveying offers precise measurements, efficiency, data integration, and cost reduction as key advantages

The Need for Digitalisation in Land Surveying

The Egyptians used knotted ropes and plumb bobs for their surveys. Before the digital era, surveyors used transits and theodolites to site lines and record data manually. While manual surveying was surprisingly accurate, it could be slow and prone to errors.

Digitalisation in surveying land delivers a number of benefits, including more precise measurements, efficiency and data integration as well as lower land survey cost.

A modern professional land surveyor uses many digital tools, including GPS systems with satellite imaging, electronic distance stations, 3D scanners, theodolites and drones to determine a property’s boundary lines. Distances and angles can be measured precisely very quickly, and data can be integrated via software to create different types of land surveys.

The most common type is cadastral surveying, which establishes property boundary lines and dimensions. Cadastral surveys have many uses, such as a subdivision survey to divide property, an ALTA survey to transfer title to property, or a land survey that establishes a property’s boundary lines for the property owner. Related types of surveys, such as a mortgage surveys, construction surveys, As-Built surveys, Hydrographic waterway surveys, mining surveys, etc., can be generated with digital surveying equipment.

Surveys are often part of the public record, so even something as simple as recording the legal description of property corners is critical to mitigating boundary disputes or properly site construction projects. One of the benefits of digitalisation for a land surveyor is the ability to easily share electronic versions of the property survey with enhanced maps and visualisations. They are critical for real estate transactions, and a real estate agent should ensure an up-to-date survey of any property they are selling. A property survey with legal boundaries will be required by title companies as part of the title insurance policy for any residential or commercial transaction.

Rugged Technology Solutions for Digital Land Surveying

Land surveying occurs outdoors, often in undeveloped locations that may be difficult to reach and offer little shelter in inclement weather. Surveying equipment must be rugged to withstand temperature and humidity extremes and rough handling. Commercial off-the-shelf options for devices such as laptop computers or tablets, typically don’t provide the durability and reliability that a professional land surveyor requires.

Rugged technology devices used in digital land surveying work include the following:

Global navigation satellite systems receivers (GNSS). Rugged tablets often incorporate GNSS receivers to precisely record a location based on satellite data. A GNSS receiver can connect with multiple satellite constellations such as GPS and GLONASS to ensure the land survey can be completed.

Laser scanners. Laser scanners capture natural shapes and built structures to create 3D models to help visualise the land for architects, builders and others that rely on the results of a land survey.

Total station. A total station is the modern digital version of a theodolite, an instrument used to measure distances and angles with great precision. It can integrate with other digital devices to further analyse the data it captures for a boundary survey or As-Built survey.

Rugged tablets. Rugged mobile devices are designed to meet the demands of professional land surveyors, providing a trusted tool that delivers durability, reliability, and cutting-edge technological capabilities.

These digital technologies enable land surveyors to offer new services to the industry. For example, 3D laser scanners capture photographic reference points from multiple camera locations and integrate with data points from GPS and total stations to create accurate visual representations of how future site improvements would fit into the existing property surveyed.

Professional land surveyors tackle outdoor challenges with rugged technology, ensuring land surveying continue even in harsh weather conditions.

Advantages of Rugged Technology in Land Surveying

Land surveying is an outdoor job, and rugged technology solutions address many common challenges that professional land surveyors face.

All types of land surveys must be completed in adverse weather conditions, including temperature extremes, rain and snow, full sun, high winds, moisture, and humidity. These conditions could delay the survey completion without the use of rugged gear.

Surveys may be required in rugged or unimproved terrain to identify land boundaries. Devices must withstand vibration and potential drops on unforgiving surfaces such as  rocks and hard-packed soil.

To perform their duties in these harsh surroundings, professional land surveyors need rugged technology with the durability and reliability required to do the job. Long battery life is another factor ensuring uninterrupted data collection in the field.

The concept of rugged technology extends to cyber security as well. Commercial-grade rugged technology incorporates leading privacy and security measures to ensure data is secure and protected by high-level security, such as biometrics identification, with full access and complete control to protect mission-critical data. 

Overcoming Barriers to Adoption

Land surveying is a historic profession with a long legacy of precise measurements using tools and techniques proven over the years to establish property boundaries. Adopting digital land surveying and rugged technology solutions could be seen as disruptive to that legacy. Long-time professional land surveyors must learn how to use rugged technology and digital land surveying techniques, which some may view as challenging. Also, new digital technology may require significant hardware and software investment to incorporate into the daily workflow. However, like other fields, there are many benefits to adopting digital technology that outweigh objections such as cost and complexity.

Digitalisation of land surveying is about more than technology. Fully incorporating digital technologies requires rethinking how the work is done and how the organisation operates with new processes. A licenced land surveyor can take advantage of training and educational programmes to get the most out of the latest technology and innovation and incorporate that into their organisation, relative to colleagues, customers, and other stakeholders. Ultimately, adopting rugged technology requires changing the mindset of the organisation. 

Technology continues to shape the future of digital land surveying, as emerging trends will play a more significant role in the industry.

Drones are among the most common additions to land surveying. With data capture through video and GNSS, drones offer the advantages of aerial photography and mapping to improve the efficiency and flexibility of land surveys, especially a topographic survey. With drones, a land surveyor can collect and process more data in less time while avoiding the need to travel in potentially dangerous situations like a busy highway or mountainous terrain.

Lidar, or light detection and ranging, uses a laser pulse to map the terrain and the surrounding environment to create 3D models and maps of objects while travelling at up to highway speeds. This innovation will make land surveying more time- and cost-effective. Lidar equipment can be carried on drones to generate a topographic survey as well as map property lines for a boundary survey.

Cloud-based data management centralises all the data from surveys, making it available to any authorised user. Cloud storage can be sized dynamically, allowing surveyors to scale storage costs up and down depending on project needs.

These innovations will continue to transform digital land surveying, equipping surveyors, and their clients to save time and costs.


Rugged technology solutions are the foundation for the digitalisation of land surveying trends. With digital solutions, land surveying can be completed faster, more accurately, and with a higher level of safety. Rugged technology supports this trend with gear designed to function in extreme environments with the durability and reliability that professionals require to do the job.  By embracing digital workflows and rugged technologies, professional land surveyors can provide more accurate information faster, with additional visualisations to facilitate communication and feedback with their stakeholders.

As one of the leading rugged computer providers, Getac offers extensive rugged computing product lines and serves a wide range of vertical markets.

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