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Geomatics Professional versus Licensed Land Surveyor

Point Cloud prepared by Geomatics Professional
Geomatics Professional

The term “surveyor” has tremendous historical significance dating back to the Egyptian “rope stretchers,” but I think the time has come for the idea of the geomatics professional to emerge.

The digital transformation began in the 1950’s for the surveying profession with the invention of the electronic distance meter and the computer. The development of GPS (GNSS) has completely changed the world and lidar is poised to have a similar impact in the form of autonomous vehicles and robots of every shape and description.

In addition to autonomous mobility, the rise of the use of artificial intelligence, AR/VR, laser scanning, drones, the time – dependent modernization of the North American datums, the Internet of Things, Smart Cities – the list is a long one, all require a knowledge of accurately determining location, in many cases, 3D geodetic location that has nothing to do with 2D boundary law.

The land surveying profession, particularly with regards to the legal aspects of determining property boundaries will always play a critical role in society and they should be licensed to do so. The personal computer, GIS, GPS, the Internet and the cloud are all tools that the land surveying profession has taken advantage of, but the digital technologies above require much different training and skills compared to boundary surveying.

In order to attract young people to the profession we need to change the game. There is a tremendous amount of new, exciting location-based technology coming on stream. Of course this will have to happen much more slowly than we would like – evolution, not revolution, but our vision needs to be revolutionary.

That is why I would like to propose the term Geomatics Professional. I really don’t see why this person needs to be licensed by a state board, although there should be some professional organization that administers the credentials.

Let’s leave it at that for now. Please let me know what you think.

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  • The article on Geospatial Professional maybe just what today’s Land Surveyor has to be.
    The rapid advances in engineering technology and land surveying, including
    GIS/GPS, LiDAR, etc. has opened up new opportunities.

  • I agree that a certifying body for land surveying similar to Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors would be useful; however, the requirement for a state license will always be a requirement for boundary work. Requiring a license is for the same purpose of requiring the license for engineers and attorneys – both fields that the surveyor is incorporating when determining a land boundary. What is missing, and has been a topic in the surveying community for several years, is a certification for other forms of surveying. The NSPS has tried to address some of this but has fallen far short of a professional level certification. A major obstacle is the hodgepodge of state laws determining what activities define “surveying” that requires a license. In my state of Colorado, setting the control networks, doing some types of topographic work, writing property descriptions, and determining a boundary requires a license. Other states widely vary from this. What this system does not address are all the surveyors working for construction companies and drone providers that are not required to have a survey license, have specialized skills, and could benefit from a certification program. Having a new name sounds great, but it’s the meat behind that name that matters – in this case, the program that backs it up.

  • Great article and I’m in full agreement.

    I like the term to a certain degree but would like to suggest something slightly different. Feel free to comment; this is just a suggestion:
    Geospatial Technician

    I know I might be getting a little down into the details too much but let’s see what others think.


  • I started surveying with a transit and tape. The record of the survey was written in a book. The results of a survey was constructed with a parallel bar, triangles and a scale. A few years later, I saw a HP EDMI and a Wang computer. At the time this technology seemed like science fiction. I also thought surveying would be a career with a promising future. About 10 years later I had become a RLS. I was working on a large multi-state project and witnessed D measurements being made by a Ferranti Inertial Land Surveying System (FILS) and a Macrometer GPS receiver. I sensed surveying was about to undergo significant change and I wanted to be part of it. I also recognized it would take more education to master the technology. I returned to college to complete a BS in Surveying. Today I am nearing the end of a fruitful career in surveying. I get to apply LIDAR, digital photogrammetry, GIS data sets, 3D modeling and other technologies in the delivery of professional services. My moto – measuring and mapping what matters.

    This bit of biographical trivia is meant to show it is possible for career in surveying to start in analogue and make the digital transition. It did require the surveyor to keep looking to the future and engaging in personal and professional development. Technological advances can make a lot of hard won knowledge and skill unmarketable in a short time. At the same time, a surveyor needs some sense of their history. The surveyor has walked the earth for several thousand years. They persist though time because they provide an expertise that helps civilization advance. The ancient Romans felt surveyors were important. They actively took steps to develop a cadre of competent surveyors to support growth. History shows that technology advances but the problems of living together persist. The challenge is to understand how technology and techniques can result in practical solutions to human problems.

    A dirt surveyor with a restless mind.

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