Land surveying, or geodetic engineering as it is also known, is the science and practice of recording and setting out the exact measurements of man-made and natural features of the earth's surface. To survey means to view, examine and inspect in detail.
Surveying is basic to all construction planning and development. It involves the making of maps and the determination of boundaries.
Land surveyors participate in the planning and construction of roads, railways, power lines, canals, engineering structures, buildings and townships. Their work is also indispensable when it comes to preparing data on the measurements of lakes, rivers and the coastline.
Areas of specialisation include:
Topographical surveys: preparing maps which show the physical features of the land and on the land.
Geodetic surveying: ascertains the size and shape of our planet. The main function of this is to provide a framework of beacons according to the degree of latitude and longitude to which any other surveys and maps can be connected. Geodetic surveys also involve measuring vast areas of land to determine national boundaries.
Cartography: mapmaking is done by means of photogrammetry and the maps are processed by cartography for reproduction and distribution. Cartographers provide map-users with information in an understandable and useful form.
Cadastral surveying: involves the measuring of property, such as the planning of towns, cities, farms and sectional title properties and their subdivision. By law, it is the exclusive function of land surveyors to do cadastral surveying and in so doing, they make an important contribution to the socio-economic development of the country.
Engineering surveying: land surveyors are involved in taking measurements for the design of roads, freeways, railways, bridges, tunnels and large structures.
Hydrographical and oceanographic surveying: concerns mapping the marine environment or under-sea topography. Hydrographers work in close cooperation with harbour engineers and oceanographers. They also do positioning at sea and update maps to show danger zones.
Land surveyors or geodetic engineers divide their time between fieldwork, to measure the terrain, and office work to process the information and further developments, and then do more field work, setting out on the ground what they have designed on paper.
Surveyors usually work outdoors at the region to be surveyed. In South Africa, it is probably one of the most satisfying jobs, offering enjoyable working conditions in the open air. Some work, such as computing, planning and preparing plans, maps charts and reports, is done in the office.