Monday, October 29, 2007

November articles have been posted

Even though the November issue won't mail for another few days, I've gone ahead and posted the articles. Please note that the links below are to the text-only versions of the articles. I highly recommend clicking on the PDF link to see the images and gorgeous artwork of each article. Enjoy!

Editorial: Road Trip!
The 2007 Surveyors Rendezvous at George Washington's birthplace in Northern Neck, Virginia was a fabulous first stop that kicked off a three-week, 6,500-mile road trip of meetings and interviews (and seeds of future articles!) Adding to the spirit of the Rendezvous was my rustic cabin in the woods and loads of behind-the-scenes facts about......
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Point to Point: Valuable Papers Insurance
Conscientious surveyors maintain several types of insurance coverage for their practice, spreading the risk of calamity among the rest of the insurance pool. One kind deserves some scrutiny, because many of us, I suspect, are unaware of the coverage particulars...
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The Father of Government Mapmaking: Henry Gannett
Rarely has the influence of one individual made such an impact on the history of American mapmaking. Under the direction of Henry Gannett, Chief Geographer of the United States Geological Survey, an era of unprecedented topographical maps was introduced to the United States beginning in the late...
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Fusing Measuring Innovation with Global R&D
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job as editor has been getting to know many of the talented people whose work has helped to shape our industry. This month our spotlight focuses on Roger Höglund of Trimble and Omar Soubra of Trimble, formerly MENSI. What follows are really two stories, one...
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The Totalizer Makes Your Total Station Complete
Like many surveyors, I have been following the evolution of GPS for many years (actually more than I care to admit) and constantly looking for ways to make it work for me. My first regular usage was for navigation when I installed a Garmin unit in my airplane in 1991. But surveying turned out...
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Scanning Deadwood
Not documenting an historic area like Deadwood, South Dakota in Lawrence County was a gamble. The city was named for the dead trees that were found in the narrow canyon (Deadwood Gulch) where the historic Main and Sherman streets were originally laid out. Cradled in a narrow gulch of...
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Laser Scanning: Surveying Revolutionized with True Color 3D Scanning
Surveyor Richard Darling's company purchased their first scanner, a Riegl Z360, in 2002 to assist a luxury home developer in creating a unique entrance into the Saguaro Ranch Master Planned...
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Reconnaissance: Relative Positional Accuracy—Again
It was with considerable disappointment that I read Joel Leininger's recent "Point to Point" column in the July/ August issue in which he derided the concept of positional accuracy in the 2005 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ ACS M Land Title Surveys. My response to...
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The Surveying Inspired Art of Perri Lynch
Land surveying is rightfully described as an art, and not just in reference to execution of skills and knowledge required. Surveying describes and projects both linear and abstract thoughts and ideas over the broadest of media ­ land and landscapes ­ to apply that which seeks precise definition to...
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Vantage Point: Building Brain Cells and Legacies
The care and feeding of brain cells has always been one of my greatest concerns, both of my own and of those belonging to others. It's why, even in the ancient days before I was licensed, I advocated increased educational requirements (beyond a high school diploma) for admittance to...
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

GPS Car Units Being Stolen

As I predicted years ago, the American people will wonder how they ever got along without GPS once they discover how convenient a car nav unit is. If you stop and think about, even in your own town, it's nice to have something tell you how to get someplace you've never been. Trouble is, because these units are valued at $400-600, they have become easy targets for thieves, and reports are pouring in from police departments all over the globe about stolen units. And removing the unit from the windshield mount doesn't help. Even if you remove the mount, unless you clean the windshield, a potential thief can still see that a unit might be in the car. It's a hassle, but the only safe option is to take the unit with you when you exit the vehicle. I bought one for my daughter last Christmas and she never mounts it her car, but rather keeps it in her purse and simply lays it on the dash or in the car seat when she wants to use it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

America's Crumbling Infrastructure Will Make Work for Surveyors

Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets: How to Fix America's Trillion-Dollar Construction Industry (The University of Chicago Press, October 2007, $25.00).

For many years, I have been hearing how automation is going to transform the construction industry. Whether it's machine control for construction equipment or interactive 3D models, changes are stirring in the world's largest economic engine. Many of these changes do not bode well for our society unless we prepare properly.

Under the lurid headline Day of Reckoning: Why We Can No Longer Ignore the Fatal Flaws in America's Construction Industry, construction attorney Barry B. LePatner explains why the construction industry has to change.

In the book, LePatner "builds a powerful case for a much-needed change to a risk-averse industry plagued with an archaic Mom & Pop mentality, ineffective management that wastes 50 percent of all labor costs, a shortage of capital, and a tradition of contracts that insulate companies from the costs of their own mistakes."

As surveyors grapple with a current downturn in land development activity, something else I've been hearing is the coming growth in infrastructure spending. LePatner pessimistically paints an almost insurmountable picture, but also show a way out. For those surveyors who intend on continuing their line of work, dividends will be paid by paying attention to the winds of change.

In the latest issue of The American Surveyor

Point to Point: Of Agnew, Surveyors and Kickbacks
Joel Leininger's column discusses Spiro Agnew, vice president during Richard Nixon's term. Despised by liberals, Agnew showed one face to the public while he was taking kickbacks and bribes. He was eventually caught and went down.

Integrated Survey Engineering Key to South Hook LNG Terminal Project
A great story from Wales shows how one company used total stations, GPS and scanning to retrofit an existing pier for use as a liquid natural gas offloading terminal.

24/7 Structural Monitoring Keeps Detroit Lakes Roadway Reconstruction Steady
As land development winds down, surveyors will increasingly find their services needed to repair our nation's aging infrastructure. This story shows one such application.

Monument Memorials
Early GLO surveyors started a tradition of burying objects near the corners they set. Jerry Penry takes us on a fascinating tour of perpetuation techniques.

GIS? Show Me the Money!
A Texas surveyor shows how he is using GIS to make his business more efficient and profitable.

RTN101: NTRIP ­- The Essential RTN Interface (Part 10)
In his continuing series, Gavin Schrock explains the critical piece in making real time networks operate.

VantagePoint: More to Maps than Meets the Eye
Wendy Lathrop brings us up-to-date on FEMA mapping.

Road Trip!

Road Trip!

The 2007 Surveyors Rendezvous at George Washington’s birthplace in Northern Neck, Virginia was a fabulous first stop that kicked off a three-week, 6,500-mile road trip of meetings and interviews (and seeds of future articles!) Adding to the spirit of the Rendezvous was my rustic cabin in the woods and loads of behind-the-scenes facts about the Father of our Nation, and a field trip to the new Washington exhibit at Mt. Vernon. Check out our photos by clicking on the flickr link at

Under pleasant blue skies I left the meeting and headed south for a visit with long-time acquaintances Lew Lapine and Matt Wellslager at the South Carolina Geodetic Survey. I have been hearing great things about the South Carolina RTN and the success they are having with GNSS verticals...

From there it was on to Florida, where I visited Traverse PC user Donald Todd in West Palm Beach. Don’s been working on a large GLO problem along the shore of Lake Okechobee for the past five years. According to Don, it all goes back to a 10-chain bust along the meander line...

Next I met with Marilyn Evers, executive secretary of the Florida Society of Mapping and Surveying (FSMS) in Tallahassee. Marilyn had read my editorial about the demise of math in surveying students and called to inform me that Florida has, for the past three years, been on top of the game. It will also make a great story about one state’s successful efforts to attract young people into the profession...

Next stop was Fort Worth, Texas for CGSIC For anyone who wants to know where GNSS is headed, it’s all at this meeting. Here's a teaser: think we could benefit from having ±124 GNSS satellites in the sky? Much of the meeting buzz surrounded the pending demise of NDGPS. While High Accuracy NDGPS provides the accuracy the precise crowd needs, NDGPS does not, but HA-NDGPS depends on NDGPS, so it’s a Catch-22...

Welcome to the American Surveyor Blog!


Even though I've been involved with land surveying electronics since the late 1970s, and have absolutely no fear of computers, I'll have to admit that I'm starting a blog with a bit of trepidation. I think the sense in our country is that most blogs are used for political purposes, but I can assure you that this is not what my blog will be used for. Instead, I will use it to report up-to-the-minute news and events that occur in the surveying industry. Because magazines are printed ahead of time, and because they only appear once a month, my blog will allow much more timely reporting, and best of all, items that will never make it into the magazine.
I hope that you will find it useful and, most of all, interesting.

Yesterday, I received a press release about a new GNSS receiver made by Altus Positioning Systems. You can read about this new entry into the precise positioning arena HERE. Of special note is the involvement of Neil Vancans as one of the the Altus principals. Originally from the UK, Neil has a long involvement with our industry, first at Leica and then at Thales. He's a surveyor and has a clue about what's important for surveyors. At the recent CGSIC meeting in Fort Worth, it was announced that if all of the planned or envisioned satellite systems are built, we will have as many as 124 positioning satellites floating overhead. We welcome the Altus APS-3 into our sandbox.

Marc Cheves, LS
The American Surveyor