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Surveying: Speed and accuracy on the move with live data

New technologies come into their own when surveying open ground for cable routes or to assess land damage. Grace Campbell reports. 

As surveyors we are often required to review existing and proposed underground cable routes for clients. 

This can be for a number of reasons, for example to carry out records of condition – setting out environmental aspects of a property at a particular time, or general site familiarisation by taking a walk out into the countryside, often over peat bog and remote locations. Previously these records would have been taken using paper maps, with the cable routes drawn separately, using approximate locations, or using routes delineated by clients using their software. 

Now, however, we can utilise GPS co-ordinates and walk along a route using our tablet to guide us accurately, or even along a path lacking boundary features, such as on open hill ground. Galbraith has adopted QField, an application that enables us to create a map on and upload it to a mobile device, and from here we can collect data on the move.

The technology is extremely useful in many situations. It comes into its own just prior to construction work, when an accurate record of condition needs to be carried out. Previously, this would have involved making a best guess at the new cable route, and photographing general areas of interest. Now we can make an accurate record, instantly.

Equally, this work is increasingly being programmed into drones, with routes flown providing aerial imagery. However, in our wayleave and land manager capacity, recording features on the ground can be the difference between a client saving and spending money on a compensatory matter. During on-site inspections, we can walk with the tablet and plot the full area measurement accurately, for losses or reinstatement. 

Using tablets, we can proactively mark areas of interest, mapping sites that a new cable route or construction traffic might look to avoid, or measuring areas of land damage or crop loss for compensation purposes after a project has been completed. 

Photographs of these areas of concern can be ‘geo-referenced’ using a tablet, and information imported directly into our mapping software. 

By using a combination of mobiles devices and modified apps, we’re doing the same sort of work we’ve always done, but with live data and enhanced precision.