Editor's Corner: Survey Summit 2004

A 225Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

Whether it’s using GIS to take the records of an entire office to the field or using it to plan projects, the second ESRI Survey Summit, with the theme Bridging The Gap, abundantly demonstrated that surveyors are doing productive things with GIS. Held in conjunction with the ESRI User Conference in San Diego, attendance this year nearly doubled. Everybody I spoke to found the conference to be worthwhile.

Surveyors have borne much criticism for "turning their backs" on GIS. For sure, even though our ultimate task is usually making maps or implementing maps, not very many of us are interested in hardcore GIS mapping. In all fairness, part of the reason for our distaste was that early-day GISes were based on inaccurate base maps, and like most tax maps, resulted in "cartoon" data. But much has changed with the advent of GPS, and today survey-grade measurements and accuracy are being incorporated into many GIS systems. For years I have promoted surveyor involvement in the positioning and measurement aspects of GIS, both for locating objects and for helping GIS people keep their data grounded in reality.

Mike Weir, Survey Manager for ESRI and Summit organizer, pointed out that the word analysis is not included in the ACSM Survey Definitions book. Weir wondered why and reminded the audience that analysis is what surveyors do. He believes that survey programs that are not teaching spatial analysis are missing the boat. Charlie Challstrom, the chief of the National Geodetic Survey, also noted that surveyors are bridging the gap between surveying and GIS with accuracy.

Dave Doyle, the chief geodetic surveyor with NGS, stated that "not all centimeters are created equal," because it all depends on the datum. He also pointed out the fact that America is unique in the world because we’re the only country that allows private surveyors to submit data to our National Spatial Reference System. In other countries, control data is the province of the government only. This draws attention to another major difference between America and many other countries: unlike most governments that charge for it, our government provides data for free.

ESRI’s extension Survey Analyst was designed to allow the input of survey measurements, and the incremental improvement of the GIS layers above the cadastral layer. Survey Analyst has something else of benefit for surveyors: a geodatabase that will store survey measurements. Whenever higher quality measurements are introduced into the network, a sophisticated least squares adjustment can be performed, thereby improving the quality of all adjacent positions. It is important to note that users don’t have to purchase ArcInfo (a $9,000 package) to use Survey Analyst. Three flavors exist, beginning with ArcView at $1,500. So, for $1,500 plus $2,500 for Survey Analyst, you can have your own personal geodatabase. Of course, the ability to be able to deliver data that can easily be imported into a GIS means that the door is opened to perform municipal and utility location work. This work is being done right now, and smart surveyors are making money and expanding their practices.

It pleases me to call attention to four of our contributing writers who were speakers at the ESRI Survey Summit and User Conference. Rj Zimmer, author of the "GIS Matters" column, spoke about the success of the Montana Geodetic Control Database. Dan Martin, author of the "Geodetic Connections" column, spoke about desktop reconnaissance of NGS data. Gary Kent, who discusses ALTA-related matters and more in his "Reconnaissance" column, put on a presentation with two of his co-workers from Schneider Corporation that detailed a unique RTK system they have developed for utility location in Indiana (look for a future article about this innovative, long-range PDA+cellular system). Tom Liuzzo, who will do software reviews and more in future issues, spoke about a surveyor’s perspective of GIS.

Our Online Store!
In addition to Taylor Morrison’s newest book, The Coast Mappers, a fine collection of posters and maps is now available on our website. You can see part of our collection on page 51 of this issue. Beautiful as they are, the magazine and web depictions do not do justice to the beauty or size of these maps (the Lewis and Clark map and the Rio Colorado maps are nearly 40 inches long).

As part of our AmeriSurv Rewards Program, paid subscribers receive a 33% discount for online posters and maps! (For example, a $75 item will be discounted to $50 for paid subscribers, a discount which equals the price of a subscription.) Likewise, we are offering paid subscribers an incredible deal on Morrison’s book: The Coast Mappers, which retails for $16, is available for $11.32, shipping and handling included! (Compare it to other online offers!) Non-subscribers may purchase the book for $16, plus $5 shipping and handling. Now is a great time to get a jump on holiday shopping. Visit the online Store at www.TheAmericanSurveyor.com.

Marc Cheves is editor of the magazine.

A 225Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

About the Author

Marc Cheves, PS

Marc Cheves is editor emeritus of the magazine. He has been a surveyor since 1963 and is licensed in five states. Since 1995 he has been a surveying magazine editor.