The Curt Brown Chronicles: The Challenging Future for the Land Surveyor

A 65Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

More than fifty years ago, Curt made some keen observations about the impending evolution of measurement technology. Today GPS, GIS, LIDAR and drone technologies are considered to be cutting edge tools. What will be the tools of tomorrow?

Presented to the Property Surveys Division at the 24th Annual Meeting of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping. Note: Curt participated as a member of a Panel Discussion.

Within the last generation we have witnessed the most rapid advancement in the science of land measurements that has ever occurred in any like period in the history of the world. The more important areas of progress have been in electronic distance measurements, in photogrammetry, in electronic computing, and in the knowledge of the size and shape of the earth, that is, geodesy.

Photogrammetry has supplanted many of the old transit and tape methods. For any large area, distances between control positions are determined electronically; contours are platted from photographs; directions are measured with improved types of theodolites; and trilateralation may someday eliminate part of this step. With the invention of laser beams, it will only be a matter of time until the beams will be adapted to distance measurements. We will probably live to see the day when short distances will be measured accurately and economically with light beams.

In several States, photogrammetry has been used to resurvey land boundaries. Though the cost is as yet excessive for desirable accuracies, this will probably be overcome in the foreseeable future. In a few instances, original property surveys have been made using photogrammetry.

The usefulness of the old work horse, the transit and tape, is gradually being reduced in scope. While these instruments probably will never be completely supplanted, their importance will continue to diminish with time.

Many land surveyors have found that they have had to adopt photogrammetry, electronic calculation methods, and electronic measurements in order to survive. Those who fail to use these new tools are apt to find themselves priced out of competitive range.

It can be safely assumed that these new tools are here to stay. With this assumption, let us ask, "How many State boards of registration are increasing the scope of surveyor examinations to include questions in these areas? Are they still confining their questions to the tape, transit, logarithms, and longhand computations? Are the problems restricted to how to solve curves, triangles, closures, and simple elements of star shots? Or have the examination questions been changed to be compatible with existing times and tools?"

The future of any profession is wholly dependent upon the quality of the new men admitted to practice. Are we seeking new, professional surveyors on the basis of what grandpa had to know, or are we seeking them on the basis of what they will have to know to survive in coming years? Are we sticking our heads in the sand and assuming that the profession of land surveying can forever confine itself to horse-and-buggy methods, or are we going to expand the scope of examinations to include new methods?

During recent years I have accumulated a large number of land surveyor’s examinations. Many were obtained by writing to the boards of registration and asking for a copy; some boards refused the request. Occasionally copies were given to me with the understanding that they would not be published. In two instances, wherein the board was trying to prevent past examinations from getting into the hands of others, unauthorized copies were readily located. It appears that no matter how good the security methods are, copies do escape.

Author Michael Pallamary has compiled the writings and lectures of the late Curtis M. Brown. These works are published in The Curt Brown Chronicles.

A 65Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

About the Author

Michael Pallamary, PS

Michael Pallamary, PS, is the author of several books and numerous articles. He is a frequent lecturer at conferences and seminars and he teaches real property to attorneys and other members of the legal profession. He has been in the surveying profession since 1971.