The good, the bad and the ugly of the surveying profession

Author: Craig Hill is VP Marketing & Services Survey Surveying solutions at Leica Geosystems, part of Hexagon


It has been more than 20 years since I graduated from university. Back then, we were trained on both analogue and digital surveying equipment. Finding coordinates in new areas used to take us days or weeks. Now, it can be done in minutes or even seconds with GPS or GNSS positioning. Analogue devices helped me understand measurement principles better, but more than that, they led me to a greater appreciation of modern surveying equipment.

The survey industry is in a period of transition, and it is changing fast as technology and needs evolve. Here are some of the challenges currently shaping the industry, as well as key priorities surveyors must bear in mind to thrive.

The good: the demand for cost-effective services is increasing

The global digital twin market is projected to grow exponentially during the next years as industries accelerate digital transformation. Geospatial data is fundamental to unlocking efficiency gains in many industries. Surveyors are best positioned to support this exponential demand for geospatial data.

Yet, surveyors need to find innovative ways to convey the worth of their solutions to their clients. Only those surveyors whose services add value for their clients will stand out from the crowd.

When it comes to technology, surveyors are increasingly using newer technologies to enhance their productivity, improve accuracy and expand their service offerings. According to research by Hexagon’s Geosystems division, 95% of surveyors agreed that new technologies have made them more efficient at work; 40% responded that they are already working with uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) systems. More surveyors will likely adopt UAV systems in the coming years, which will spawn new use cases for aerial reality capture. Solutions like autonomous laser scanning modules for robots are also enabling scanning with minimal human intervention. As an increasing number of surveyors appreciate the accuracy and ease of data collection that laser scanners offer, their use will continue to rise.

Surveyors must pair this technology with the adoption of user-friendly workflow services that enable faster transferring between the field and the office, helping professionals create valuable deliverables from collected data as efficiently as possible.

The bad: surveyors are facing increased competition from nonsurveyors

Technological advances have made it easier for people with appropriate training to complete many data collection tasks. Nonsurveyors can now easily collect 3D data but often lack the knowledge to represent the data in the required reference frame correctly. In addition, they often miss the technical skills to perform field procedures to ensure checks are correctly conducted to deliver the best data quality.

The professional surveyor can embrace this additional workforce and become the data manager who coordinates data collection and uses the most appropriate equipment to get the job done, using the personnel available.

The ugly: the industry is lacking skilled staff

Construction continues to boom, and the worldwide demand for surveyors has never been higher. With fewer people choosing careers in surveying, finding talented individuals has become increasingly difficult. To make matters worse, many surveyors are nearing retirement age and leaving the industry, creating a significant skills gap.

To bridge this gap, surveyors leverage technological innovations to “do more with less.” With new technologies and equipment, professionals can get more done in a shorter amount of time. Many construction projects now rely on advanced surveying instruments.

Today’s surveying equipment allows you to be faster and more efficient during construction by keeping BIM data accessible in the field for more accurate layout and as-built verification. A total station can be used to compare as-built with the design on site by checking the flatness of concrete floors or wall verticality, while 3D laser scanners help you to quickly conduct on site quality checks for completeness and perform as-built documentation. Similarly, total station solutions that automate process steps, including tilt compensation or target locking, avoid errors on site and mean quantum leaps in terms of productivity.

The biggest challenge: protecting the planet

In a world that needs more renewable energy parks, modernised power grids and wellmanaged green spaces, surveyors help harness data that is necessary to build resilient infrastructure.Geospatial professionals capture, create and manage the data sets to build a Smart Digital RealityTM for resilient infrastructure.

Surveyors are key players in offering cost-effective solutions that make data available to enable the shift to more sustainable practices, such as in building construction. Surveyors can bring together data creating a unified Smart Digital Reality of a building to identify conditions and help understand what maintenance needs to be done during the building’s lifetime to maximise its lifespan. With their knowledge of state-of-the-art geospatial equipment and workflows, surveyors have the skills to efficiently document entire buildings before embarking on repairs, renovations or fitouts.


Surveyors: your world is changing

Surveyors nowadays need to provide more value for their customers while reducing costs and waste. This means that they need to choose their tools carefully while continuously adapting their business models to thrive in this new environment and evolve alongside the industries they serve.

Investing in new technology has allowed surveying companies to grow by offering multiple reality capture services and entering new markets, for example, structural monitoring. Many of our customers have become more efficient and found new ways to diversify into different types of projects and services by investing in technology such as laser scanning, mobile mapping, utility mapping and detection.

The survey industry continuously adapts to new challenges, new technologies and new regulations. Surveyors are being asked to do more with less, but they also have more opportunities than ever before to develop their businesses through innovation and collaboration.

Challenges that the surveying industry faces, like increased competition and lack of skilled staff, also provide opportunities for growth. By harnessing new innovations, advanced algorithms and AI-powered solutions, businesses can leverage technology to capture, manage, visualise and share geospatial data to provide valuable deliverables for enhanced decision-making.

Contact Leica Geosystems

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Find your Leica Geosystems contact for sales, support and technical service.

New Pure Surveying industry page

Learn about our new surveying solutions to grow your business, training to upskill yourself or your team or just see what's new. Visit our brand new industry site. 
Learn about our new surveying solutions to grow your business, training to upskill yourself or your team or just see what's new. Visit our brand new industry site.