Comparing Different Types of Land Survey Equipment in 2024

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Worldwide, many lands need to be measured, mapped, and surveyed. 

Land survey equipment is essential because it allows us to know the boundaries of our land and where bridges or roads should be built. 

Interestingly, land surveying services worldwide were worth US $34.7 Billion in 2023, and over 500,000 surveyors are employed in the industry globally. These land surveyors need high-tech equipment to measure the earth’s surface to a millimeter because so much depends on their measurements.

Each land surveying method has strengths and weaknesses based on the terrain or topography of the area, cost, and level of accuracy needed. 

Read on to find out about the most popular land surveying equipment today and their spectacular properties for land surveying.

RTK GNSS Receivers

RTK (Real Time Kinematic) GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) receivers are advanced survey instruments that provide high-accuracy positioning by using signals from GNSS satellites.

They use satellite signals and base station data to attain real-time centimeter-level accuracy.

Without post-processing, RTK receivers provide location, navigation, and timing data. To calculate precise coordinates, they use satellite code and carrier phase data. This eliminates many errors and allows for prompt location identification.

Key Features and Capabilities:

  • Centimeter precision in real-time without any post-processing
  • Integrated setup for base and rover for better performance
  • Built-in radio, cell phone, or internet data connections
  • Better results with advanced IMU and tilt correction
  • Design that is tough and light for use in the field
  • Having the ability to give equipment advice on direction and location
  • It works with Galileo, GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, and QZSS

Robotic Total Stations

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Robotic total stations can be operated remotely. The key feature is the ability to aim and track prisms automatically. This allows a single operator to control the total station from a remote position rather than having to look through the instrument’s telescope.

Key Features and Capabilities

  • Motorized automatic shooting and tracking of targets or prisms
  • Able to be controlled directly by a remote
  • Measurement speed and accuracy have been improved.
  • Less work to be done (one person can run it)
  • Measurements of angles and distances with great accuracy
  • Built-in tools and the ability to collect data

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

UAVs are equipped with cameras, sensors, GPS, and software to collect aerial data. They can fly autonomously along predetermined flight paths or be manually controlled by a pilot on the ground. Compared to manned aircraft, UAVs are more flexible and cost-effective for aerial surveying.

Key Features and Capabilities

  • High-resolution video and photos taken from above
  • Photogrammetry is used to make 3D models and point clouds.
  • LiDAR devices to figure out the terrain and make digital elevation models
  • Sensors that measure temperature and multiple colors for specific uses
  • Transmission of info in real-time and live video feeds

LiDAR Scanners

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LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light as a pulsed laser to measure variable distances. 

These scanners bounce narrow laser beams off objects and measure how long the light returns to the scanner. This technology allows surveyors to rapidly capture precise, detailed 3D information about the shape and surface characteristics from up to several hundred meters away.

Some key features and capabilities of LiDAR scanners include:

  • Collection of high-resolution 3D data
  • A million readings every second
  • Extended range of scans up to a few hundred meters
  • It is portable enough for cars, drones, tripods, and other things.
  • The ability to see through plants and map the ground below the forest cover
  • Making 3D models and digital surface models with lots of details

Global Navigation Satellite Systems

Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) like GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou are satellite-based systems that provide global autonomous geospatial positioning. They allow land surveyors to accurately determine their location on the Earth’s surface by receiving and processing signals from orbiting satellites.

GNSS enables precise real-time positioning and timing information almost anywhere on Earth. 

The key features include:

  • Provides accurate 3D location (latitude, longitude, and altitude) and precise time globally
  • Offers continuous 24/7 operation in all weather conditions
  • Supports passive receiver operation (no transmitter needed)
  • Enables mobility – can be used in static or kinematic applications


No single solution is best. When selecting land surveying equipment for any parcel, consider your needs, sites, deliverables, and budget. With the right tools, surveying crews can work smarter and faster and deliver exceptional accuracy.