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What is a topographical survey?

Topographical surveys, ground surveys or Topo Surveys are accurate surveys produced by Land Surveyors to precisely depict the topography or terrain of an area of interest or parcel of land and the structures and features upon it. Traditionally topographical surveys have been measured with a theodolite, total station or a GNSS receiver but increasingly laser scanners and drones are playing an increasing role in data collection. Large sites used to be the domain of manned aircraft that measured a topographical survey with Lidar or Photogrammetry. More recently these large sites are being surveyed with a drone at a much-reduced cost, not only compared to a manned aircraft but also a traditional land survey.

A utility survey depicts underground and overground features and services with their connections overlaid upon a topographical survey. These services can be located with radio detection or ground penetrating radar. Services and their attributes (size & depth) are marked on the surface with paint and measured in the same way as a topographical survey.

What is included in a topographical survey?

A topographical survey can be a 3d model, a 2d map or a plan showing physical features. Features could be structures, utility covers, areas of ground cover, trees or vegetation. Levels are shown with breaklines to control the shape of the surface model and contours to join points of equal level.

Typically utility service covers and other service markers are identified, sometimes with underground services traced and marked with overhead services, depending on client specifications. Adjacent or overlooking features can be included to assist in assessing the setting of a site in the wider landscape, in a street scene or in assessing the proximity of critical features.

See how drones can supplement a survey with improved deliverables, safety and speed of data acquisition.

Land surveyor carrying out an integrated total station and RTK GPS topographical survey

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Why do you need a topographical survey?

A topographical survey provides a comprehensive overview of the land, helping to identify any potential problems and plan future development. This type of survey is also useful for determining where construction can and cannot take place. Additionally, a topographical survey can be used to help with the design process, allowing engineers and architects to accurately envision the project before breaking ground.

Typical uses for topographical surveys

Topographical Survey for a residential development adjacent to a small river with sections
Topo Survey for residential development
adjacent to a small river with sections
to help the client assess flooding
Topographic map from drone survey
example topographic map from a drone survey
Topographical Survey of a farm dwelling and adjacent land
Topo Survey of a farm showing
the dwelling and adjacent land

Add clarity, context and understanding with a topo survey

For many projects, a topographical survey can be combed with a hydrographic survey, a measured building survey, or an underground utility survey, adding flexibility, understanding and context to a topo survey. As a result, usability can be vastly improved. Our surveyors can add various kinds of spatial data to a topo survey.

For a much wider view of a site’s context and setting take topographical surveys to the next level with a drone survey