At the beginning of the 20th century surveyors used ropes and chains to measure distances. These, of course, lacked accuracy. In the 1950s Dr. Trevor Lloyd Wadley’s invented the Tellurometer, which used two microwave transceivers to measure long distances accurately. This was soon followed by EDM equipment which measured the phase shift of light. With advances in miniaturization, the first total-stations were born.

GPS is Born

Today’s GPS surveying systems are historically the new kid on the block. The first satellite positioning system was launched in the 1960s by the Navy, but the first prototype GPS satellite system wasn’t launched until 1978. Measurements from that system could take hours. The past few decades brought great improvements so now such measurements are almost instantaneous. What a time to be alive.

Surveyors and GPS

Surveyors were some of the first to take advantage of the remarkable GPS system. GPS surveying is now accurate and reliable. According to, the official U.S. Government website for information on the Global Positioning System, GPS has resulted in the accurate mapping of our entire world. Landforms such as mountains, lakes, rivers, and seaways can be mapped. But GPS can also be used to map manmade features such as utility lines, buildings, and cities.

Surveyors Unbound

GPS is not limited by the problems surveyors faced in the past such as the need for both parties to be visible in the line-of-sight, nor is distance a problem. GPS combined with sonar can even warn mariners to change the depth of the sea.

Today’s surveyors can carry GPS systems with them wherever they need to do their work. These systems can even talk to each other wirelessly. Modernization continues as does accuracy and reliability. New GPS satellites are in the planning stage, new civilian frequency bands, and even a next generation system. It is an exciting time to be living as technology continues to improve our lives. Visit for more details.

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