FIG Commission 6 - Engineering Surveys

About Engineering Surveys

The focus of FIG Commission 6 is to support and accompany the development and application of innovative and advanced surveying methodologies and technologies during the design, construction and operation phases of projects. These can be assigned to several areas, for example to:

  • Civil engineering, including structural, hydraulic, geotechnical and transportation
  • Mining engineering
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Industrial engineering
  • Energy production
  • Environmental safety

In civil engineering projects, the engineering surveyor is responsible for:

  • surveying the future work sites, which is necessary to evaluate the local conditions for the establishment of new structures;
  • accompanying the construction process, from the staking out of marks, to the repeated verification of the locations and dimensions of the structure and its elements, to the as-built survey at the end;
  • monitoring the health of structures after their completion during the operation phase.

Monitoring to assess the safety condition of structures has special relevance for those structures that entail high potential risks, like bridges, tunnels or dams. It is an activity that is present, with regularity, during the lifetime of these structures. Monitoring plays also an important role in other domains apart from civil engineering, for example in mining engineering or in environmental safety (e.g. monitoring of landslides and earthquakes).

Furthermore, engineering surveyors contribute to smaller projects that may include the 3D survey of buildings, or of objects like airplanes, vessels, or cars. The results are dimensionally accurate surveys that can be used to enable realistic views from the object, as well as to perform as-built measurements needed to calculate volume, areas, lengths. These surveys can also become a key contributor to building information modelling (BIM), augmented reality projects, land management and spatial planning, hazards mitigation, just to refer a few.

The capacity of getting data on the geometry and location with high accuracy enables the engineering surveyor to be involved in studies that span from environmental safety (landslide and rock fall monitoring, the impacts of climate change on the earth surface) to navigation systems, robotics and machine automation.  As a result of the diversity of application areas, the engineering surveyors have to acquire knowledge across different subjects, namely to dialogue with other experts from distinctive fields of knowledge.

To complete the tasks, the engineering surveyor is assisted by equipment that incorporates the latest advances in measurement technology. This equipment includes laser scanners (terrestrial or aerials), robotic total stations, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), interferometric synthetic aperture radars (InSAR), and global navigation satellite positioning systems (GNSS). Many of these sensors can be used in automatic measuring systems enabling to autonomously follow the evolution of processes, from construction to monitoring in real time. They are important tools to alert when an abnormal behavior occurs, preventing critical issues from occurring. In order to handle the variety of data types delivered by the broad range of sensors, engineering surveyors require skills in other domains than surveying (for instance, photogrammetry and digital image processing techniques).Concerning the new challenges for the engineering surveyor, among these is for sure the integration of the new digital technologies, like those that are already affecting construction and the built environment: Big Data and Artificial Intelligence.