How to use GPS to survey land

Written by caprice castano
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How to use GPS to survey land
Land surveying with GPS uses precise technology and calculations. (surveying prism image by 2roxfox from

Land surveying is an ancient but still much-used activity. Now you can use Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to accurately survey and mark land. Surveying land involves border marking as well as environmental uses. Any large project will need GPS-based surveying to be in compliance with state, federal and sometimes local laws. While surveying a home lot for a building permit is not necessarily as technical, a good surveyor will take advantage of the GPS technology.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Laser-based GPS-enabled calibrated chronometer
  • Control point data
  • Tripod antenna receiver

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  1. 1

    Position the GPS unit in a static location. Determine the location according to the GPS coordinates and check for accuracy. If the unit is calibrated and clear of obstruction, the control point of this tool should be accurate and on target.

  2. 2

    Place the tripod or antenna receiver you wish to use to triangulate or calibrate your area. GPS surveying tools have preset control points of previously verified and surveyed locations. You can use these to create a grid and include this in your measurement of the survey point you are measuring.

  3. 3

    Site the instruments to locate the receiver from your control GPS unit, measure and plot the survey using the system, adjusting or calibrating if necessary. Plot the points on the survey map and back up the information using a traditional survey level or other measuring tools if desired.

  4. 4

    Move the receiver to the next plot point, and so on, to complete your survey, depending on the area you need to cover and the number of points you are including in your survey. This will depend on the geographic location and the needs of the job. Once these control measurements have been completed, plug in already calculated GPS locations within the grid to complete the survey.

Tips and warnings

  • GPS surveying equipment and the system control points used to triangulate surveys have been tested for accuracy.

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