on site surveying equipment

The Tools and Equipment Required to Complete A Topographical Survey

November 16, 2019

If you want to find out the condition of a building for conservation or historical records, the condition of a section of land or to map out exactly what natural and man-made details are on a specific area of land, you will require the help of a topographic survey.

Topographical surveys can be quite involved, so we have put together a guide on the details of such a survey and the tools and equipment required to complete the survey.

What Is A Topographical Survey?

A topographical survey, or land survey as it is sometimes otherwise known, is an accurate representation of the area of interest, detailing the natural and manmade features. All features including the property, land features and physical boundary details will be presented in a scaled survey drawing.

What Gets Surveyed?

The topographical survey will pick up a number of different elements depending on the specification from the client. These features will often include:

  • Boundaries and fence lines
  • Buildings and structures
  • Drainage features
  • Street furniture
  • Trees, bushes and vegetation
  • Ponds and lakes
  • Ground heights and contours
  • Water levels

Why Do You Need a Topographical Survey?

Topographical surveys are essential for land development projects as they help to correctly plan out and coordinate proposed layouts.

Accurate land measurements will allow you to see how the existing site is arranged, including the height of items. Topographical surveys are useful for:

  • Re-positioning boundaries
  • Planning new buildings
  • Correctly designing drainage schemes

How Are Topographical Surveys Carried Out?

Topographical surveys are undertaken using a range of different survey equipment which will measure distances and angles extremely accurately.

What Tools and Equipment Are Used to Conduct the Survey?

Precise equipment is used to carry out a topographical survey, which helps to produce a CAD (computer-aided design) drawing which will accurately detail the surveyed points. Surveyors often use sophisticated CAD software, such as AutoCad and Microstation, to map site measurements and create fully scaled 3D drawings of the project to an extremely high standard.

Surveyors will use precise GPS equipment when surveying an area to help locate and position fixed points of an area of land. The points recorded are then used as reference markers, which allows the surveyed area to be aligned to an existing national coordinate system.

What Type of Information Can the Survey Produce?

The site survey will produce a wide range of information which can be used to produce drawings. The survey results can be used for:

  • Drawings – Plans, elevations, sections and lighting plans
  • 3D Point Clouds – The information can be used to produce 3D models of a site
  • Photographs – Useful for people who are looking for information about a site
  • Schedules – Including chamber inverts and pipe diameter sizes

What is the purpose of a Topographical Survey?

A topographical survey is a survey that measures land. This type of land survey is a way of creating an accurate representation of the natural and manmade elements of the area. A topographical survey will tend to measure and identify the angles of the land and distances as well as highlighting any issues with the land such as an uneven surface or steep incline.

An example of a topographic survey is the UK Ordnance Survey which is useful for mapping out an area and identifying the makeup of the land, it is often used by walkers and ramblers for example. However, for those looking to develop on certain land, they may need slightly more detail, so they can be aware of anything that may disrupt the project or cause issues down the line.
We can provide topographic surveys in as much detail as you need and can use drones to survey hard to reach areas.

How does Topographical Survey Equipment work?

To complete a topographic survey, we’ll use a GPS to identify fixed points on the land to use as reference markers to measure the height and base of the area. By using laser scanning, we can produce a CAD drawing that details the features of the land.

We can use a drone to complete laser scanning on locations that are difficult to reach on foot or dangerous to access such as motorways, railways, dilapidated structures or small offshore islands. The drone will take JPG images, and these can be converted to a 3D rich point cloud for a detailed survey. The drone can even penetrate tree canopies to give you the most accurate detail.

From the topographic site survey, we can produce drawings of plans and elevations, 3D point clouds for 3D models, photographs and schedules such as chamber inverts and pipe diameter. A detailed topographic survey can help prevent any expensive issues or mistakes down the line as you will have full detail of the lay of the land.

What Are the Benefits of The Survey?

There are many benefits of having a topographical survey conducted, including:

  • The ability to reduce the risk of costly mistakes as you will be provided with detailed and accurate pictures of your land
  • The survey can reveal any information that may be hidden from obvious plain sight, including changes that have occurred to the land over a period of time
  • A deeper understanding of the land’s topography, which is particularly useful for developers who want to find out the condition of the land around and under and type of structure to ensure a durable construction

Contact the Topographical Survey Specialists Today

If you are interested in a professional topographical survey, please get in touch with South West Surveys today. We work on projects throughout the UK, and as we’re based in the South West, we are perfectly positioned to work in and around Bristol, Bath and Gloucester.

To find out more about our topographical survey services, please contact us today!


What is a topographical survey?

A topographical survey produces a detailed, accurate plan of a specific site or area of land. The survey will identify and map features such as buildings, site boundaries, trees, site levels and many other features. The data will then be presented in a CAD drawing.

What information is included in a topographical survey?

The amount of detail produced in the survey will depend on the client’s requirements. A land survey will often include existing buildings and structures, boundary details, ground surfaces, tree positions and drainage details. Additional details can be added to the survey, and the results will be often be delivered as CAD files and scaled down to paper plans.

How much does a topographical survey cost?

The price for a topographical survey will differ, depending on the size of the land to be surveyed, the location and any project-specific details. Get in touch with South West Surveys today for a competitive quote.

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