Magazine article USA TODAY

Satellites Make Measuring Easier

Magazine article USA TODAY

Satellites Make Measuring Easier

Article excerpt

High-flying technology is making simple tasks quicker, easier, and more efficient. At Purdue University, students get hands-on experience with satellite technology, one of the newest tools for land surveying. "You don't need a tape measure to [calculate] the distance between two points anymore," points out Boudewijn H.W. van Gelder, professor of surveying engineering. "In the old days of surveying, it was very important that the people at each of two points could see each other in order to measure distances or angles." That no longer is necessary.

Land surveyors measure to within one or two centimeters (0.39-0.78 inches) the distance between two points, such as the length of property lines or the distance between two pillars of a bridge. They normally do this by sight. with one person at each point. Large projects, such as determining the boundaries of a farm or a park, can take several days of very elaborate surveys. Using satellites and global positioning techniques cuts down on the time and effort. "With the satellite survey, you just put these fancy-looking gadgets at two points and you can measure the distance between them very accurately and relatively quickly. There can even be obstacles in between. For surveying, that's really a great advantage, You can avoid buildings, traffic in urban areas, and natural barriers, like rivers and dense forests. …

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