Gunter's Chain and Compass, various historical transits and theodolites, modernly Static GPS and Robotic Total Stations
Most land surveyors perform boundary location surveys. This is the primary reason surveyors are licensed and why they have a duty to protect the public's reliance on honest, understandable and unbiased boundary location opinions.
Land boundary surveys can establish new boundaries: For instance to create a new road easement giving someone the right to drive over another's property, or new building lots.
Or they can be retracements of old boundaries: Sometimes of very old boundary locations that may be hundreds of years old. Because an old boundary contains a lot of history, surveyors need to be good detectives to uncover clues about where and why a boundary was originally established. Surveyors also have to understand the ancient equipment that old-time surveyors used. Surveyors must "follow in the footsteps" of the surveyors before them if they are to properly find and re-locate old boundary positions. Surveyors are the only professionals legally qualified to make opinions about boundaries and courts hold the opinions of surveyors in high regard.
Unfortunately, surveyors have sometimes been swayed by money or greed and caused great harm by fraudulently and erroneously mis-locating boundary positions. Land owners may have no idea this has happened until decades later. This malpractice causes much mischief between neighbors and may result in great cost to later correct such errors.
Dispute Resolution & Neutral Evaluation
Title Insurance, Exceptions, Easement Agreements, Overlapping Boundaries, Gaps, Gores and Hiatuses
Land surveyors often work with parties to assist in their understanding of sometimes complex problems involving land boundaries, easements, claims, rights of way, and title exceptions. Less common but extremely valuable is a legal expert who understands the technical side of land descriptions, the history of surveying practice, the role of litigation and dispute resolution and the interpretation of written deeds and contracts.
A knowledgeable practitioner can usually assist parties avoid litigation or at least provide an unbiased opinion on the validity and merits of competing claims as they relate to land and title matters. Either can be instrumental to resolving a dispute.
Topographic & Engineering Design Surveys
Drones, Aerial Mapping, RTK GPS and Conventional Angle and Distance Measuring Equipment
There is a great demand for accurate and up-to-date survey models that show the land and existing buildings and other improvements. These may include roads, bridges, utilities, trees, wetlands, and other topography. These maps commonly have accuracies that range from high (errors less than fractions of an inch) to moderate (errors on the order of inches) to low (errors of several feet or more). These maps are generally measured in the field with either conventional survey field crews of 2 or more persons, or with some form of remote sensing to capture digital data en masse. Either way, the measured data is then processed in the office using CAD and GIS software to produce three dimensional models of the real world. Engineers then frequently use these models to design new structures with a high degree of confidence that their designs will fit the site when actually constructed.
Geodesy, Remote Sensing, Satellite Positioning, Digital Leveling, Data Modeling, Spatial Analysis
There are many other kinds of work that land surveyors do. These include positioning services to assist scientists place seismographs and geophones, locating sub-surface utility conflicts and emergency response map production. Another is precise leveling to assist geodesists determine the shape and magnitude of earths magnetic field. Still another is construction staking to assist contractors build new roads and buildings in their correct location. Some surveys require high degrees of accuracy while others rely on a large quantity of less accurate measurements to achieve their different goals. A good surveyor is both a measurement scientist and a skillful communicator.
Incidental Legal Services
Deeds, Easement Agreements, Vacations, Dedications, Covenants and Restrictions
Often in land transactions there arises the incidental need for legal services. This may take the form of a corrective or revised deed, document review, or drafting legal descriptions or deed conveyance language. Another frequent occurrence is the need to dedicate an easement to the public or grant or reserve an easement to another private party. These services are generally needed to assist all parties to the transaction and involve no adverse representation and a limited scope legal representation. Having both a land surveyor and attorney can streamline these events when they happen and prevent unforeseen obstacles from delaying a project at the last minute.