From surveying to geomatics

 

Jean-François Delarue : << Surveyors are becoming the key to sustainable development through geomatics >>

Presentation of real time GPS guidance systems at the 2007 Intertice Trade Show at La Villette, with the participation of Leica Geosystems
Presentation of real time GPS guidance systems at the 2007 Intertice Trade Show at La Villette, with the participation of Leica Geosystems
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Jean-François Delarue is a teacher at Lycée Dorian, Paris IV-La Sorbonne University and Ecole Supérieure des Géomètres Topographes. He is the force behind the introduction of a professional degree in surveying which was first initiated in September 2008 and he has provided Planète-TP with expert advice on this subject, explaining the recent evolution in the profession and the considerable changes to come in the future, ie how a discipline can change in order to provide a profession with greater skills, ie, geomatics.

Could it be said that there is a before and after for GPS use in surveying ?

One thing is certain, GPS has transformed the profession. However, it is not alone in doing so, rather it is at the forefront of a series of major changes and innovations which have blended together to fundamentally transform working practices. First, the 1980s saw the creation and general use of electronic distance measuring equipment
and then, in the 1990s, the integration of multiple technologies gave rise to Total Stations and satellite positioning techniques (GPS and GLONASS). The transformation was therefore land positioning being replaced by spatial planetary localisation with centimetric, or even millimetric precise positioning. For the surveyor in France, this has removed the restriction of data systems limited to national boundaries, which are inexact and lacking in coherence compared to those used by our European neighbours. It has also provided access to precise centimetric localisation in real time, after only a few seconds of observation.
In the last few years another new technological revolution has begun. This is based on laser distance measurement without using a reflector. Nowadays, 3D laser scanners take measurements by creating a point cloud of thousands of points per second which is accurate to within a few millimetres. These devices mean that very complex measurements can be taken in record time (for use in civil engineering, architecture, industry etc), which had previously been impossible without spending several weeks on site. These devices are also used to generate volume representations, thus permitting virtual visits and providing new fields of activity for the surveyor.
Obviously, this major evolution would not have been possible without the invaluable aid of computer science technology which in turn has led to the creation of geomatics in surveying.

What does the term geomatics mean ?

There are two possible definitions. In the strictest sense, it is the integration of computer science technology with the Earth sciences. In a wider sense, it is the acquisition, management and use of geographic information. In fact, the recent growth of geographic information systems (GIS) has enabled all the available information related to a particular area of land to be integrated into the same database in order to use the acquired knowledge to achieve coherent, sustainable and responsible development. Using a geographic information system, it is possible to simultaneously find topographical, urban and cadastral data, information on main services systems (sanitation, drinking water, gas, electricity etc) and aerial photographs etc. for a particular area of land. This in turn enables an intelligent and comprehensive analysis to be made using all the different strands of data. GIS is an essential tool in decision-making by local authorities.
This wider definition of geomatics is used by the University of Laval in Canada, which is currently at the forefront of this technology.

Does all this mean that the land surveyor’s horizon is considerably extended ?

Analysis of GPS data gathered on site at Dordives (45), after transfer onto a laptop with BTS surveying students
Analysis of GPS data gathered on site at Dordives (45), after transfer onto a laptop with BTS surveying students
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Most definitely! We are on the point of witnessing the creation of a new profession, which requires much greater inter-disciplinary activity. Tools such as GIS have been invented for precisely this purpose.
Nowadays, the work undertaken by surveyors comprises four main disciplines. Firstly, there is everything arising from geographic information, especially issues concerning sustainable development, town planning and land development. At this level the surveyor will actively participate in the setting up and updating of geo-referenced data. Geo-referencing is no small thing since most of the existing documentation is either referenced according to the old, obsolete and inaccurate system or it is not referenced at all.
Secondly, there is advice and expertise linked to regulatory evolution in development and town planning which has contributed to enlarging the role of the surveyor, especially with local authorities. The surveyor is also involved in real estate, in partnership with lawyers, architects and estate agents. Securing the sale of an asset is in fact at the heart of the new regulations, ie, the Carrez Law and also regulations relating to lead, termites, asbestos, energy consumption etc. Technical diagnosis is also a very fast-growing field, accompanied as it is by major changes in boundaries and the definition of terrain.
In conclusion, it is also worth noting the market created by the arrival of 3D laser scanning in various fields (public works, industry, civil engineering etc), as well as that of quality, which provides much greater accuracy.

Is this therefore a profession which is still recruiting, despite the current trend ?

Land reconnaissance of the above project with Patrick Nataf, teacher at the Lycée St-Lambert, in charge of public works
Land reconnaissance of the above project with Patrick Nataf, teacher at the Lycée St-Lambert, in charge of public works
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Yes, demand is likely to outstrip resources in France in the coming years, including the demand for registered surveyors who are solely responsible for demarcation, ie the definition of land boundaries. As a result, professional organisations are either seeking to hire better qualified staff or to further educate the staff they already have. This has led to new training courses being instigated, eg the professional degree << Development and Geomatics>>, created at the Paris IV-La Sorbonne University in partnership with the Lycée Dorian. This is an ambitious training scheme which brings students to the level of assistant engineer and in turn confers the employment rights and obligations afforded by and to the general surveying fraternity. The best students can even go on to do a Master’s Degree, eg in town planning at the Sorbonne, which should soon give access to the profession of DPLG (Government diploma registered surveyor).