Survey Definitions for Land Surveyors

survey-1 n. The associated data obtained in a survey. 2 Organizations concerned with surveying; e.g., the U.S. Geological Survey, the Massachusetts Geodetic Survey. 3 v. To measure distances, angles, and heights to determine the relative locations of points under, on, or above the Earth. 4 v. To inspect or investigate something in order to determine its state or condition.

survey, accepted—A survey accepted by the official having Cadastral Survey approval authority. See also authority, cadastral survey approval; survey, official cadastral.

survey, aerial—A survey utilizing photographic, electronic, or other data obtained from an airborne station. See also remote sensing.

survey, area—A survey of areas large enough to require loops of control.

survey, boundary- 1 A survey made to establish or to re-establish a boundary line on the ground or to obtain data for constructing a map or plat showing a boundary line. See also surveying, land. 2 Survey of boundary lines between political territories, as distinct from property or cadastral surveys.

survey, cadastral—A survey relating to land boundaries and subdivisions made to create units suitable for transfer, or to define the limitations of title; derived from “cadastre,” and has the meaning of “register of the real property of a political subdivision with details of area, ownership, and value.” ‘The term cadastral survey is now used to designate the surveys of the public lands of the United States, including retracement surveys for the identification and restoration of property lines; the term is sometimes used synonymously with “land surveys.” See also survey, boundary.

survey, compass—A traverse survey which relies on the magnetic needle for orienting the sequence as a whole or for determining the bearings of lines individually.

survey, construction—Survey measurements made while construction is in process to control elevation, horizontal position and dimensions, and configuration; to determine adequacy of completion; and to obtain essential dimensions for computing construction pay quantities.

survey, control—A survey which provides horizontal or vertical position data for the support or control of subordinate surveys, or for mapping.

survey, elder—A survey antedating the one being performed. This term was used in dividing crown or province lands in the colonies.

survey, electric resistivity—See exploration, geophysical.

survey, engineering—A survey executed for the purpose of obtaining information essential for planning an engineering project or for developing and estimating its cost. The information obtained may, in part, be recorded in the form of an engineering map or plat.

survey, exploratory—A survey executed for the purpose of obtaining general information concerning areas about which such information is not a matter of record.

survey, first-order—See control survey classification. See also Appendix A, Standards for Geodetic Control Surveys.

survey, geodetic—A survey in which account is taken of the figure and size of the Earth. Geodetic surveys are usually prescribed where the areas or distances involved are so great that results of desired accuracy and precision can be obtained only by the processes of geodetic surveying.

survey, geologic- 1 A survey or investigation of the character and structure of the Earth, of the physical changes which the Earth\’s crust has undergone or is undergoing, and of the causes producing those changes. 2 ; A general term used to designate an organization making geologic surveys and investigations.

survey, hydrographic—A survey whose principal purpose is to determine data relating to bodies of water, such as depth of water and configuration of the bottom; directions and force of currents; heights and times of tides and water stages; and location of fixed objects for survey and navigation purposes. 

survey, inventory—A survey for the purpose of collecting and correlating engineering data of particular types over a given area. An inventory survey may be recorded on a base map.

survey, joint—The running, marking, arid establishment of a new boundary, or the retracement or resurvey of lines fixed by a prior survey. The survey is made in conformity with an agreement between adjoining owners, or in accord with a court decree which stipulates the manner of the survey. In the decree all parties in interest are duly represented, are charged with responsibility for the identification and acceptance of evidence, and are responsible for the correct technical execution of the decree. The parties must be present during field operations.

survey, judicial—A survey ordered by the court or made expressly for a court action to resolve a boundary dispute.

survey, land—The process of determining boundary lines between privately owned parcels of land; also called “property survey,” “boundary survey,” or “cadastral survey.” However, the term “cadastral survey” is restricted to surveys of the public lands [USPLS]. See also survey, cadastral; surveying, land.

survey, location—The survey made in preparation for construction; involves measurement of elevation, distance, and direction or angle, and staking on the ground of each detail of a designed facility.

survey, magnetometer—A survey wherein the Earth’s magnetic field is mapped by the use of a magnetometer used on the ground, in the air, or at sea.

survey, metes and bounds—See metes and bounds; description, metes and bounds.

survey, mine—A survey to determine the positions and dimensions of underground passages of a mine; also of the natural and artificial features—surface and underground—relating to the mine. The data include both horizontal and vertical positions, lengths, and directions (and slopes) of tunnels; topographic and geological characteristics of the particular vicinity; as well as ownership of the land and of the mine.

survey, mineral [USPLS]—A survey made to mark the legal boundaries of mineral deposits or ore-bearing formations on land in the public domain, where the boundaries are to be determined by lines other than the normal subdivision of the public lands.

survey, official cadastral—A public land survey whose field notes are approved and the plat accepted, and which has been filed in the proper BLM land office after publication in the Federal Register, if necessary. Also referred to as “official survey.”

survey, photogrammetric—A survey utilizing either ground photographs or aerial photographs. See also surveying, aerial.

survey, preliminary- 1 [TRIANGULATION] A survey conducted to obtain data from which to develop a plan for the execution of a triangulation survey. 2 [ENGINEERING] A detailed and accurate survey conducted to obtain data for adequately accomplishing a design and preparing detailed construction plans. See also survey, reconnaissance.

survey, property— See survey, boundary; resurvey; survey, cadastral.

survey, rapid static [GPS]—A survey similar to a static survey, but during which observations are taken only over a relatively short period of time. At least one receiver is at a fixed location, and others may be roving receivers. See also static survey [GPS].

survey, reconnaissance—A survey of an area to determine generalities, overall relationships, and feasibility, and to identify control. Reconnaissance surveys are usually accomplished rapidly and at low cost. The qualitative information and dimensional data obtained are recorded and/or reported verbally or via maps or sketches; they support the conclusions and/or recommendations made regarding feasibility and the site or route location. The word “reconnaissance” is preferred to “reconnaissance” in this context. See also survey, preliminary.

survey, route—The stages of a reconnaissance survey; the survey made, first, of an area to determine feasibility, and, second, to make comparisons and select the most feasible route for a railroad, highway, canal, pipe line, transmission line, or any other linear facility. A completed route survey will provide sufficient qualitative information and dimensional data to indicate the feasible alignment, grades, cross-sections, and proposed right-of-way lines. A route survey does not provide construction data as these can be developed from a preliminary survey. Rather, a route survey provides information and data pertaining to general location possibilities, feasibility, and probable costs of right-of-way, construction, use, and maintenance. See also surveying, route.

survey, second-order—See control survey classification. See also Appendix A, Standards for Geodetic Control Surveys.

survey, snow—A set of measurements of the depth and density of snow, usually made to determine the water stored in a drainage basin in the form of snow, as a method of forecasting the subsequent runoff. See also snow sample.

survey, soil- 1 A survey undertaken to determine the nature of the soils, the soil profile, the existing density and moisture conditions, and to classify the soils and determine and delineate their boundaries. These determinations serve as a basis for designing the subgrade, base course, and surface of a highway or runway. 2 A survey undertaken to determine the proper methods of handling soils and the test requirements that should be incorporated in construction specifications. 3 A survey undertaken to provide data which would serve, together with construction records, as a basis for future study of subgrades, bases, and surfaces. Soil surveys usually consist of a determination of the soil profile; selection of samples for the determination of the physical properties of the soils in the profile; and profile mapping.

survey, special [PLSS]—A cadastral survey that involves unusual application of, or departure from, the rectangular system. They often carry out the provisions of a special legislative act and include such work as small tract surveys; townsite surveys; island and omitted land surveys; homestead, homesite, trade and manufacturing site surveys; and surveys or resurveys of portions of sections.

survey, standard—A survey which, in scale, accuracy, and content, satisfies criteria prescribed for such a survey by competent authority.

survey, static [GPS]—A survey performed using two or more stationary receivers simultaneously recording observations from the same satellites over an extended period of time.

survey, subdivision—A type of land survey in which the legal boundaries of an area are located, and the area is divided into parcels of lots, streets, right-of-way, and other accessories. All necessary corners or dividing lines are marked or monumented.

survey, third-order—See control survey classification. See also Appendix A, Standards for Geodetic Control Surveys.

survey, topographic- 1 A survey which has for its major purposes the determination of the configuration (relief) of the surface of the earth (ground) and the location of natural and artificial objects thereon. 2 The designation of an organization making such a survey.

survey, town-site—The marking of lines and corners within one or more regular units of the township subdivision by which the land is divided into blocks, streets, and alleys as a basis for the disposal of title in parcels of land.

survey, transit and stadia—A survey in which horizontal and vertical directions or angles are observed with a transit and distances are measured by transit and stadia.

survey coordinates—See coordinates, rectangular space.

survey marker—See description.

survey plat—See plat, survey.

survey traverse—See traverse. See also Appendix A, Standards for Geodetic Control Surveys.

surveying-1 The science and art of making all essential measurements to determine the relative position of points and/or physical and cultural details above, on, or beneath the surface of the Earth and to depict them in a usable form, or to establish the position of points and/or details. 2 The actual making of a survey and the recording and/or delineation of dimensions and details for subsequent use. 3 An acquisition and/ or accumulation of qualitative information and quantitative data by observing, counting, classifying, and recording according to need. Examples are traffic surveying to determine the type, number, speed, relative positions, and origin and destinations of vehicles; and soil surveying to classify soil by types and measure and delineate their boundaries.

surveying, geodetic—That branch of the science and art of surveying in which account is taken of the shape and size of the Earth. Either terrestrial or satellite positioning methods may be used in geodetic surveying; geodetic engineering.

surveying, land—The detailed study or inspection, as by gathering information through observations, measurements in the field, questionnaires, or research of legal instruments, and data analysis in support of planning, designing, and establishing property boundaries. Involves re-establishment of cadastral surveys and land boundaries based on documents of record and historical evidence, as well as certifying surveys (as required by statute or local ordinance) of subdivision plats, registered land surveys, judicial surveys, and space delineation. Land surveying can include associated services such as mapping and related data accumulation; construction layout surveys; precision measurements of length, angle, elevation, area; and volume; horizontal and vertical control systems; and the analysis and utilization of survey data. See also survey, land.

surveying, plane—A type of surveying which considers the surface of the Earth to be a plane surface. For small areas, accurate results may be obtained with plane-surveying methods, but the accuracy and precision of such results will decrease as the area surveyed increases in size.

surveying, route—For locating, designing, and constructing a railroad, highway, canal, pipe line, transmission line, or other linear facility. Route surveying comprises all reconnaissance surveys, the preliminary survey, the location survey, and surveys made during construction.

surveying, satellite—The process of determining the locations of points on the Earth\’s surface by using artificial satellites as points to which, or from which, measurements are made.

surveying, trilinear—The determination of the position of a point of observation by measuring the angles at that point between lines to three points of known position. This determination involves the solution of the three-point problem, which is accomplished analytically by computation or graphically by the use of choreograph or station pointers, such as the three-arm protractor. See resection, locating a point by.

surveying camera—See camera, mapping or surveying.

surveyor—A person qualified to undertake surveys.

surveyor general-1 (U.S.) An officer in charge of the survey of public lands. 2 (Gr. Brit.) A principal surveyor; as, the surveyor general of the king’s manors.

surveyor’s arrows—See pin (definition 2).

surveyor’s certificate—A document furnished by a surveyor to a client to indicate his or her findings.

surveyor’s chain—See chain.

surveyor’s compass—See compass, surveyor’s.

surveys, rectangular—A system of surveys, in which an area is divided by a base line intersected at right angles by a principal meridian, with the intersection forming the initial point from which the partitions are subdivided into townships, each containing 36 sections of land.

Source: NSPS “Definitions of Surveying and Related Terms“, used with permission.

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