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GPS Surveying

Jan Van Sickle, P.L.S.

This course is intended to be useful to surveyors who venture into GPS surveying. I hope it is also helpful to engineers and others for whom GPS may not be a primary tool, but find themselves in need of some additional understanding of the technology.

The breadth of knowledge required for modern surveying is increasing all the time and today it almost certainly includes GPS. Surveyors have been there from the very beginning of the Global Positioning System, and that is getting to be more than twenty years ago. Today, the system developed by the Department of Defense with military applications in mind is attracting users from every imaginable discipline, but it is still surveyors out there pushing its limits.

Like most computerized equipment, the prices of GPS receivers are going down, just as their capabilities improve. With the full constellation of satellites in place, the convenience of using GPS has never been better. It has truly become a 24-hour worldwide system. And it can be applied to a wide range of real life every-day fieldwork with good results. The potential of GPS has always been great, but the potential is now a reality.

Still, getting full advantage from GPS takes some doing. For example, it isn't hard to operate a GPS receiver, matter of fact most of them are so user-friendly you don't need to know the first thing about GPS to make them work, that is, until they don't. Getting coordinates from a GPS receiver is usually a matter of pushing a few buttons, but knowing what those coordinates are, and more importantly, what they aren't, is more difficult.

Technology is changing so fast, sometimes it's hard to even know what questions to ask and, GPS can seem particularly complex. Books and seminars on the subject can be either too complicated or over-simplified. So this course has been written to find a middle ground. It is an introduction to the concepts needed to understand and use GPS, not a presentation of the latest research in the area. Some of the aspects of GPS surveying will be familiar, some won't. An effort has been made to explain the progression of the ideas at the foundation of GPS and get into some of the particulars too.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end.

* If you are a registered professional land surveyor in Florida, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas or Vermont, you need to take the approved courses for that specific state under the course category "Surveying & Mapping".

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