What is Surveying & Geospatial Engineering?

Surveying and geospatial engineering uses cutting-edge technology such as drones, GPS, satellite imagery, surveying robots and laser scanning to create complex layers of interconnected geographic information. This information has changed the way Engineers plan design and deliver major projects.

Geospatial information constantly reveals new insights about our world and our place in it. Geospatial engineers work alongside surveyors who can define legal land boundaries and provide essential engineering support to Engineers, Architects and Land Developers for urban development, large infrastructure projects such as mine operations and the management of environmental resources.

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Surveyors and Geospatial Engineers can expect a median salary of $101,816.

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88% of Surveyors work full-time, which is much higher than the full-time work average of 66%. Source  

Geospatial engineering leverages new high precision geospatial data capture technologies such as laser scanners (airborne and terrestrial), robotic total stations, GPS, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones and other mapping systems, and applications in both the natural and built environments. These include:

  • Mining, agriculture and infrastructure construction
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Urban and transport planning
  • Mobile and emergency services

Diverse geospatial data are expertly combined to produce high precision 3D digital models, which can be used for many purposes, from enabling virtual construction to location-based service apps on a smartphone.

The scientific discipline behind surveying and geospatial engineering is called geodesy. It’s concerned with the large-scale mapping of the size, shape and gravity field of the Earth and how it changes in space and time. Geodesy provides the fundamental reference frame to which all surveying and geospatial data relates, as well as the GPS techniques for precise positioning.

Geodesy defines a global coordinate framework to which map and geodata data refer. A geodetic datum is necessary for the construction of large road and rail projects, and electricity and telecommunications networks.

Geodesy also makes a major contribution to global climate and global change research as it involves the measuring of more dynamic earth processes. These can include the drift of continents, the expansion of volcanoes, the subsidence of land, the rise of sea level, the change in water and ice storage, and changes in atmospheric and oceanographic circulation.

Earth Observation

Geospatial engineers use data from satellites, aircraft and UAVs or drones to monitor the built and natural environment for purposes such as managing the response to bushfires, floods, earthquakes or improving the quality of services and spatial queries.

Remote Sensing

High-resolution remote sensing satellites provide optical, multi-spectral and radar imagery to map and monitor dynamic Earth phenomena such as the ground above coal seam gas extraction sites or the state of the atmosphere. Remote sensing techniques also underpin weather and ocean forecasting, and help society monitor local ground displacement, manage natural disasters and assess the impact of global climate change.

Digital Mapping

The development of devices, such as large format aerial digital cameras, laser scanners, satellite imagery and powerful data processing and visualisation software, allows for high-detail mapping of the Earth's surface and to construct virtual 3D structures cities and communities.

Engineering surveyors provide crucial support for new infrastructure and work with other professionals during the planning and construction of structures such as buildings, roads, bridges, dams, harbours and more.

Mining surveyors are an integral part of the establishment and operation of mines. They work in all aspects of mining operations, including locating ore bodies in three dimensions, controlling excavations and monitoring environmental impacts such as landslides or ground subsidence. Mining surveyors are also often called upon during mine emergencies to locate trapped miners, such as in the 2006 mine collapse in Beaconsfield, Tasmania and the 2010 mine collapse in San Jose, Chile.

Hydrographic surveyors are responsible for the measurement and mapping of marine and shipping areas. Off-shore hydrographic surveyors work in gas, oil and mineral exploration, in pipe and telecommunications cable laying and in environmental research.

Registered land surveyors ensure the integrity of property boundaries, legally defining the dimensions of new and existing land, reserves, easements and strata titles. Land surveyors provide professional consulting services to a range of clients and typically advise on council requirements and state planning legislation.

Land surveyors design and project manage sustainable urban and rural subdivisions, for commercial and residential developments, according to state and local government development principles including water sensitive urban design, habitat preservation, and other restrictions.