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One Man Surveying

So......I've been working in this business for a few decades.  I've been a member of a 4 man crew, 3 man crew, most typically a 2 man crew, and now, for the last 10 years, a one man crew.

Robots and GPS have been around for enough time that they are both considered "conventional".

My question.........Is a one man crew truly efficient?

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  • I thank everybody for their input. It's been great hearing everyone's opinion. I have to admit that not having to worry about another person in the field is sometimes a godsend. But there are many times when I need another person. Robots are great...but they can't see everything...and GPS is still only centimeter accurate if you're in ideal conditions. My gut feeling is that I can accomplish the same with or without another person....but this is all job dependant. I just feel that it is wrong for an employer to assume that EVERY job is a one man job....cuz anyone who's done the one man thing long enough knows that not every job can or should be done alone.
    • Land Surveyor


      • Land Surveyor

        Rob you know what your doing. I am same. We can do any job alone sometimes we do need help. Im like you. Just have to find a firm cares about what you know. I did the my own thing. Lost all I had. not sure how we go on

  • Thanks for the replies. I can relate to them. It seems that we all have had similar experiences and think alike.
    • Land Surveyor

      Yes we do. I know full well having a like minded person by your side is great. For me over 30 years they come and go. That's the main reason I work alone. I found a company lets me say when I need someone. They see I know what I'm doing after 30 years trying to run a small family company. I grew up with a transit 200' foot steel tape, chaining pins and a plumb bob.We didn't have software back then. We had a hp48gx and a 4x4 board with a Leroy set. I like how we can do things now but really miss them days. I don't think many here lived them days.


  • I am glad that at least some of my peers don't think I am nuts. I knew a surveyor back in the 70's that surveyed alone with conventional equipment. I don't know how he did it but he was a good surveyor. The only computer he had was a HP 41. He was a reformed hippie & drug addict that made good on a second chance given to him by a local surveyor. I don't know if he is still surveying as I haven't heard any mention of him in years.
    I would never be so arrogant as to suggest that the way I do things is best for everybody but it seems to be working for me. Thank everybody that participated in this discussion & thank you, Mr. Rosa, for starting it. It has been interesting & informative.
    • Land Surveyor

      Charlie drop the nuts thing that might be me not sure. I guess this one man thing depends on one man. Some of us grew up in land surveying its all we know. For myself I got tired of someone not showing up. Your left on your own trying to figure out what to do. When I was trying to run a small family company with nothing but a old Topcon and a prism on a pole they didn't show up for work. You have to adapt its all you can do. Its real hard sometimes my way of thinking I know. So many times over 30 years would have loved to have a team mate. Someone cares about this as much as me, or wants to try. I just never found anyone like that. So alone its been.That's whats its been for me.

      • Land Surveyor

        Please drop this. "Its real hard sometimes my way of thinking I know". Made no sense.

  • Rob


    My name is Johnny Ingram, I am a Texas Surveyor. My opinion on the one man operation is many fold.


    I have been surveying since 1957, so like you I have gone through most of the changes in the surveying effort. My experience with the one man crew started in  the 1990's. I practice in a small town and an old county. We do not have activity created by large projects, so land surveying is 90+% of my activity.


    I operated a two man crew for a bout 20 years prior to trying the one man operation. I felt the need to use the one man crew due to a loss of the only employee I ever had from the two man period. I tired of training the temporary employees which were available to me.


    now, my comments about the one man operation - modern equipment coupled with the level of experience I had obtained since the 1950's,all me to be efficient with the conduct of my task. The problem I had was the charges for mu services! It was nearly impossible to justify the fees charged for my two man operation because two men could do the required tast in less time!!!


    I was continually working on techniques to improve the efficiency. Later development with the robotic systems helped solve a large part of that problem. 


    I believe the proper reply to your question depends on the type of surveying application being considered.. Experience will play a major role in that determination. Modern technology will allow almost any activity to be accomplished and it is amatter of opinion as to the efficiecy!


    I could go on for a long period of time and cite many examples of advantages & disadvantages. In my experience, the location and type work of my one-man operation  was equal to the quality and value of the services I was able to provide with a two-man party. 


    By the way, for those persons who have an interest, I operate a living history of land surveying in the  East  Texas town of Jefferson. You are invited to visit The Museum of Maeasurement and Time.


    Museum information:

    301 North Polk Street 

    Jefferson, Texas 75657

    (903) 665-MoMT   (903)665-6668




    • Land Surveyor

      looks like some of my kin moved there and built a lake near ya... & it looks a lot like where i'm from... i actually came close to your area a few years back when i was debating how i was gonna get to Colorado without going though Dallas/ Fort Worth... I stopped in Natchez, MS and made it to New Mexico before calling it a day... I don't think i've ever spent more than 2 days in a row in Texas... I'm afraid they won't let me leave if I wander around for a third... you guys make some great pickled okra... the Talk of Texas is mentioned in Georgia...

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