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Chapter: Civil Surveying : Fundamentals and Chain Surveying

Surveying Field Work

FIELDWORK is of primary importance in all types of surveys. To be a skilled surveyor, you must spend a certain amount of time in the field to acquire needed experience.



FIELDWORK is of primary importance in all types of surveys. To be a skilled surveyor, you must spend a certain amount of time in the field to acquire needed experience. The study of this training manual will enable you to understand the underlying theory of surveying, the instruments and their uses, and the surveying methods. However, a high degree of proficiency in actual surveying, as in other professions, depends largely upon the duration, extent, and variation of your actual experience.


You should develop the habit of STUDYING the problem thoroughly before going into the field, You should know exactly what is to be done; how you will do it; why you prefer a certain approach over other possible solutions; and what instruments and materials you will need to accomplish the project.


It is essential that you develop SPEED and CONSISTENT ACCURACY in all your fieldwork. This means that you will need practice in handling the instruments, taking observations and keeping field notes, and planning systematic moves.


It is important that you also develop the habit of CORRECTNESS. You should not accept any measurement as correct without verification. Verification, as much as possible, should be different from the original method used in measurement. The precision of measurement must be consistent with the accepted standard for a particular purpose of the survey.


Fieldwork also includes adjusting the instruments and caring for field equipment. Do not attempt to adjust any instrument unless you understand the workings or functions of its parts. Adjustment of instruments in the early stages of your career requires close supervision from a senior EA.


Factors Affecting Fieldwork


The surveyor must constantly be alert to the different conditions encountered in the field. Physical factors, such as TERRAIN AND WEATHER CONDITIONS, affect each field survey in varying degrees. Measurements using telescopes can be stopped by fog or mist. Swamps and flood plains under high water can impede taping surveys. Sights over open water or fields of flat, unbroken terrain create ambiguities in measurements using microwave equipment. The lengths of light-wave distance in measurements are reduced in bright sunlight. Generally, reconnaissance will predetermine the conditions and alert the survey party to the best method to use and the rate of progress to expect.


The STATE OF PERSONNEL TECHNICAL READINESS is another factor affecting field-work. As you gain experience in handling various surveying instruments, you can shorten survey time and avoid errors that would require resurvey.


The PURPOSE AND TYPE OF SURVEY are primary factors in determining the accuracy requirements. First-order triangulation, which becomes the basis or "control" of future surveys, is made to high-accuracy standards. At the other extreme, cuts and fills for a highway survey carry accuracy standards of a much lower degree. In some construction surveys, normally inaccessible distances must be computed. The distance is computed by means of trigonometry, using the angles and the one distance that can be measured. The measurements must be made to a high degree of precision to maintain accuracy in the computed distance.



So, then, the purpose of the survey determines the accuracy requirements. The required accuracy, in turn, influences the selection of instruments and procedures. For instance, comparatively rough procedures can be used in measuring for earthmoving, but grade and alignment of a highway have to be much more precise, and they, therefore, require more accurate measurements. Each increase in precision also increases the time required to make the measurement, since greater care and more observations will be taken. Each survey measurement will be in error to the extent that no measurement is ever exact. The errors are classified as systematic and accidental and are explained in the latter part of this text. Besides errors, survey measurements are subject to mistakes or blunders. These arise from misunderstanding of the problem, poor judgment, confusion on the part of the surveyor, or simply from an oversight. By working out a systematic procedure, the surveyor will often detect a mistake when some operation seems out of place. The procedure will be an advantage in setting up the equipment, in making observations, in recording field notes, and in making computations.


Survey speed is not the result of hurrying; it is the result of saving time through the following factors:


1. The skill of the surveyor in handling the instruments


2. The intelligent planning and preparation of the work


3.             The process of making only those measurements that are consistent with the accuracy requirements


Experience is of great value, but in the final analysis, it is the exercise of a good, mature, and competent degree of common sense that makes the difference between a good surveyor and an exceptional surveyor.


Field Survey Parties


The size of a field survey party depends upon the survey requirements, the equipment available, the method of survey, and the number of personnel needed for performing the different functions. Four typical field survey parties commonly used in the SEABEEs are briefly described in this section: a level party, a transit party, a stadia party, and a plane table party.


LEVEL PARTY.- The smallest leveling party consists of two persons: an instrumentman and a rodman. This type of organization requires the instrumentman to act as note keeper. The party may need another recorder and one or more extra rodmen to improve the efficiency of the different leveling operations. The addition of the rodmen eliminates the waiting periods while one person moves from point to point, and the addition of a recorder allows the instrumentman to take readings as soon as the rodmen are in position. When leveling operations are run along with other control surveys, the leveling party may be organized as part of a combined party with personnel assuming dual duties, as required by the work load and as designated by the party chief.


TRANSIT PARTY.- A transit party consists of at least three people: an instrumentman, a head chainman, and a party chief. The party chief is usually the note keeper and may double as rear chainman, or there may be an additional rear chainman. The instrumentman operates the transit; the head chainman measures the hori-zontal distances; and the party chief directs the survey and keeps the notes.


STADIA PARTY.- A stadia party should consist of three people: an instrumentman, a note keeper, and a rodman. However, two rodmen should be used if there are long distances between observed points so that one can proceed to a new point, while the other is holding the rod on a point being observed. The note keeper records the data called off by the instrumentman and makes the sketches required.


PLANE TABLE PARTY.- The plane table party consists of three people: a topographer or plane table operator, a rodman, and a computer. The topographer is the chief of the party who sets up, levels, and orients the plane table; makes the necessary readings for the determination of horizontal distances and elevations; plots the details on the plane table sheet as the work proceeds; and directs the other members of the party.


The rodman carries a stadia rod and holds it vertically at detail points and at critical terrain points in the plotting of the map. An inexperienced rodman must be directed by the topographer to each point at which the rod is to be held. An experienced rodman will expedite the work of the party by selecting the proper rod positions and by returning at times to the plane table to draw in special details that he may have noticed.


The computer reduces stadia readings to horizontal and vertical distances and computes the ground elevation for rod observations. He carries and positions the umbrella to shade the plane table and performs other duties as directed by the topographer. At times, the computer may be used as a second rodman, especially when the terrain is relatively flat and computations are mostly for leveling alone.


Field Notes


Field notes are the only record that is left after the field survey party departs the survey site. If these notes are not clear and complete, the field survey was of little value. It is therefore necessary that your field notes contain a complete record of all of the measurements made during the survey and that they include, where necessary, sketches and narrations to clarify the notes. The following guidelines apply.


LETTERING.- All field notes should be lettered legibly. The lettering should be in freehand, vertical or slanted Gothic style, as illustrated in basic drafting. A fairly hard pencil or a mechanical lead holder with a 3H or 4H lead is recommended. Numerals and decimal points should be legible and should permit only one interpretation.


FORMAT.- Notes must be kept in the regular field notebook and not on scraps of paper for later transcription. Separate surveys should be recorded on separate pages or in different books. The front cover of the field notebook should be marked with the name of the project, its general location, the types of measurements recorded, the designation of the survey unit, and other pertinent information.


The inside front cover should contain instructions for the return of the notebook, if lost. The right-hand pages should be reserved as an index of the field notes, a list of party personnel and their duties, a list of the instruments used, dates and reasons for any instrument changes during the course of the survey, and a sketch and description of the project.


Throughout the remainder of the notebook, the beginning and ending of each day'swork should be clearly indicated. Where pertinent, the weather, including temperature and wind velocities, should also be recorded. To minimize recording errors, someone other than the recorder should check and initial all data entered in the notebook.


RECORDING.- Field note recording takes three general forms: tabulation, sketches, and descriptions. Two, or even all three, forms may be combined, when necessary, to make a complete record.


In TABULATION, the numerical measurements are recorded in columns according to a prescribed plan. Spaces are also reserved to permit necessary computations.


SKETCHES add much to clarify field notes and should be used liberally when applicable. They may be drawn to an approximate scale, or important details may be exaggerated for clarity. A small ruler or triangle is an aid in making sketches. Measurements should be added directly on the sketch or keyed in some way to the tabular data. An important requirement of a sketch is legibility. See that the sketch is drawn clearly and large enough to be understandable.



Tabulation, with or without added sketches, can also be supplemented with DESCRIPTIONS. The description may be only one or two words to clarify t he recorded measurements. It may also be quite a narration if it is to be used at some future time, possibly years later, to locate a survey monument.


ERASURES ARE NOT PERMITTED IN FIELD NOTEBOOKS. Individual numbers or lines recorded incorrectly are to be lined out and the correct values inserted. Pages that are to be rejected are crossed out neatly and referenced to the substituted pages. THIS PROCEDURE IS MANDATORY since the field notebook is the book of record and is often used as legal evidence. Standard abbreviations, signs, and symbols are used in field notebooks. If there is any doubt as to their meaning, an explanation must be given in the form of notes or legends.


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