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Might have to take the plunge and get into GPS Station Surveys  

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ChrisA
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Hi All,

It has been a while, apologies for that, but hopefully a few of my contributions have counteracted that 🙂

My one man band 'company' is having difficulty with finding reliable topo surveyors lately, in turn making me look bad. Of course they're only human and occasionally bad things happen and you can't perform your profession as much as is desired.

So I've been looking at the prices and as you all know, they are quite high. It seems £20k would do the job, however I'm looking at an entry model called the "Leica AX1202 Base and Rover GPS System with RX1210T Controller", advertised on eBay.

I've got a sneaking suspicion that as this forum is generally based in the good old US of A, perhaps it's not a good place to speak of this model. However, if anyone has some advice or tips, I would gladly welcome them.

I have used GPS Stations before and was very comfortable with them, this gives me confidence that I could offer my clients a well priced service. In some ways I'm being slightly pushed into this as I do a great deal of Measured Surveys, New Build and Extension Design as wells as slowly offering Building Regulation drawing services (not inc. structural). It's mainly builders that often want topographical surveys, sometimes for sites as little as a few hundred square metres.

Anyway, possible talking point. And just for the record, I fully respect and appreciate that land surveying isn't something you can just pick up, it no doubt takes years to perfect, like other unique skills. But I'm hoping for any contributions you all might be able to make.

All the very best,

Chris

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Nate The Surveyor
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Chris,

Where are you? England?

And "£20k" is that euro pounds?

What kind of surveying do you do? Boundary? What kind of title do you have over there?

I'm on my phone typing here.

N

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Loyal
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Posted by: Nate The Surveyor

Chris,

Where are you? England?

And "£20k" is that euro pounds?

What kind of surveying do you do? Boundary? What kind of title do you have over there?

I'm on my phone typing here.

N

Nate,

£ is the symbol for Pound Sterling.

€ is the symbol for the EURO.

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Dave Karoly
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Posted by: Nate The Surveyor

Chris,

Where are you? England?

And "£20k" is that euro pounds?

What kind of surveying do you do? Boundary? What kind of title do you have over there?

I'm on my phone typing here.

N

I think in the U.K. Boundary Surveying and Engineering Surveying are separate professions.

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True Corner
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Posted by: Dave Karoly
Posted by: Nate The Surveyor

Chris,

Where are you? England?

And "£20k" is that euro pounds?

What kind of surveying do you do? Boundary? What kind of title do you have over there?

I'm on my phone typing here.

N

I think in the U.K. Boundary Surveying and Engineering Surveying are separate professions.

There is very little boundary surveying in the UK because there is very little land ownership.  People own the buildings but they oftentimes do not own the land.  We have boundary surveyors in the US due to the Constitution (the 4th and 14th Amendments) that you can't lose land without due process.  Here's an article explaining the situation: https://www.newstatesman.com/life-and-society/2011/03/million-acres-land-ownership

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chris mills
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Posted by: True Corner

I think in the U.K. Boundary Surveying and Engineering Surveying are separate professions.

There is very little boundary surveying in the UK because there is very little land ownership.  People own the buildings but they oftentimes do not own the land.  We have boundary surveyors in the US due to the Constitution (the 4th and 14th Amendments) that you can't lose land without due process.  Here's an article explaining the situation: https://www.newstatesman.com/life-and-society/2011/03/million-acres-land-ownership

Very misleading, especially the article quoted. For all practical purposes "The Crown" will never take back land so it is owned by those who have purchased it. Similarly, in the US, you might own the land but if you declared "independence" for your plot then your authorities would step in and point out that "your" land was "owned" by the US.

The UK system works on the basis of "General Boundaries". By and large that works well. For the vast majority of land sales no survey is needed and the party purchasing just inspects to see that the apparent boundary on site matches the plan. Most times they don't even do that, which is when boundary disputes can arise.

Since the UK doesn't recognise surveying as a "reserved" profession, unlike medicine, then there are no restrictions on practising. It would be correct to say that most surveyors dealing with boundaries and not engineering surveyors and vice versa, but that is a matter of experience in the different fields.

Some of us deal with both.

The UK has a far, far higher percentage of inhabitants owning their own property than most of Europe.

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True Corner
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The following is a better article:  https://libcom.org/news/article.php/land-ownership-right-roam-uk-10032006

My inlaws owned their building but paid a 99 year leasehold on the land which according to them is quite common.  Additionally you don't have a land registry. 

It's quite a bit different in the UK and the rest of the world for that matter.

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squowse
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Posted by: True Corner

The following is a better article:  https://libcom.org/news/article.php/land-ownership-right-roam-uk-10032006

My inlaws owned their building but paid a 99 year leasehold on the land which according to them is quite common.  Additionally you don't have a land registry. 

It's quite a bit different in the UK and the rest of the world for that matter.

I think that website has a bit of an agenda to say the least!

This is the website for England and Wales land registry. I can assure you it very much exists.

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/land-registry

leasehold properties do exist but they are rapidly falling out of favour. there are government acts to enable occupiers to buy them out.

Main difference is we don't have a "point of beginning" - the land was carved up long before that was thought of. So boundaries are very unlikely to be able to be re-established.

There are lots of different types of surveyors, but chartered surveyors and solicitors (lawyers) deal with property transactions. Our type of measuring equipment is not much use to them, although the square metreage of a building will count for a lot in terms of it's value. They just measure it up with a tape or disto.

In general the boundary is where the fence or wall is. If you want to argue otherwise you're going to need some good evidence and lots of money for lawyers. Funnily enough it is rarely a problem. 

 

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chris mills
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Posted by: squowse

Our type of measuring equipment is not much use to them, although the square metreage of a building will count for a lot in terms of it's value. They just measure it up with a tape or disto.

In general the boundary is where the fence or wall is. If you want to argue otherwise you're going to need some good evidence and lots of money for lawyers. Funnily enough it is rarely a problem. 

 

Tapes and Distos are OK for internal work (sometimes). There are different types of Chartered Surveyor, qualified in one or more of the 6 sectors within land and buildings, so some of us use total stations and GPS as our main tools.

Whilst the General Boundaries rule serves the UK well (hard to argue when the boundary is "somewhere within the wall") when arguments do kick off they do so with a vengeance. I have one dispute, started in 2015, which still hasn't quite reached finality and has already produced survey fees of £40,000. What the lawyers have pocketed I hate to imagine. All over 50 yards of common boundary - a very well-off area in Surrey, UK.

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ChrisA
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Posted by: Nate The Surveyor

Chris,

Where are you? England?

And "£20k" is that euro pounds?

What kind of surveying do you do? Boundary? What kind of title do you have over there?

I'm on my phone typing here.

N

Hi Nate,

Yes indeed, I'm in the United Kingdom (South East).

I think Loyal answered the euro/pound question.

For around 20 years I've done measured building surveys (external/internal) and a limited amount of topographical surveys with limited accuracy (using just a staff and automatic level), but I have used GPS Stations every once in a while to carry out more accurate surveys when necessary. In fairness, land height changes on the smaller jobs hasn't been that important, as I'm mainly designing extensions, but on the new build proposals it would be a handy service to provide 'in house'. Local topo surveyors are brilliant for Hectare+ sites, but are understandably not well priced for the smaller sites that I mostly work on.

My title isn't very formal, I'm an Architectural Technologist over on this side of the pond - a poor man's Architect you could say. Not sure if this is too much info, but my dad was a builder so I worked with him in my teenage years, but both parent pressed me to 'get in a warm office', so I went to college (couldn't afford University) and got as many qualifications as I could afford.

Kudos for typing on a phone, appreciate how frustrating it can be!

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Mark Mayer
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For the purpose of discussing round number thinking from the other side of the world, English pounds, Euros, and American dollars are close enough to a 1 for 1 exchange.  

I once worked for a mid sized engineering firm which had added a survey department several years prior. The principle of that firm told me straight out that they added survey in order to have better control of the product, and not to add profit. In other words, they were at peace with the survey department having a much lower profitability than the engineering.

The small engineering/surveying firm I had been working for was bought out over the summer by another engineer, in large part to add surveying to their service package. The old owner had added a survey license to his PE, gone into the survey biz, and soon found himself in over his head. That is why he hired me. The new owner, who had been accustomed to spending quite a lot of money on surveying, recently commented to me that surveying was rather expensive to operate. I'm sure you have thought about this a great deal already, but I'd encourage you to go over this one more time. Maybe you've been cutting big checks to surveyors and thinking that those are profits that are getting away.  You might want to check out the surveyors office, parking lot, and home to see were all those obscene profits are going, or if they exist at all.   

£20000 isn't quite enough to buy a new and modern GNSS RTK setup (I was recently quoted $13k per receiver for Trimble R8s's and told it was a special limited time deal). I'm not totally familiar with the Leica 1200 series but I think you are looking at something around 10 years old here. If so, £20k seems a little high. Don't forget - if you are going to do this kind of work you will need a Total Station as well. GPS doesn't work in every situation.  Does the data logger that runs the 1200 GPS also run a total station? I think not.  Then you will then need tripods, tribrachs, rods,  and various accoutrements to the tune of a few more thousand. And a vehicle to haul it all around in.  So your full investment to do this up properly will easily run into 50k to much more, even if you do it on a shoestring. 

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ChrisA
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Hi Mark,

You're probably right on the exchange these days.

That's incredibly useful information, thank you very much for taking the time to write it. You've got a very fair point about the overheads, though in my situation it's not that I want the profit, it's more the lack of an available land surveyors in my area. There is normally a 3 week wait and many of the builders I work with, normally want a quicker service. They also may not need the level of detail a qualified and experienced surveyor has. The ideal situation is that I come to site, do the topo if needed, then move onto the internal building survey - for some reason, very few surveyors want to do internals.

ERROR WITH MY ORIGINAL POST: I mentioned £20,000 for surveying equipment, the 10 year old one mentioned (you're spot on there) is currently for sale at around £7,000 (refurb).

It's definitely food for thought though, the other concern that for the last 6 years, I've mostly had more work than I can deal with, so in some ways adding a service will only make that worse. I have no desire to work all the hours god sends, however my theory was that by offering a wider spectrum of services, if in the future work decreases, I have more revenue streams. That's the theory at least.

Thank you yet again for a more realistic perspective of doing this correctly, I had thought that a Total Station would be necessary as well, though I thought that would be more for points I can't directly get to, such as building ridge heights (do forgive me if I'm wrong). Another theory I have (I'm full of them, rarely good ones), is that because I do the internal building surveys, I can normally measure the internal building height to the ridge, so that would get around that. Getting accurate tree heights would be a problem though, so I would have to advise clients that the accuracy is X metres.

You're absolutely right about the addition costs, I wife has a car that I can use a few days of the week, so at least that's one saving I can make (it's a bit of an old banger though - meaning it's not very pretty or in good condition!).

I really do appreciate your input Mark, thank you very much. Definitely food for thought.

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Mark Silver
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Hi Chris!

Actually, folks in the USA probably don't realize that prices in Europe are substantially less than they are in the USA.

It is hard to quantify because there are huge differences in prices in the USA and there are huge differences in prices in Europe.  The sales models are significantly different too, the USA has some big players who crazy discount and there is not a direct comparison in GB or EU. Plus the pound and euro vary (£: 0.7 to 0.8 over the last year.)

Additionally, the CE regulatory environment makes it possible to utilize UHF and cellular radios that cost significantly less than those that are approved by FCC and Verizon. 

Are you sure that you need a base and rover? There is fantastic RTN  coverage pretty much everywhere in UK and EU. (I guess we can treat them separately now?)

I have a really good idea what prices in the USA are, and I have some good friends in the business in Europe. We compare notes all the time. If pressed, I might claim that EU prices are 30% less than in the USA! And it is not just GNSS. Robots enjoy a similar differential too. 

Give my buddy PJ a call (I will Direct Message you with his phone number). He can set you up , plus he is a great guy. And say howdy for me. (We both ride Boosted Boards to work, so instant best friends.) 

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ChrisA
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Hi Mark (Silver this time!),

Are they cheaper here then? That's nice for a change!

That's all very useful information, thanks for typing!

I kind of assumed that a base and rover would be needed to get under trees - I'm so sorry I don't speak with the experience you all have! Over here, I visit site which huge tree canopies, though never high density from a building perspective. I just didn't want to turn up at a site, having arranged the date/time and have to turn around and say, "sorry, I can't get any satellites".

I think I've got your PM, thank you very much for that, I'll certainly get in touch with him!

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squowse
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Posted by: ChrisA

Hi Mark (Silver this time!),

Are they cheaper here then? That's nice for a change!

That's all very useful information, thanks for typing!

I kind of assumed that a base and rover would be needed to get under trees - I'm so sorry I don't speak with the experience you all have! Over here, I visit site which huge tree canopies, though never high density from a building perspective. I just didn't want to turn up at a site, having arranged the date/time and have to turn around and say, "sorry, I can't get any satellites".

I think I've got your PM, thank you very much for that, I'll certainly get in touch with him!

GPS doesn't work under trees or near buildings. And be very sceptical if you are in these conditions and the controller assures you that everything is fine and accurate.

Also I think you may still be confused about the base options -

Base and Rover - need 2 receivers, no subscription

Network RTK (aka VRS) - only need 1 receiver, but need to pay annual subscription for the corrections by mobile phone.

Nearly everyone uses the second option now (in UK). apart from a few particular reasons that I don't think will apply to you.

Neither is better or worse as regards working under trees etc;

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squowse
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You can get a network RTK rover for about £5000-£15000 (euro pounds!) depending on model and newness.

I sold a GS08plus with CS10 for £4500 this summer just gone.

Subscription for network corrections (eg Smarnet) is about £1500-£2000 pa.

For buying new you might want to have a look at the Spectra products being marketed by SEP or South Survey. Good prices and support.

The AX1200 is quite an old Leica model. Definitely don't get one without ability to track GLONASS satellites. An advantage of buying a new Spectra (or other new antenna) is that Galileo should work when it's fully available. Double check that this is included. Leica and Trimble generally charge extra for these "future" options

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ChrisA
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Hi Squowse (that's a really difficult name to type!),

Thank you sir, really useful information....and I didn't know there was a subscription service that needed paying?!? Oh dear, that might have an impact on me moving into this service, thank you very much for the headsup.

I have seen Spectra products, thank you very much for the information, I think I need to do some research and you've given me terrific pointers.

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