Geospatial Engineering > Surveying

Back when I was trying to decide what to do with the rest of my life just after my KCSE results aere announced, I had no idea that I would be pulling my hair out 5 years later.

Dont get me wrong, I am not saying I regret my decision then. Far from it infact it may just be the best one I made.(These Sentiments are shared by one of my affable professors who in retrospect is happy he did not pursue Civil engineering in favour of the then Surveying degree.)

At the time I had never seen or heard the word Geospatial and it sounded sexy as hell.  A little digging revealed that it was good old surveying that was trying to get its sexy back. It was explained that calling the training or rather qualification surveying though correct was inaccurate due to the advancements in technology and broad areas that geospatial people find themselves working in.

US Navy Surveyor at work with a leveling instr...
US Navy Surveyor at work with a leveling instrument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I bet you imagine I spend all day looking through some thing balanced on tripod legs in the middle of nowhere or on the shamba the neighbours have been squabbling about. These are still done geospatial engineers but thats just the opening of the rabbit hole. Its like assuming all people who go through med school wind up asking wheezing kids to cough as they listen through a stethoscope. Correct but inaccurate.

The best resource that I have found that attempts to do proper marketing justice to the profession comes from the Australians with their Life Without Limits Campaign . Our institutions as usual do very little . . ok they do nothing to promote surveying to the up-comers and explain why the name was changed in the first place to Geospatial Engineering.

Truth is I know of few other engineering careers that are as exciting, challenging and diverse as Geospatial engineering. sure coding a kernel for an OS is not a walk in the park and neither is designing and building a bridge that should last upwards of 30 years. Geospatial engineering will allow you to sit in the office if thats what you fancy or visit the remotest and most diverse locations mostly working on the same project.

Let me not even get started on the tech you get to work with. Recently I got to work with a pair of differential GPS units. These are basically GPS recievers like the ones in your phone only on several tonnes of crack and Nitrous. Your phone can at best in the best conditions imaginable get your position to within a 3 meter radius. These units after post processing the data can fix your position to within 3mm. Thats right 3 millimeters.

Accuracy achieved in ost processing
Accuracy achieved in post processing

I achieved an average 0.079m accuracy on all points. This is in a survey that was done in merely 6 hrs. Using conventional methods this could take you all day and brain numbing computations to get similar results.

There are many other examples of possibilities that and efficiencies that have been afforded with advances in technology and maturing of methodologies and science.

English: Differential GPS scheme
English: Differential GPS scheme (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Final year project is concerned with using satellite images to generate geographic data that is used by telecom companies to plan and predict their terrestrial radio networks. I hope to show that the siting of the base transceiver stations can be planned mostly in a digital virtual environment and minimize the field work aspect(though unavoidable) of the RF planning bit.

Let me be the first to state that my methods are already outdated. LiDAR tech can do this at a much higher accuracy than with using the satellite images and with far less acrobatics such as the control point collection with the GPS for corrections. Using the satellite images could however be cheaper for institutions or individuals who find the accuracy levels satisfactory or simply dont have the money to commission a flight to cover their area of interest.

Its actually possible to generate nice looking and informative 3d models of an area by manipulating a stereo pair of photographs of the same area. The conditions in which the images are collected have to be super accurate though inorder to extract info from them.

All in all I hope to employ some of the knowledge bashed into my brain by well meaning lecturers to solve a real world problem. Gathering, manipulting and interpreting spatial info. Here is to not wasting 5 years!

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