About Amerisurv| Contact    
Magazine | Newsletter    
Flickr Photos | Advertise    
HomeNewsNewsletterAmerisurv DirectoryJobsStoreAuthorsHistoryArchivesBlogVideosEvents

Sponsored By

Software Reviews
Continuing Series
An RTN expert provides everything you need to know about network-corrected real-time GNSS observations.
Click Here to begin the series,
or view the Article PDF's Here
76-PageFlip Compilation
of the entire series
Test Yourself

Got Answers?
Test your knowledge with NCEES-level questions.
  Start HERE
Meet the Authors
Check out our fine lineup of writers. Each an expert in his or her field.
Wow Factor
Sponsored By

Product Reviews
Partner Sites







Spatial Media LLC properties




Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

Florida Surveyor Rewriting Job Description Print E-mail
Written by Larry Trojak   
Friday, 27 September 2013

A 1.533Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

There is a growing concern among many today that the days of the survey function, as it applies to construction work, are numbered. Much of the work that was once the sole domain of the surveyor--hard staking, documenting as-builts, determining or verifying elevations, etc.--has either been eliminated altogether or can now be done by trained construction personnel using GPS or heavy machinery with GPS-based machine control. Those tasks are indeed being co-opted; however, forward-thinkers like Dustin Martin of AngleRight Surveying are proving that the survey function need not disappear from the jobsite as much as it needs to be redefined. Working in concert with key site personnel on a number of Florida projects, the company is helping rewrite the future of their business, providing different--but highly-valued-- services for their clients.

Change of Plans
The surveying bug bit Dustin Martin right out of college, abruptly changing both his career path and his life. Upon graduation, the native Ohioan found himself and a friend in Charleston, SC seeing what life had to offer when he took a job as a rod man on a survey crew.

"I had never surveyed before, but found that I really liked it a lot," he said. "So much so, that, after a while, I went back to Ohio State and to earn a Bachelor's degree in Geomatics Engineering with a focus on Cadastral Survey. While there, I worked for a company that did a lot of construction surveying--mainly site work for tall commercial building construction. Doing that, really gave me a feel for control surveying and how everything fits together."

At a school-sponsored job fair, Martin says he was recruited by a Florida engineering/survey company and invited to move to Fort Myers to run their private survey operation. "I relocated to Florida, and did that for about five years," he said. "Then, in 2010, we parted ways--I started AngleRight and haven't looked back since."

Impressive Beginnings
Armed with a lot of self-confidence and some solid contacts he had established with that survey firm, Martin began doing survey work for area construction firms, landing some very big projects in the process.

"I was fortunate to get acquainted with the team from Lengemann, our Topcon dealer, and some of the bigger players in the area—companies like Ajax Paving Industries and LeeMar Construction," he said. "That allowed me to hit the ground running and get a decent workload early on. In fact, I was so busy that, not long after starting, I took on a colleague, Jacob Amann who handles most of the 3D modeling work we do for clients. He was referred to me by Lengemann's Roger Croft and it's been a great fit for both of us."

Martin said he and Amman have handled some impressive projects since startup, including the expansion of a six mile stretch of I-75 in Lee County, Florida. Together, the team manages seven or eight projects around the state, working as far north as Bradenton and as far east as Clewiston.

Doing Things Differently
Martin says one of the keys to his firm's success has been its ability to remain lean. Doing so, they've all but eliminated the overhead which can weigh down companies, particularly as they are in the start-up phase.

"As far as our business model goes, we stay light and fast," he said. "I don't have an office; I work out of a Chevy suburban and Jacob works out of a Toyota 4runner. Hydrographic surveyors talk about vessels of opportunity--I like to see these as our vehicles of opportunity. Jacob and I work on virtual servers and meet once, maybe twice a week. We occasionally work together on jobs and, when necessary, we will bring in contract labor to help pound in stakes."

Equipment-wise, Martin and Amann rely heavily on Topcon robotic total stations, and have grown the GPS/ GNSS side of the business using a pair of Topcon GRS-1 rovers, as well as a HiPer Lite+ and a legacy base. "For us it's all about accuracy, efficiency and an ability to respond to the customer's needs and these tools allow us to do that every day."

He contrasts their versatility with other similar firms in the area who are stymied when called upon by their contractor for something out of the ordinary. Those surveyors, he said, have little recourse but to call into the office for a solution, costing the contractor valuable time.

"We, on the other hand, can always get results right there on site. We are tethered to wireless internet connections--our trucks serve as internet hot spots. So, as long as we have a data signal, we can access our servers and do anything we need to do. That's given us a huge competitive edge."

Opportunities Abound
Martin has heard the notion that surveying's days are numbered and feels that nothing could be further from the truth. He is, in fact, quite excited about the opportunities he sees opening up for those in his profession.

"I believe there will always be a need for construction surveyors like us, because somebody has to initially set up the site," he said. "But, more importantly, there are so many other services we can and do provide. For our clients who use advanced technology like machine control, we do 3-D surface modeling-- that's an invaluable service to offer. And we take that a step further, by assisting our clients from start to finish: setting all their control, initializing their sites, and improving and tweaking the site model as plan inconstancies pop-up. Then, we create the files in a format where we can just give them a thumb drive or, in some cases, jump up on the dozer or the grader and set them up--we integrate the whole site. It's helped separate us from the rest of the pack."

Martin says he relies upon Amann's expertise in the area of modeling, but because he sees it as a real opportunity for growth, knows he will need to get more personnel proficient in that area as well.

"I see this as a huge part of our business down the line and Jacob is only one person, so I know in the future we will need to add support staff. Right now though, I generally handle the setting up of alignments, profiles and the critical data and then Jacob models all of the corridors and pieces it all together. Then we'll go through and cut cross sections, lay them on top of each other and make sure they match. The beauty of creating models is that the technology knows no geographic boundary. We can do a model of a site in California without ever setting foot on it. It's all just exchanging files so, as long as the client has email we can service a variety clients."

Making Millimeter Magic
In addition to the modeling, Martin said that they've really benefitted from providing support to area firms who are demanding millimeter-grade accuracy. Firms like Ajax and Lee Mar, who are both tackling such precision-driven projects on a regular basis, call on AngleRight to make the process seamless.

"Firms using millimeter GPS still require control points--Topcon's Millimeter GPS system requires points at 500 foot intervals--that they can base their millimeter system on and grade their job with. We'll go through and verify our project benchmarks, horizontally position the points with multiple RTK averages so we can refine the horizontal coordinates and then we'll run three-wire through all the points with a level to establish vertical on all the points."

All this ensures that the levels of millimeter-grade accuracy (now often mandated in Florida on jobs such as airport expansions or re-pavings) are there and, just as importantly, that the inspectors--the people signing off on the job--are satisfied.

"As things stand right now in Florida, inspectors will not accept the true accuracy of millimeter GPS; they still require someone to come in and set stakes so they can stringline it and make their checks. We make it so that they never find a discrepancy."

Surveying the Future
Martin says that, in addition to the equipment-specific support he's gotten from Lengemann, he has also benefited from the services they provide, most notably L-Net, the GPS/GNSS network they offer users like AngleRight on a subscription basis. Based on TopNET, Topcon's Reference Station Software, L-Net has helped Martin realize a range of benefits, including fixed solutions -- with sub-centimeter accuracies--in extremely rural areas where alternative real-time network services are having difficulty acquiring or maintaining fixed positions.

"L-Net allows us to ensure the highest levels of accuracy," he said. "Between it and Florida DOT's CORS network, we have all the bases covered. In fact, L-Net and FDOT share many of the same base stations, but L-Net's coverage is denser and they use a virtual reference station to shorten the base line for even better results."

When asked directly about the future of AngleRight, Martin says that, as more and more construction companies get GPS/GNSS savvy, he sees a continued increase in the demand for their surface modeling services. He would also like to continue expanding into areas they are only now starting to explore.

"Wetlands mitigation is an area that I see as very promising for us," he said. "As regulations change with regard to development and preservation of wetland, I can see a world of survey opportunity. I was recently talking with a local engineer who cleared out a sizeable volume of exotics at a local creek and wants us to go back in and topo what remains and what still needs to be taken out. The bottom line is: I think surveyors who strive to meet their clients' changing needs will do well; their roles might be far different from what they're accustomed to, but I think this is not a time to be feared but to be excited about. I know we are."

Larry Trojak is a communications writer for his own firm, Trojak Communications, in the town of Ham Lake, Minnesota. He is a frequent contributor to construction and survey magazines.

A 1.533Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

< Prev   Next >

 American Surveyor Recent Articles
Marc Cheves, PS 
Editorial: A Great Year to be a Surveyor
Some magazines have what are called "theme" issues. That is, most of the content is focused on one particular subject. In my 22+ years of survey magazine publishing, my philosophy has always been to have a little bit of everything in each issue, thereby eliminating the possibility that ....
Read the Article
Jason E. Foose, PS 
Decided Guidance: Case Examinations: Halverson v. Deerwood Village
Whew! We really beat the snot out of Bryant v. Blevins and practical locations. Well this month we're back on new case that hit the Minnesota Supreme Court's docket in 1982. We've got the familiar gymnastics of jurisprudence featuring an extraordinary array of flying rope stretchers ...
Read the Article
Michel Philips 
Extreme Environment Surveying
A Franco-Chilean team of cave divers used the Nautiz X8 rugged handheld for marine cave surveying, gathering data to classify the inaccessible northern half of Madre de Dios for UNESCO World Heritage. The team of cave divers used the Nautiz X8 ....
Read the Article
Erik Dahlberg 
The Original Green Engineers
Sometimes, it's best just to leave things as you found them. That's the lesson shared by Dr. Richard Miksad and his students at the University of Virginia. As a result of studies covering nearly a decade, Miksad's teams have developed detailed ....
Read the Article
Dave Lindell, PS 
Test Yourself 49: No Dimensions
In square A-C-D-B with side S, C-E is tangent to the semicircle Q1 with diameter B-D. Q2 is the inscribed circle of A-C-E. The tangent to Q1 and Q2 meets the sides of the square at F and H and intersects C-E at t G. Q3 is the inscribed circle of C-G-H. What is the ratio of the radii of circles ....
Read the Article
Jerry Penry, PS 
Discovery on Grizzly Peak
When First Lieutenant Montgomery M. Macomb arrived in Carson City, Nevada, from Washington D.C., on July 28, 1878, his assigned survey crew from the 4th Artillery was waiting and ready for the new field season. At age 25, Macomb was the leader ....
Read the Article
Wendy Lathrop, PS, CFM 
Vantage Point: Fighting City Hall Over Land
Once upon a time (1989 to be exact) in a place not so far away from where I live, a man (Francis Galdo) bought a home across the street from a vacant parcel owned by the City of Philadelphia. That parcel, along with others, had been acquired by condemnation back in 1974 subsequent to a 1956 ....
Read the Article
Patrick C. Garner, PS 
Book Review: Boundary Retracement: Processes and Procedures
When I was in my mid-twenties and learning the honorable profession of land surveying, I was lucky to be guided by a mentor who would grab a book off his office shelf and say, "Every surveyor should have a copy of this!" The first example he waved at me was Davis, Foote and Kelly's Surveying ....
Read the Article


Amerisurv Exclusive Online-only Article ticker
Featured Amerisurv Events
List Your Event Here
contact Amerisurv


Topcon Releases

press [at] amerisurv.com
Online Internet Content


News Feeds

Subscribe to Amerisurv news & updates via RSS or get our Feedburn
xml feed

Need Help? See this RSS Tutorial

Historic Maps

post a job
Reach our audience of Professional land surveyors and Geo-Technology professionals with your GeoJobs career ad. Feel free to contact us if you need additional information.


Social Bookmarks

Amerisurv on Facebook 

Amerisurv LinkedIn Group 

Amerisurv Flickr Photos 

Amerisurv videos on YouTube 



The American Surveyor © All rights reserved / Privacy Statement
Spatial Media LLC
7820B Wormans Mill Road, #236
Frederick MD 21701
301-695-1538 - fax