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Types of Surveys in Civil Engineering

Types of Surveys on Basis of Instruments Used.

  1. Chain tape surveys

  2. Compass surveys

  3. Plane table surveys

  4. Theodolite surveys

Claassification based on the surface and the area surveyed

 Land survey 
  • Topographic survey: This is for depicting the (hills, valleys, mountains, rivers, etc) and manmade features (roads, houses, settlements…) on the surface of the earth.
  • Cadastral survey : Cadastral survey is used to determining property boundaries including those of fields, houses, plots of land, etc.
  • Engineering survey : Engineering survey is used to acquire the required data for the planning, design and Execution of engineering projects like roads, bridges, canals, dams, railways, buildings, etc. Under revision
  • City surveys: The surveys involving the construction and development of towns including roads, drainage, water supply, sewage street network, etc, are generally referred to as city survey.
Marine Hydrographic Survey: 
  • Astronomical Survey: Astronomical survey uses the observations of the heavenly bodies (sun, moon, stars etc) to fix the absolute locations of places on the surface of the earth.
Types of Surveys on the basis of Purpose
  1. Engineering survey
  2. Control Survey: Control survey uses geodetic methods to establish widely spaced vertical and horizontal control points.
  3. Geological Survey :Geological survey is used to determine the structure and arrangement of rock strata. Generally, it enables to know the composition of the earth.
  4. Military or Defence Survey : Military or Defence Survey is carried out to map places of military and strategic importance
  5.  Archeological survey: Archeological survey is carried out to discover and map ancient/relies of antiquity.

Types of Surveys Based On Instrument Used in surveys

  1. Chain/Tape Survey: This is the simple method of taking the linear measurement using a chain or tape with no angular measurements made.
  2. Compass Survey: Here horizontal angular measurements are made using magnetic compass with the linear measurements made using the chain or tape.
  3. Plane table survey: This is a quick survey carried out in the field with the measurements and drawings made at the same time using a plane table.
  4. Leveling survey : This is the measurement and mapping of the relative heights of points on the earth’s surface showing them in maps, plane and charts as vertical sections or with conventional symbols.
  5. Archeological survey : Archeological survey Theodolite survey takes vertical and horizontal angles in order to establish controls.

Classification based on the method used

  1. Triangulation Survey :  In the order of survey, the area to be surveyed is first covered with a series of triangles.. Lines are first run round the perimeter of the plot, Then the details under the amendment fixed in relation to the installed lines. This process is called trigolation. A triangle is preferred because it is the only shape that can leave minimal space in a completely irregularly shaped area.
  2. Traverse survey: If the bearing and distance of the location of a known point are known, it is possible to establish the position of that point on the ground.From this point, the bearing and distance of other surrounding points can be established. In the process, positions of points linked with lines linking them emerge. Traversing is the process of establishing these lines, called traversing, while connecting lines connect two points on the ground. The two connecting the bearing and the distance are known as travel. A traverse station is at each point of the traverse, while the traverse leg is a straight line between consecutive stations. Travers can be either open or closed.
  3. Closed Traverse : When a series of connected lines form a closed circuit, i.e. when the finishing point coincides with the starting point of a survey, it is termed as a ‘closed traverse’, here ABCDEA represents a closed traverse. The closed path is suitable for surveying the boundaries of ponds, forests etc.
  4. Open Traverse: When a sequence of connected lines extends along a common direction and does not return to the starting point, it is known as an ‘open traverse’ or (uncovered traverse). Open passage is suitable for survey of roads, rivers etc..


Surveying is made up of various specializations known as sectors or classes as shown below:
General Practice Surveyors:
  • Surveyors under this category are mostly concerned with valuation and investment. Appraisal surveyors deal with property markets, land and property values, valuation procedures and property law. Investment surveyors help investors obtain the best possible return form assets.
  • They handle selection of properties for purchase or sale by pension funds, insurance companies, charities and other major investors. He is also an expert in housing policy advice, housing development and management.

Planning and Development Surveyors

  • They are concerned with preparing planning applications and negotiating with local authority planners to obtain planning permission.

Building Surveyors 

  • His work includes advising the construction, maintenance, repair of all types of residential and commercial property.
  • The analysis of building defects is an important part of the discipline of a building surveyor.

The Quantity Surveyors 

  • They evaluate project costs and advice on alternative proposals. They also ensure under the amendment that each element of the project agrees with the cost planning allowances and the overall project remains within the budget.

Rural Practice Surveyors 

  • Surveyors in rural practice advise landowners, farmers and others in favor of the country.
  • They are responsible for the planning and execution of development plans for the management of country estates and farms, agriculture, forests, recreation, sale of properties and live stock.

Mineral Surveyors

  • They plan for the development and future of mineral workings. They work with local authorities and landowners on planning applications and appeals, mining laws and rights of work, mining subordination and damage, environmental impacts of land and deep underground mines.

Land surveyors:

  • They accurately measure the land and its physical characteristics and record them in the form of maps or plans for new building and the management of roads, housing estates and other facilities by local authorities.
  • They also do status and monitoring for construction works. under revision.


Aerial Surveying : The aerial survey is carried out using photographs taken with special cameras mounted on the aircraft seen in pairs. Photographs create a three dimensional image of ground features from which map or numerical data can usually be produced with the help of stereo plotting machines and computers.

Hydrographic Surveying (Hydro-Survey) :
The submarine is surveyed to gather information in marine environments such as the mapping of coastlines and sea beds to create naval charts. It is also used for closed oil exploration and production, design, construction and port maintenance, inland waterways, river and marine defense, pollution control and ocean studies.

Geodetic Survey:In the Geodetic Survey, large areas of the Earth’s surface are usually covered on a national basis, with survey stations located exactly large distances. The account is taken from the curvature of the Earth, so it includes mathematical principles under advanced modification and requires accurate measurements to be made.

Plane Surveying : Plane survey covers a relatively small area and the area under consideration is considered a horizontal plane. It is divided into three branches. –
  • Cadastral surveying
  • Topographical surveying
  • Engineering surveying

Cadastral surveying : These are surveys conducted to define and record the extent of assets, legislative territory and even countries. It can be almost entirely topographic where features define boundaries with topographic details appearing on ordinance survey maps. Marker boundaries, on the other hand, define corner or line points, and little account of topographic features can be taken.

Topographical Survey:These are surveys where physical features on the earth are measured and maps / plans are drawn to show their relative position horizontally and vertically. The location and size relative to natural and man-made facilities in an area are established for the purpose of producing a map of the area for establishing a geographic information system.

Engineering Survey : These are surveys conducted to provide specialized information for building anvil engineering and construction projects. Details of survey supplies for a particular engineering scheme and setting out of work on the ground and may include dimensional control over such plans. under revision

Read more : Component of GPS in civil engineering

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Rajkumar ghagre

Founder & Admin of, I am a civil engineer working as a Engineer (QA/QC).

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