What is a Land Survey? - Definition & Types

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  • 0:01 Land Survey Defined
  • 0:37 Geodetic & Topographic Surveys
  • 1:45 Cadastral Survey
  • 3:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
Surveys are used to identify boundaries and features of land to determine ownership. They are employed in construction projects ranging from building fences to entire cities. In this lesson, you'll learn what a survey is and about the different types of surveys used today.

Land Survey Defined

Meet Galvin, Terry, and Calvin, who are surveyors specializing in different types of surveys. A land survey, or simply survey, is the scientific process of measuring the dimensions of a particular area of the earth's surface, including its horizontal distances, directions, angles, and elevations. Artificial structures, such as a road or building, may also be noted on a survey. Once these measurements are taken, they can be used to make a map or even a globe. However, not all surveys are the same, so let's take a look at three major types.

Geodetic & Topographic Surveys

Geodetic Survey

Galvin takes geodetic surveys. A geodetic survey is one that involves the measurement of a very large area of the earth that must take into account the earth's curvature. Since they take into account the actual curvature of the earth, these surveys can be very accurate. Galvin's geodetic surveys are used as important references that other surveyors will use when surveying smaller areas of land, such as a typical farm or city lot.

Topographic Survey

Terry conducts topographic surveys. A topographic survey includes measurements of the vertical elevation of the surface being surveyed as well as the artificial structures on it. Topographic surveys are widely used by governments and businesses engaging in construction. For example, Terry may conduct a topographical survey of land just annexed by a city which plans to build roads and other infrastructure for economic development. He may conduct a topographic survey of a mountain site for a developer who is considering the construction of a ski resort on the slopes. Likewise, an entrepreneur may commission a topographic survey to determine the suitability of land for a golf course.

Cadastral Survey

Last but not least is Calvin, who does cadastral surveys. Cadastral surveys are conducted to determine the boundaries between parcels of real estate, regardless of whether the land is privately or publicly owned. A cadastral survey determines the legal boundary that will be recognized for all legal purposes, such as determining property taxes or the exact area of ground that will be transferred when a property is sold.

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