New Geomatics degree provides more rounded education for future surveyors

A new four-year degree is coming to the university and some students may have never even heard of it. This is because Geomatics, a degree being offered beginning in the fall, is a fairly new development in the world of engineering and land surveying.

What the term “geomatics” means is as complicated as the sophisticated equipment used to execute it, but simply put, geomatics is the term given to land surveying as it has progressed technology-wise. There are certainly other pieces to the puzzle though.

According to Danial Perry, associate professor in Engineering Graphics and Design Technology, geomatics encompasses various techniques.

“Geomatics is a combination of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), cartography and land surveying,” he said.

Merging the different disciplines into a single degree program can be hard, especially with technology advancing so rapidly. As a result, universities across the country are offering new four-year degree programs that encompass all methods.

In order to do this, Geomatics has to require more than surveying instruction. This is why the new program will have so many facets.

“There is some math intensity to it – Statistics, College Algebra, Trigonometry and Into to Calculus,” Perry said. “There is obviously the measurement core, which teaches how to measure land and run all the new equipment.”

By “new equipment,” Perry is referring to state-of-the-art robotic surveying equipment, 3D laser scanners that can measure the space inside of a room and precise GPS.

“Your handheld GPS can get you within a few meters, but the survey-grade GPS that we have can get you within millimeters of where you’re standing,” Perry said.

In addition to that, Geomatics will even require students to understand a lot of law and business.

“81 percent of surveying firms in the United States have less than 10 employees,” Perry said. “It’s likely that graduates in the next five to 10 years will end up owning and running their own small surveying businesses.”

In order to do that, students have to learn legal ramifications, boundary and property law, how to research land records and what they need to know to run a surveying business.

Despite its relative anonymity, Geomatics promises to give students a leg up in the surveying world.

Geomatic Terms
For those without much experience in the field of land surveying, it might help to define these terms.

Basically put, map-making. In the old days, explorers like Ferdinand Magellan would travel around the world and draw what they saw, using compasses and star charts to determine their location at all times. That information was taken and used to draw a map.

Geographic information system (GIS)
Only slightly different from cartography, GIS uses unique types of data, such as voting districts, street addresses or fault lines, and makes a map out of them. Programs such as Google Earth are the result of GIS.

Land surveying
Surveying takes elements of basic cartography, but is usually more localized. For example, if a private owner wishes to buy some land, a surveyor could be hired to determine the property boundaries of the new plot. The government employs surveyors when building roads or new buildings.