Change in the Air

As a surveyor I'm interested in the interplay among surveying and related professions, especially photogrammetry. For example, we frequently talk about the technology revolution taking place in surveying, and the mapping industry is undergoing equivalent changes. Also, with our professions as intertwined as they are, the economic fallout over the last few years has had similar effects on mapping and surveying firms alike.

Our annual Aerial Mapping editions have chronicled these changes for six years now, with our regular Aerial Perspective columns in Professional Surveyor Magazine complementing them.
This edition's features provide a range of topics and perspectives, from large mapping firms and cutting-edge technologies to the small imagery-provider. The big firms are engaged in successful, large-scale projects and have an optimistic forecast for the coming year. This is great news considering the current economic conditions that result in some of the small firms having a tougher go of things.

This assessment is confirmed by Matt Smith, president of Virginia Resource Mapping, a small mapping firm in northern Virginia. He told me that public sector work is very competitive, but, as with surveying, much of this work is handled by the larger firms, and the current market is still very tight for the small shops. Smith said, "Competition is fiercer because there's such little work out there. It used to be that schedule was the key factor when competing for jobs. Now price has taken the top spot." Additionally, he sees jobs that once would have been contracted out for aerial mapping being retained and mapped in-house by survey firms, further reducing the work available to the smaller firms.

And while we hear much about the digital revolution, Smith shared that most of their photography is still done on film, though he does agree that digital imagery is "quite spectacular." This transition to digital photography is the focus of one of our feature stories, from Bergman Photographic Services.

The mapping profession continues to see sharp advances in technology, with broader acceptance and applications of lidar mapping, deployment of multiple sensors, and - outside of the United States at least - the use of UAVs as an alternative mapping platform. Another of our feature articles focuses on this hot topic.

New technologies, the economy, sourcing new work and new markets - all this in addition to tackling professional concerns such as licensure issues and continuing competition from public agencies - are now our everyday realities. All of this brings challenges, while some of it also presents opportunities when approached the right way. Interesting times, indeed.

Until next time,

About the Author

  • TJ Frazier, LS
    TJ Frazier, LS
    TJ Frazier is the magazine's editor for surveying and has more than 20 years experience in the surveying profession, currently as senior land surveyor for VanMar Associates in Mt. Airy, Md. He also worked in survey equipment sales for Loyola Spatial Systems, now part of Leica Geosystems. He earned a bachelor of sciences degree in business at Mt. St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. He is married and has two daughters. Frazier can be reached at

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