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Aerial Survey Technician


Description

It would be impossible to build a suburban housing subdivision without doing any land surveying research, aerial surveying or design work. Sometimes it helps to get a "bird's eye view" on a plot of land to help a designer grasp the land he or she is working with. Aerial survey technicians conduct and participate in aerial field surveys for future building projects such as shopping malls in order to determine exact locations and positions of natural features and other fabricated land structures. For example, if a developing company is about to build a shopping center near a lake, the aerial survey technicians will analyze the lake in proportion to the land for the proposed building site from aerial photographs.

Aerial surveying is a great way of inspecting work in progress on a large development or construction site. Viewing it from the air brings the whole project into perspective in a way that is impossible using ground tours alone. Aerial surveying takes a series of precision GPS controlled high and low altitude aerial photographs, which are used for many applications, including county mapping, highway mapping, topographic surveys, and emergency and disaster response.

Aerial photography is now falling behind the pace of technology when it comes to mapmaking, becoming a more traditional method of mapping. Due to the extensive use of geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems and digital mapping systems, the work and role of aerial survey technicians is changing because of these rapid advancements in technology. A new type of mapping scientist has emerged replacing the older, more traditional mapmaker. Nevertheless, aerial survey technicians are still an important part of the land survey and mapmaking industry.

Aerial survey technicians attempt to determine the exact locations and relative positions of natural features and fabricated structures, on the Earth's surface, underground and underwater. They also must determine the points of elevation in the land, contours and other important surveying features. By studying aerial photography and satellite imagery, they provide information related to the exploration of geophysics, geology and resource management. Aerial survey technicians conduct surveys and information studies for many reasons, one being that they can monitor volcanic activity and check for earthquake probabilities.

Aerial survey technicians in large companies usually work with a team of designers, cartographers, engineers and other professionals in related industries. Those who work in smaller companies tend to meet with clients and contractors and perform a variety of tasks. In accordance with rapidly changing technology, aerial survey technicians are required to update their computer and general knowledge skills and become experts in GIS.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
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Median Salary:
$51,650
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Aerial survey technicians should have an aptitude for mathematics, including the ability to think visually about geometric forms. They should have good problem solving skills and enjoy analyzing information and finding innovative solutions to aerial surveying questions and problems.

Technicians should have acute observation skills, be able to work and communicate with a number of different workers and also possess the ability to perceive pertinent detail in objects and drawings. Aerial survey technicians also need to know about airborne surveying methods, the laws relating to land use and aerial survey regulations.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Participate in aerial field surveys and operate survey instruments and devices
  • Operate airborne remote sensing equipment such as survey cameras, sensors and scanners which produce images of large areas of the earth or of the atmosphere
  • Monitor recording quality and adjust equipment as required and inspect quality of recorded images
  • Operate aerial survey instruments to measure distance, angles, elevations and contours
  • Perform calculations of horizontal, vertical and spiral curves when conducting detailed surveys
  • Keep records, measurements and other survey information in systematic order
  • Analyze latitude, longitude and angles and compute trigonometrical and other calculations to plot features, contours and areas to a specific scale
  • Assist in the preparation of detailed drawings, charts and plans
  • May work independently of land surveyors.
  • Aerial survey technicians generally split their time between indoor and outdoor work. Outdoors, and in all weather conditions, they conduct aerial land surveys and other related tests, sometimes going up in an aircraft to conduct a study. Indoors, they often use computers to compile and analyze data, and outdoors conducting surveys. In some jobs, extensive traveling may be required, sometimes to remote areas. When in the office, they usually work standard hours, but on the field, days may be much longer.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Aerial survey technicians are employed by all levels of government and by private sector surveying establishments, architectural and construction companies, design, surveying and mapping computer software firms, legal firms, aerial photography and survey companies and oil and coal companies.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Aerial survey technicians may advance to supervisory or management positions in the aerial surveying industry. Other career advancements may include a shift into data processing, drafting or cartography. It is quite possible to become a land surveyor or geomatics engineer with additional education and proper training.

Some experts say that aerial survey technicians could shift career focus and move into the legal or law world. Civil engineering and real estate are also closely related fields an aerial survey technician may consider.
 

  Educational Paths  
Completion of a one- or two-year college program in geomatics or aerial surveying engineering technology is usually required for aerial survey technicians. A certification in survey engineering technology or a related field is available through associations of engineering or applied science technologists and technicians and may be required for some positions. A supervised, two-year period of work is required for employment.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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