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How Is Land Elevation Measured?

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Christopher Kimmel / Aurora Photos/Aurora Open/GettyImages

The process of measuring land elevation is called surveying or land surveying. Surveyors use engineering, mathematical, legal and physical principles to measure land elevation. Surveying is both a technique and a science that is used to determine the three-dimensional position of various terrestrial points and the distance and angles between those points. Surveying is an ancient practice used in every construction project since the Egyptians built the Giza pyramids in 2700 B.C. Today, surveying is performed with GPS devices and field data collection.

Select the spot which you want to measure the land elevation for. Go to that spot. Place stakes in the ground along the borders and in the center of the area you want to measure. Set stakes or markers up every 10 feet.

Power on your GPS device and electronic data collector so that you can collect X, Y and Z position points for each marker. Understand that your GPS will determine land elevation by computing the distance between each marker and the satellites orbiting the earth. Based on a pre-programmed mathematical calculation which considers the exact orbital path of the satellite, the pseudo random noise (PRN) of your GPS device and the position of your marker, your device will calculate the exact land elevation for each marker point.

Take your GPS device and data collector back to your home or office computer or download the data to a laptop field computer on site to be entered into an installed mapping software program, such as MicroSurvey, Maptitude, IntelliCAD or Google SketchUp.

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Christopher Kimmel / Aurora Photos/Aurora Open/GettyImages