How to Choose the Right Geomatics Tool for the Right Job

how-to-choose-right-geomatics-toolGeomatics technologies evolve at lightning speed. Every few months it seems there is a newer, better, faster tool for collecting data.

For topographic surveys, for example, conventional, GPS, aerial LiDAR and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are all great options.

Likewise, UAS is a super-fast tool for collecting high-density data. But if your site exceeds 200 acres, or if contains dense vegetation, UAS may not be cost effective.

So how do you choose the right geomatics tool for your project? How do you know which technologies and methods are appropriate, and when?

The right tool for you depends on several factors, like the size of your site, the amount of onsite vegetation, your schedule and your budget. And here’s a hint: The right tool is almost always a combination of technologies.

This infographic may help you determine what geomatics tool will work best for you. And below are a few general guidelines about the various geomatics technologies and their applications.

Traditional / Conventional Surveying (Levels and Traverse)

•   Boundary surveys

•   Primary high-order vertical control

•   Primary horizontal control for small sites

•   Small topo areas / obscured areas

•   Inverts

•   Construction layout

GPS (Virtual Reference Station [VRS], Real-Time Kinematic Total [RTK], Static)

  • Control networks
  • Topo
  • Utility inventory
  • Asset management
  • Construction—machine control

Static LiDAR

  • Complex vertical structures (piping, nuclear facilities)
  • Bridges, intersections, cell towers
  • Industrial clash detection, pre-fab, BIM, as-builts
  • Architectural documentation, restoration

Mobile LiDAR

  • Multilane urban, high-volume traffic
  • Railways
  • Bridge or structure clearances
  • Large facility or campus mapping
  • Rural roads > 2 miles
  • 2D planimetrics and rough topo for utility route surveys
  • Sign inventory
  • Asset management
  • Design accuracy level 0.05’

Airborne LiDAR / Photogrammetry

  • Large topographic sites (LiDAR for wooded sites)
  • 2D route survey planimetrics and 3D topo
  • Base mapping for urban areas, facilities and campuses
  • Coastal monitoring >5 miles
  • Vegetation management (electric utility and pipeline)
  • Electric transmission and distribution lines (NERC compliance and as-builts)

Subsurface Utility Engineering (SUE)

  • Quality Level D: Comprehensive utility records research
  • Quality Level C: Correlation of underground utility records data to above-ground utility and topographic features
  • Quality Level B: On-site field investigation, geophysical prospecting, detection and location of approximate horizontal utility position
  • Quality Level A: Utility exposure by vacuum excavation, precise horizontal and vertical measurement, material type and condition inspection

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) / Drones

  • Planimetric and topo surveys <200 acres
  • Open site
  • Small-to-medium route surveys
  • Mapping of dangerous areas or areas with limited access
  • Vertical structures (bridges, towers, buildings)

Hydrographic Surveying

As one of the largest and most comprehensive geomatics firms in the South, McKim & Creed uses all of these tools and technologies —separately or in combination—to fulfill the needs of our clients. For more information, or to discuss your next surveying project, contact us at