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Basic tech needed for a 1 person business to collect Site data

Eddie Haynes

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I'm trying to figure out how I can collect elevations and other site data necessary to make landscape models with 2' contoursby myself, without having to hire a surveyor for smaller/residential projects.  Is it possible to use something like the Geneq  isxBlue?  If so, what else would I need besides the receiver, what kind of program would I also need to purchase to make the data useable? I'd really like to be able to use VW Landmark, but I just can't figure a good way to get useful data to work with.  I'd like to be efficient as possible without having to get a degree in surveying.  Is there a combination of devices like a laser level and GPS?  Even that seems like a lot of extra work to enter points into VW Landmark, but if that is the best way, I'd like to know.  Even if I got $20,000 + to buy a total station,  could I learn to use that on my own and what else is needed to accompany it to collect useful data?


thanks for all your advice


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I am old enough I just dusted off my old transit to do a little surveying and manual data entry for a project (about 2 AC) earlier this year.  You can rent those, too and low tech enough that they really aren't hard to run.


That said, it reminds me of the partner I had waaaaay back in college surveying course.  The instructor had told us the old levels has a practical distance limit, due to old glass (these were so old they may have been used by Lewis and Clark.....)  She went first and kept telling me to move closer, the glass wasn't good enough to shoot that far, over and over, until I was only 100 feet away.  So I ask if the focus is working and she replies, "Focus?"  LOL she didn't realize the level could be focused.

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Thanks for the advice, Lewis and Clark would be proud.  So I guess I'd use the laser level for a vertical reading and get a GPS for horizontal?    I also wouldn't like to be able to write baseline document reports for larger areas. Can anyone recommend a GPS receiver?  I have been checking out the geneq isxBlue, I'd like to achieve both vertical and horizontal accuracy, but something cheaper would be better.

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  • 4 weeks later...



There are many opptions you could use. Grid method and a laser or transit, zip level, hand held data collector(not always super accurate but they do make sub foot units) you could buy a total station or get a satellite survey unit to collect data. My firm uses a total with RTK survey unit and is not to bad of a learning curve. they are pricey but very easy and accurate you generally would not need the RTK. my next toy will be sat survey unit as they are very easy and fast on a site( less setup)


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  • 9 months later...
6 hours ago, gester said:

the right procedure to collect the survey data

Do you mean output of the measurements? The data can also be exported as txt and csv, then you can import it into a spreadsheet and use calculations to convert the measured distances into coordinates.
Just make sure you have the base point for each set of measurements clearly indicated in the data or in some other way. (e.g. set out a base point and when moving a next base point in case of a large(r) area get the distance from the first base point either as x,y measurements or as distance and angle, but I guess they can figure this out themselves how to go about that)


How large is the area that needs to be surveyed?

EDIT: Forgot to ask... why is dxf not working, i.e. what is the issue?

Edited by Art V
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As far as importing the data, as Art V suggested, txt could work, some data collectors export STL Files also. As for DXF you have to match the DXF units to What VW is so they work (ie. if the DXF is in feet, then VW needs to be in feet) As for export, pretty much what the data collector needs or will accept. DXF, TXT, STL Whatever. I send out from a worksheet and send as Tab Delimited TXT.

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  • 1 month later...

hi guys,

sorry for delays, and thanks for the feedback.

the issue is the workflow.

dxf works, but as disto has a pretty small display, you have to import dxfs in parts, in order to see anything on your computer while scanning.

such autocad has a plugin, and you can see in real time what's going on with the survey.


the above is what i've been told by the engineer working on vectorworks, and trying to utilize his leica.


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  • 1 month later...
3 hours ago, gester said:

so no chance for a direct, real-time editing of leica survey in vectorworks?


vectorworks guys?


I think the Disto software is aimed ad AutoCAD and possibly Microstation and/or ArcGIS for real-time input, so I wouldn't hope for real-time survey data in Vectorworks. You could try to see if Bricscad will work with the Disto software as its API is highly compatible with AutoCAD. This might be a more cost effective option for real-time data processing than AutoCAD/Microstation/ArcGIS.

There is a plugin for DISTO transfer but it may not work with the S910 if you don't have Bluetooth 4 available, see this link: https://www.bricsys.com/applications/a/?disto-transfer-a435-al671 but it seems it is for windows only.

Their site lists some additional apps that also work on iOS or Android but not of them seem to be able to directly interface with Vectorworks. https://lasers.leica-geosystems.com/global/disto/leica-disto-apps


You may want to ask @zoomerhow stable Bricscad is on his Mac and maybe the disto transfer might work on a mac as well instead of just windows depending on how it has to be installed.

Edited by Art V
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Just interested in understanding the need for realtime editing in VW. I have a Trimble Total Station, all data can be modified after the fact for layout (assuming i did something wrong in VW) on the data collector. As for measure I can do the same thing. I am also purchasing a new data collector that will allow me to send the DXF file from the field directly to the office from site. this gives the office a head start. also I would be able to receive data from the office in the field. I am purchasing this as right now we do not have the capabilities for remote transfer. As for realtime modification I guess I am curious why this is really needed. It may just be the limitation of the specific device? Again not trying to stir the pot just trying to clarify the need.

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@bryan g.

i understand it as a real-time display possibility on the computer during the survey (i don't own disto) because of a relatively small display on the device itself. currently you have to transfer the whole data in order to be able to see the result, as the disto display doesn't allow to.


@art v

thanks, but the engineer doesn't want to run intermediate softwares (he's got enough of them), and his platform is windows (both the computer and the surface 4 tablet).


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Some of the disto's can send the data to a computer through WiFi or Bluetooth after completing a measurement, which is sort of real-time but depending on how things get processed it may be useful to see directly when a measurement seems to be incorrect or whether you need additional measurements instead of after completing all measurements.


Unless the Disto apps can generate live output from the data they receive from the Disto device, e.g. as a delimited xyz file, and using a referenced file link to the data from within VW that updates on each refresh from the output file I don't think there is a way to have an even somewhat delayed real-time in VW from the Disto.

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