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Digital surveying by editor Nick Edwards

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The point where CAD drawings can accurately be translated to actual lines on a dusty concrete basement slab is where construction’s greatest achievement lies.

Inside those red or yellow boxes found on construction sites across the UK, calc paper measurements meet real-world coordinates. Without this technology - which combines electronic distance measuring with an angle-measuring theodolite – complex buildings like the Beijing Olympic stadium could not have been built.

Digital surveying uses laser technology to measure to millimetre precision. It combines with Global Positioning Systems to pin point exactly where roads, dams, towers and shopping centres should be. And if you’re building a tunnel from opposite ends it will ensure both sections meet in the designated midpoint. Crucially, they are now used to monitor the movement of structures during and after construction.

Would we have the guts to tackle complex infrastructure projects like Crossrail without the warning lights provided by digital surveying? I doubt it.

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