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Unit # 1

Basic elements of Topographic Surveying

Lecture # 1: Introduction

Topics: 1.1 Topographic Surveys and Maps

1.1.1Topo Maps and Plan site according its use and scale
1.2 General surveying methods
1.3 General tasks to carry out when ground methods are applying
1.4 Surveying Instruments and equipment required

Students will be able to:
1) Explain the meaning of Topographic surveys and its importance
2) Explain the difference between a Topo - map, Site Plan and a
planimetric survey.
3) Explain the three general surveying methods applying to obtain the
Topo map and Plan site
4) Explain the steps followed in a topographic surveying regarding the
necessary instruments and equipments to use.

1.1Topographic Surveys and Maps: A topographic survey serves to

establish the locations of existing features on the land. Theses include natural
features such as streams, lakes, swamps, rock outcrops, large trees and
others. Cultural features, such as existing roads, bridges and buildings are
also located in a topographic survey .One of the most important characteristic
of a topographic survey, though, is that it provides information on surface
relief, that is, on the overall shape of the land
Ground elevations are measured at several selected points, and the positions
of hills, ridges, and valleys and the changing slopes of the ground surface are
Topographic survey data are plotted on a suitably scaled drawing, called a
topographic map or a topo map. A topo map serves as the basis for the
planning, lay out, and design of most civil engineering (infrastructure) and
architectural projects; for this reason, a topo survey is also sometime called
an engineer survey or a preliminary survey. Topo maps are, of course, also
used for other purposes, such as for military, geological, archeological and
related applications.
There are many types of maps, not at all of which show topographic relief. A
planimetric map, for instance, is a drawing, which shows only the horizontal
positions of natural and cultural features; a road map is a familiar example. A
survey plat is a type of planimetric map, which depicts the lengths, and
directions of boundaries, as well as the relative horizontal position of any
existing structures on a land parcel. Planimetric maps do not show the shape
of the ground.
A plot plan or site plan is a special purpose topo map that shows all the
building, roads, and other facilities proposed for construction on an individual
land parcel or lot. In addition to showing the existing surface relief, it shows
the proposed (postconstruction) relief Boundary lines are usually included on
the plan.
A plot plan (or site plan) is prepared by a civil engineer, surveyor, or architect
for a specific land development project. Traditional stadia surveying methods
may accomplish topographic survey of relatively small sites, such as for a
proposed building lot or an industrial park. Electronic instruments are now
being used with increasing frequency for mapping surveys, but traditional
surveying methods will remain of practical value for many years to come.
Most special purpose topographic surveys are preceded by both a property
survey and a control survey in order to locate the legal boundaries of the tract
and to establish a network of control stations.
Large areas, such as cities and towns, reservoir and dam site. As well as
pipeline, power line, or highway routes are typically surveyed by government
agencies using aerial photography and photogrammetric methods. The
general purpose topo maps that are prepared from the photographic data
are made available to the public, as well as to design and surveying
professionals (see fig # 2).They may be used for preliminary project planning
and rough layout or location of roads, subdivisions, buildings and other large
land use projects.
A common feature of all topo maps is the graphical depiction of surface relief
by the use of contours, which are lines of equal elevation. Contour lines are
superimposed, In effect, over the planimetric details of the map to give the
impression of a third dimension (elevation) on a two dimensional drawing.
1.1.1Topo Maps and Site plan according its use and scale:
According to the previous statement there are some different between
topographic map and Site Plan according to its use and edition scale so that
lets make some specification about it:

1: 10 000
1: 25 000
Topographic Maps 1: 50 000
(Topo - map ) 1: 100 000
1: 1000 000

This is a portion of a Top map

scale 1:2 000 000 which
represents part of Ethiopia and
Eritrea . Since this map is
consider a small scale map, most
of the terrain features are not
visible, however we can notice,
some features as Rivers, Lakes,
main Highways and Cities, also
country and states boundaries
are represented.
Topographic maps or Topo Maps provide a general information of planimetric
and altimetric features of surveyed area, multiple uses are encountered in
several branch of social economical development including military
proposes. Most of them are made by government agencies.

1: 5000
1: 2000
Site Plan 1: 1000
(Topo Plan) 1: 500
1: 200

Site Plan or Topo Plan are made at large scale thereby it provide a very
detailed information of surveyed area, they are use for engineering proposes.
Most of them are made by civil engineers, surveyors, or architect for a specific
land development project of relatively small sites.

6 5
0 9
0 5 5


5 5
9 9
0 0

This is a pattern of large

scale map or topo plan in
which we can observe most
of terrain details
1.2 General Surveying methods:
Three methods are applied to gather the necessary data for the subsequent
preparation of a topographic map or plans.
1) Transit stadia method: Also known as ground method. The collection of
the data is done by means of traditional surveying instruments such as
levelling instruments, theodolites, total station, GPS or ( (stadia
tachometers), as well as with tapes etc. This method is economic and
suitable for relative small areas.
2) Photogrammetric method: Aerial photographs are used to gather the
necessary ground data. It is an economic method for larger areas and
projects and it overcomes the sometimes-difficult access problems (which
is common in ground method) to the area to be mapped. The accuracy of
photogrammetric method mainly depends upon the scale of the aerial
In photogrammetric method the terrestrial (ground) work is only limited to
establishing horizontal and vertical ground control points. (e.g. through
traversing and levelling) that must be clearly defined and well distributed
over the target area and a final terrestrial field check should be made . The
aerial photographs are interpreted and dimensions between required points is
measured stereoscopically (three-dimensionally) by means of a special
instrument called stereo-plotter. With the help of such stereo-plotters the
contour lines and the planimetric positions of all topographic features can be
3) Plane table method: The measurements are made in the same way as
those in the transit-stadia method but the data are plotted in the field on
term paper that is attached to a drawing board mounted on a tripod. This
device is called a plane table. This method is going to be focus at this
course since Transit stadia method will be cover in Topographic Surveying
II , nevertheless most of steps we have to follow for accomplishing
topographic surveying in both method are the same.

1.1 General tasks to carry out when ground methods are applying:
The general tasks involved in a topographic Surveying by mean of ground
method are:
1) Information gathering of area to survey: It consist in collecting all the
available information about the area that are going to be surveyed
such as:
o Existing maps or plane
o Existing geodesic control point (both planimetric and BM)
o Grade of complex of the area and ground features
o Property of parcels
o Field site facilities
The Ethiopian Mapping Authority (EMA)in Addis Ababa and the local
surveying authorities (such as the municipalities, town planning and water
Resource development bureaux etc.. ) can be a helpful source of
2) Reconnaissance survey : This should be done by the survey team and
the project sponsor as a civil engineer. It has a main objective:
Establishing control points network (surveying base) At this stage a
reconnaissance survey of the area to be mapped is absolutely indispensable
and should therefore be carried out thoroughly.
The term reconnaissance means the first inspection of the target area in
terms of existing control points, possible sites for new observation stations as
the permanent marking of those stations, detection of possible obstacles and
possible solutions to overcome them etc. With other words, after the first
inspection, one has got some ideas regarding the mental map about the
terrain and the features of the ground.
It is also necessary to estimate the duration of the whole field work.

3) Planimetric measurement of the base ( control points network):

All planimetric measurement are carried out through the control points
network, it could be made up by traverse, triangulation or trilateration methods
according to area extension, required accuracy and available instruments.
Several measurements are made such as:
o Azimuth to a line (generally the first line)
o Distance between stations
o Intersection angles
Theses data are later on proceed in order to obtain the X; Y of every control
points according to the adopted coordinate system.

4) Altimetric measurement of the Base (control points network)

All altimetric measurement (leveling) are carried out through the control
points network by applying a leveling method (usually differential leveling)
Thereby the vertical position (Z) of every control point is determined according
to the adopted plane of reference (the mean sea level).

5) Preparing the cartographic base and rectangular grid:

In the preparation of a topographic map, the first plotting task is to define
accurately the position of the horizontal control points on the base of the
map. This is accomplished by preparing a rectangular grid on the base of the
map and numbering them. Plotting of each traverse points by means of
interpolation of the computed coordinates.
The rectangular grid is divided in a number of sheet according to the scale
and the total area to survey, each has an specific number assigned, for large
scale survey the grid has 25 squares 10 x 10 cm, total drawing area 50 x 50
cm and the external edge format 60 x 60 cm
Rectangular Grid for drawing the topographic surveying at large scale

10 cm
10 cm
10 cm

50 cm
60 cm

50 cm

60 cm

6) Detail surveying of the area: This is one of the most important stage since
all feature of terrain are surveyed by mean of polar coordinate, rectangular
coordinates, intersection or by plane table method. Different general methods
could be apply such as:
o Tachometer method
o Taping method
o Plane table method
o Total Station Method
This detailed surveying is carried out by setting up the theodolite or Total
station or tachometer or plane table on every control point, the coordinates
(x; y;z) are taken at every detail according to the surveying scale.

7) Drawing the land features according to given scale: After collecting all
data, which permit the drawing of planimetric features, drawing sessions start
by mean of conventional symbols which represent each pattern according
drawing scale an standard manual for symbols should be used as well.

8) Plotting down the contour lines: The relief must to be represented by mean
of contour lines method according to a specific interval

9) Preparing plan for edition: All general information and texts have to be
written and quality controls are applied to check the technical requirements.
Finally a technical inform should be redacted by the surveyor in charge.
1.2 Surveying Instruments and equipment required

no Surveying task Instrument or equipment

1 Information gathering of area to Existing maps, and planes. General
survey documents.
2 Reconnaissance survey Ranging Poles, Stakes, binoculars,
Maps, geodetic network
documents, construction material.
3 Planimetric measurement of the Theodolite or total stations or EDM
base instruments, prisms and sight
4 Altimetric measurement of the Levels, rods or staff, plate ground
5 Preparing the cartographic base Cronaflex plastic, special paper for
and rectangular grid cartographic drawing,
coordinatographic, pencil and
scales rules.
6 Detail surveying of the area Tachometer or theodolite or Total
Station or Plane Table, level, staff,
tape, prisms, Sight targets
7 Drawing the land features Scales rules, drawing pencils,
according to given scale protractors, templates.
8 Plotting down the contour lines Drawing pencils
9 Preparing plan for edition Drawing machine or computers,
templates, ink pens, Leroy rules etc

Control questions:
1) What topographic surveys are use for?
2) What is the main different between a topo map and a Site plan or
Topo plan ?
3) What is the different between a planimetric surveying and a
Topographic Surveying?
4) Explain the general methods applying in topographic surveying?
5) Explain the general steps followed in topographic survey by mean of
ground work methods (direct method)?
6) Mention some of the equipments and instruments used at each stage.