Coordinate Systems and Drones

And now back to our regularly scheduled program… Have you heard of the drone invasion?

For those hiding under a rock because of the election, or other apocalyptic event,  drones have come to the forefront of data capture for many types of projects. Surveyors are actively digging into the technology to see how it can help them capture existing conditions quickly and at what quality they can capture.3DR and DJI are two companies that are offering drones to the commercial AEC industry.

For full disclosure, Synergis is now a partner with 3DR to provide the technology to our local customers.

The basic idea is the drone would fly a given area, take several pictures and upload that data to a cloud service to create composite imagery or elevation models. In order to accomplish this, All commercial drones have some sort of GPS recorder to stamp each image with coordinates. For clarity, this position stamp is rough in nature given the process described above and is typically within 5′ of the actual location. This is NOT acceptable to most survey firms for anything other than “napkin” sketched projects.

Many services have added the ability to add survey control to the process in order to tighten up the results. There is a best practices method to laying out the control over the capture area. According to 3DR, they can improve the location (x,y) accuracy of their data to within an inch!

In order to accomplish this correction, one bit of information is the need to have an EPSG code to identify the control’s coordinate system.Simply search by state or other information to find the EPSG code. For future reference, here are a few local codes to Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

 State  Coordinate System  Unit  EPSG Code
NJ  NAD83  Ft 3424
 NSRS2007  Ft  3616
 NAD83/2011  Ft  6527
PA NAD83 North  Ft  2271
NAD83 South  Ft  2272
NSRS2007 North  Ft  3650
NSRS2007 South Ft 3652

In case you need to transform your control coordinates, there is a great tool in that same website to re-project your coordinates from one system to another:

Lastly, if you have Recap 360 Pro, there is a setting to specify the coordinate system. In that setting you use a portion of a typical code (PA83 for instance) and get results which also include the EPSG code.


Until next time…

Project Chronicle Captures

Project Chronicle

Project Chronicle, if you don’t know, is an Autodesk Lab solution to capturing workflows in your Autodesk app of choice. I’ve been using this for some time now and realized I hadn’t shared about it…

Anyway, while doing my weekly blog reading, The CAD Geek reminded me of how great this little gem is with his recent write up.

By the way, it’s a completely free app! You can find a gallery of posted Chronicles @

Go check it out and use it share your knowledge with your company, user group or the world!

Hacking PDF to DWG

You’ve just gotten a Request for Proposal on a new project opportunity and with the supplied documentation are PDF files of the various drawings. As part of the RFP, you are required to supply your own drawings indicating how you would construct the project as well as enough information to establish a construction estimate. Thinking to yourself, “ I’ve got this one.  I’ve done this type of project enough to know the pain areas of the design.  The proposal documents are almost ready to go but I’ll blow the entire RFP budget on the drawings.  How can I stay on budget and win the project?

Read more of this post

Vault and XREFs

As many may know, Vault has a love hate relationship with external drawing references.  What’s that? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Let me begin by saying that when I first ran into this issue, I found a workaround and have been using that ever since.  It seems that a resolution to this issue is on the horizon, or not. We will see. 😉

But first, the problem… Read more of this post

Life imitating art

Just a quick note about life imitating science fiction movies.  It seems that some bad guys in another country way back in like 2007, spread some mal-ware to redirect urls to their servers in order to collect user information.

Well, the FBI have corrected the situation, but are warning people that they may still be infected.

Once the FBI got around to fixing the problem in 2011, it realized it couldn’t simply shut down the rogue servers because infected computers would be left without a functioning DNS, leaving them virtually Internet-less. So it set up temporary servers to give malware-infected Internet users time to fix their computers.

And time runs out on Monday, July 9.

To verify the health of your computer, go to this address:

This site will verify if your computer is looking up websites properly.

IF IT IS NOT, then you need to clean your machine. Below are recommendations for various Malware Removal Tools:

• Microsoft’s Security Scanner,

• MalwareBytes’ Anti-Malware,

The FBI’s document that explains how to detect and fix the DNS Changer issues:

Read more: DNS Changer Malware: 300,000 People Worldwide Will Lose Internet Monday – and They Don’t Even Know It – ABC News

Old School vs New School

“What happens with old school grading…”


Everyone’s heard the paradigm that Civil 3d is a shift in thinking for civil engineers. Is it really? Haven’t true engineers been working this way for a long time, and we simply adapted to our toolset over time?

Now before people shoot me funny looks or weird comments, let’s define a few things.  A “true engineer” is someone who has received either a PE license or has so much experience should have a license.  One of my first experiences with this type of person was unexpected. He wasn’t licensed and had been a “designer” for longer than i had ben alive. How did he design?


Yes, he drew contours and such for drafters. But, to get those contours, he first created spot shots all over the place. Did he add those sweeping proposed contour tie-ins? Nope. Couldn’t justify it. He would say something to the effect of “why add something to the design that i can’t replicate in my head?”

My young jedi mind was confused. I just figured they used those curves to indicate 2 “soft” surfaces coming together. After much time, i think i came to realize what he meant – i have a 3:1 slope down from a known point, not a 3:1 slope with a 200:1 “elliptical” slope within a foot of tying to existing ground. How would you even stake that out as a surveyor?

Where am i going with all of this. The point was, He was thinking three demensionally all the time. From a macro project level all the way down to individual spot grades along property lines. It’s this vision that forms the basis for design. Yes, i said it – civil engineers DESIGN stuff.  Civil 3D is merely a tool in that design process. Does it do it’s job? For the most part, yes. It fails because of our industry practices and politics; always chasing what this person wants or that agency “needs.”

Stepping out a bit, we see that effect is slowly changing. Primarily because of BIM and the larger architecture community driving the change. Hopefully, some of the larger civil engineering firms will help facilitate this change along with the various vendors like Siteops adding innovation.  To the future!

The Future of Civil Engineering and Surveying Technology

OK, the title is a little bit of a stretch.  Anyone who knows isn’t telling and anyone who does tell really doesn’t know. That said…

Have you wondered what others are thinking about where civil engineering and surveying technology is headed? Then join an upcoming webcast (November 13th at 2pm) hosted by the editorial director of CE News, Shanon Fauerbach, PE.  She is joined by the CAD Systems Manager for Miller Legg (29th Best Civil Engineering Firm to Work For).

Click below to register for the event: 


To be discussed:

  • 3-D Modeling and it’s current adoption in the industry
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • GPS Machine Control
  • 3-D Laser Scanning

This webcast was born out of a desire to expand on the detail of the November CE News cover story – Civil Engineering Technology, How far have we come? The article details a survey generated with input from the people who make the engineering tools (software / hardware companies) to the people who use or manage the tools (civil engineering firms). Take a look at the article online to see the results, you will be intrigued.

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