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LandAir Surveying: Indian Burial Grounds, the Okefenokee and Drones

LandAir Surveying Company is one of Atlanta’s top surveying firms, often ranked in the top three for its advanced technology utilization and expertise. In business since 1988, the company performs land surveying, GPS/GIS, and aerial mapping services all over the southeast and beyond. They have also been an APE customer for over 30 years. We recently caught up with LandAir Surveying President Tate Jones to see what’s new in the surveying profession. 

APE: Has LandAir worked on any cool projects lately?

Jones: We recently scanned several archaeological sites in Utah on horseback using a Leica ScanStation C10 high definition scanner and a Cannon 16 megapixel camera as part of a forensic investigation documenting damage to American Indian sites. That was exciting. We also surveyed an orphanage in Haiti so that they could build a bigger kitchen to feed several thousand kids each day, which was fun.

APE: Where do you do most of your work?

Okefenokee swampJones: We are nationwide in 3D laser scanning and all over the southeast in terms of land surveying. We specialize in large, complicated database projects and interior modeling for 200-300 thousand square foot manufacturing facilities, Department of Transportation projects in Georgia and Alabama, as well as projects for the Department of Agriculture and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. We’ve even worked on a LiDAR survey of the entire Okefenokee Swamp, which is over 430,000 acres, with one of the local colleges here in Georgia.

APE: How did you end up in Atlanta?

Jones: I grew up in Auburn, Alabama, and when I asked my wife to marry me, she said she would only live in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or Atlanta, so here we are!

APE: What do you like about APE?

Jones: I’ve been doing business with APE since 1978, before I even had my own company. I’ve bought everything from them from total stations to digital levels and GPS. Their pricing is competitive, and they always have what I need in stock. We’ve had a good relationship.

APE: What are some of the biggest trends you are seeing in the profession?

Jones: Drones. There is going to be a paradigm shift in surveying, and drones will be the new data collectors. Today, a survey of 2,000 acres would cost around $50,000 and require a fixed-wing aircraft, a LiDAR aerial sensor, and four to six weeks of processing to complete the map. But with a drone, one man can collect the data by himself in under an hour. Other applications (especially for copter-type drones) include monitoring infrastructure and conducting inspections. The drone market is expected to be an $80 billion industry in the first 10 years once they are deemed legal by the FAA, which should be sometime next year.

APE: Is there a big learning curve for using drones?

Jones: Once you purchase the drone itself – one capable of survey-grade mapping – you have to learn how to fly it and you need software that is compatible, but the end product will still be photographs, videography, topographic maps and various types of imaging. Drones will significantly reduce the manpower needs of a project. And the best part is they are never hung over on Monday morning!

APE: Will drones replace all other surveying tools?

Jones: No. Drones are just another tool in the toolbox. Drones still provide just one view of a property. Even with them, you still wouldn’t be able to see everything under a bunch of oak trees, for example, like drainage and sewer pipes. It’s just one part of the project. But it does generate elevation data.

APE: When you invest in technology, whether it’s a drone, a 3D laser scanner, a GPS receiver or another instrument, what factors are important to you in making your decision?

Jones: The most important factor is ROI – how long will it take to get a return on our investment. Another factor is reducing labor costs. And then there is also the technological advantage. New technologies build competitive advantage and help us gain leverage in new markets. When we are evaluating new technologies, we research the technical specs and then typically call in the vendors for a demo. We also try it out for a week or so.

To learn more about LandAir Surveying visit

For more insights on trends in surveying and construction, or for help in choosing the right technology for your application, please contact us. Our knowledgeable experts will be happy to assist you.