How Do You Survey?

As you are well aware by now, Autodesk has included functionality once found in the Autodesk Survey add-on for Land Desktop into Civil 3D 2007. What added functionality does this give you? From the Autodesk website, we find the following:

Survey commands are cleanly integrated into the Civil 3D toolset and user interface. Users have a consistent environment for all tasks ranging from fieldbook import, least squares adjustment, and editing of survey observations to management of point groups, creation of surfaces and layout of parcels and alignments.

This is nice, but the survey functionality ADDED in the 2007 release doesn’t affect all surveyors. I’d go so far as to say that it doesn’t really affect most surveyors. What I mean by this is that the only new functionality is the fieldbook import, least squares adjustment, and survey database. We’ve always been able to manage point groups, create surfaces, and layout parcels. And, the fact of the matter is, not every surveyor uses automated linework or performs least squares adjustments. Most surveyors that I work with simply import a point file into the program and start drawing. Whether it’s a topographic survey, as-built, mortgage survey, boundary, or the in-depth ALTA/ACSM Land Title surveys, points are the basic foundation that most of us use. So, with that being said, I’m going to look at some of the data collection packages that have been built for Civil 3D 2007.

First, we start with the juggernaut known as Trimble. Once a company known mainly for high-end GPS equipment, they have grown to encompass such companies as TDS and Geodimeter. For Civil 3D 2007, they have designed an interface for their equipment known as Trimble Link. You can see it below:

This menu allows you to interact directly with Trimble controllers and perform such functions as exporting points, feature code libraries, surfaces, roads, alignemnts, geoid models, and datum grids. You can also import a Job, and work with collector settings as well.

It should be noted by long time TDS users that there is no current direct support for TDS products in Civil 3D. Those of you who have upgraded to the Recon or Ranger have the luxury of transferring data using Microsoft ActiveSync. Anyone still using a HP48GX is really out of luck when it comes to Civil 3D. I wrote about this back in May, and you can find it here.

Next, we’ll talk about Leica. Leica has a very brief interface, as shown below:

This is pretty straightforward – it allows you to import and export to the Leica System 1200 collector. However, there’s something that you’re not seeing here – when you install the Leica add-in for Civil 3D 2007, you also get a standalone program called Leica X-Change as well. This allows you to take an ASCII file with point information, a .FBK file, or a TDS .RW5 file and convert it to a file that can now be uploaded to a Leica Data collector. It has a very simple interface, as shown below:

With that, I saved (what I consider to be) the best for last – Carlson Connect, built by Carlson Software. Carlson makes surveying and engineering software, as well as their own data collection packages. What I love most about Carlson Connect is the fact that it has the ability to interface with many different data collection packages from many different data collection manufacturers. In the Carlson Connect menu (shown below), we can see the sheer number of collectors supported:

As you can see, with Carlson Connect, we can connect not only to Carlson data collectors, but Geodimeter (now Trimble), Leica, SMI, Sokkia, Thales, and Topcon. Alas, still nothing for TDS users or Nikkon. Interestingly enough, as I try to find a link to the Nikon surveying page, I see that Nikon is also now a part of Trimble. Sheesh.

Have fun!


  1. Greg Smith says:

    Despite the webcasts, the survey functionality still seems a bit daunting. What I’m concerned about in particular is having hundreds if not thousands of survey fieldbook files hanging off each drawing – but maybe I’ve got that wrong.

  2. Nick Zeeben says:

    Greg fire me or I will volunteer Jason as well an email with a bit broader explination of your hundreds or thousands of fbk theory.

  3. Jason Hickey says:

    Indeed – what on earth could you be doing that would “attach” that many fieldbooks?

    Keep in mind that the FBK doesn’t “Attach” to the drawing – unless there’s something I’m not understanding. Email me at first name dot last name at and I’ll see what I can help with.