NLA Utilising GPS to make Operations more Efficient

The Surveys and Mapping Division of the National Land Agency (NLA), has incorporated the use of cutting edge technology, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), to make its operations as efficient as possible.
Director of the Division, Trevor Shaw tells JIS News that in the past, the division conducted geodetic surveys using theodolites and distance meters, but now, “because of the advent of GPS, we have incorporated that technology into our operations”.
“The accuracy standard can be extremely high depending on the equipment. The surveys conducted using GPS are far more efficient, as they do not rely on inter-visibility,” he adds.
The Division also uses the technology in conducting hydrographic surveys. Mr. Shaw describes GPS as a revolution for surveyors and any other industry for which determining position is critical, such as in the aviation industry.
He discloses that there are plans to establish a national GPS network, which will cover the entire island, and surveyors using GPS will be able to access this facility to conduct their surveys in such a way, that they can position the surveys within the national grid system.
“The significance of this is that we will be able to more quickly construct our national cadastral map, which is a map that will show all the parcels of land in the island,” says.
A number of GPS stations have already been established by a contractor, under the Land Administration and Management Project (LAMP).
The GPS is an international radio-navigation system formed from a constellation of 24 satellites and their ground stations. The technology uses these satellites as reference points to calculate positions accurate to a matter of metres.
The technology is accessible to just about everyone and is becoming popular in vehicles, aircraft, farm machinery and construction equipment.
Meanwhile, the Division has set a new target of seven weeks turn-around time for the checking of survey plans. Mr. Shaw says that by year-end, this should be achieved on a consistent basis. The Survey Division has also been working closely with the Titles office to deliver titles in a comparatively short time of 40 days, down from a best achievement of about 126 days.
“We have reviewed the business processes and modified the approach to the checking of plans in the titling operation, and the titles office has adjusted how they approach the preparation of titles. They have seen significant improvement. This is what we call the simultaneous lodgment of titles and plans,” he explains.
Mr. Shaw stresses that the Surveys and Mapping Division does not operate in isolation, and plays a critical role as one of the core agencies of the NLA.
It gives support to the Land Titling Division through the checking of survey plans and also supports the Estate Management Division through the surveying of land settlements and the preparation of statutory declarations for survey plans that are old, which might have previously been done by private contractors.
The division also gives support to the Land Valuation Division in the maintenance of the land valuation roll. “We help to maintain the fiscal cadastral, which is a cadastral index map showing all the parcels in the island that is on record for the purpose of land taxation,” Mr. Shaw explains.
“We also provide support for the business division in terms of constructing the map products that are to be made available to the public,” he adds.
In general, the functions of the division are to: administer the Land Surveyor’s Act in order to support the registration of titles system; and to conduct surveys for government agencies. These include cadastral, hydrographic, topographic, geodetic surveys and cadastral mapping surveys.
Outlining the functions of the types of surveys conducted by the division, Mr. Shaw says a cadastral survey deals with the surveying of parcel boundaries. “If you have a piece of land and you want to know the boundaries, then a survey can be conducted to mark the position of those boundaries or to re-establish the position of those boundaries.
Resulting from that survey is a survey plan. In the case where the parcel was previously surveyed, then it is just a matter of identifying where those boundaries are in terms of the plan and preparing a surveyor’s report,” he explains.
The end product of this survey is the acquisition of a title. Only Commissioned Land Surveyors are accountable for carrying out these surveys.
The cadastral mapping survey is somewhat similar. However, the end product is a cadastral map. This is a map showing how a locality is divided into land parcels. “The requirements for the cadastral survey to create a survey plan leading to title and the requirements to create a cadastral map, which will also lead to title, are basically the same, except that the two outputs are slightly different,” Mr. Shaw explains.
Topographic surveys represent in a detailed way, the physical features, whether natural or artificial, such as rivers, gullies, vegetation, pastures, roads, railways and buildings. Essentially, geodetic surveys establishes survey control marks. These are marks that are surveyed to high accuracy standards and those marks are used for the scaling of maps and also the orientation of maps. “The survey maps that are established from a geodetic survey, helps us to position that survey in the national grid system, so the map will be properly oriented in terms of north south and it will be properly scaled in terms of the relationship between a distance on the map and its corresponding distance on the ground,” Mr. Shaw points out. Hydrographic surveys relate to water bodies (oceans, rivers, ponds, lakes). Like a topographic survey, it sets out to illustrate how the seabed is shaped in terms of depth, detailing the relative heights of points on the seabed in relation to a particular reference level. “For example, in the harbour, if a captain is bringing in a ship, in order to ensure safe navigation, we need to know how deep the channel is,” he says.
Mr. Shaw points to the developments taking place around the island in which the Division is involved, such as dredging work associated with the construction of Highway 2000. “When they dredge, we are often asked to do what is called check surveys, to confirm the extent to which the dredging has taken place. We use special hydrographic survey equipment to determine the depth of the sea bottom, in terms of their objective for removing whatever material they have to from the sea bottom. Our role is more of a monitoring and validation nature,” he adds. In carrying out its mandate, the Division has a close working relationship with the Port Authority of Jamaica, the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as a number of oil companies that have operations on the wharves, and the Jamaica Public Service Company. The origin of the Surveys and Mapping Division dates back to the Surveyor General’s Office, which was established in the early years following British colonization of the island in 1655.

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