In geodetic surveying, we consider the spherical geometry of the surface though the surface is not perfectly spherical.

In-plane surveying, we consider a small surface area which is considered as a plane or flat surface whose results upon surveying do not get affected. But can't totally neglect the curvature of the earth's surface so the assumption of flatness must affect results to some extent.

I know that geodetic surveying has great precision than plane surveying. However, both will be accurate though.

  1. If both survey methods were performed for an area then what would be the "precision difference"(in terms of significant figures/numbers) between these two surveying methods for the same area?

    I am questioning about the "closeness of the results" of plane surveying to the actual/real parameters. So what is reality then? This is what we are trying to achieve with well equipped, periodically improved and advanced technology for great accuracy and precision that hadn't been achieved before. I want to compare their precision because I think results from geodetic surveying are very close to reality so "comparing these readings with plane surveying allows us to find out the extent to which the assumption of flatness affects results?"

  2. And generally what is the precision (in numbers) for these(individual) methods when performed in their standard confined areas? I think this question can be answered with some experimental readings and experiences.

  • $\begingroup$ Questions that start "I want..." are usually much better when they start "I have found X & Y and I think xyz..." ... $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Apr 15 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for suggesting improvements but could you please justify why it is not proper to start my question with "I want". $\endgroup$ – AScientist Apr 16 at 8:57
  • $\begingroup$ Because many or most people on here respect questions that show some effort towards a solution... even if the solution is not correct or complete then the errors can be shown... Have you improved your question? $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Apr 16 at 8:58

I'm not sure I totally understand your question. I believe you are saying in your third paragraph that "geodetic surveying has greater accuracy than plane surveying"? This is not really true. Every survey is as accurate as the methods employed to perform the survey irrespective of if the work is done in a geodetic coordinate system or a rectangular plane coordinate system. Your coordinate system is made up of several parts, an ellipsoid which approximates the shape of the earth, a datum which positions this ellipsoid relative to the earth, and for what you are calling "plane surveying", a map projection which "projects" a section of this ellipsoid onto a flat plane so we can use "grid" coordinates instead of "spherical" coordinates.

In your two questions it appears you are mixing the terms accuracy and precision. These are very different things. Accuracy is closeness to the "true" value and is never known. Precision is closeness between multiple measurements.

In designing a survey, we look at the precision of the instruments and procedures we will use to determine an expected precision for the observations. We then look at the observations we will make (including redundant observations) and from all of this we build a stochastic model which we can use to predict the precision of our end results. We adjust our observation model until we are achieving the precision we are seeking for the survey.

Until now we have not mentioned a geoid, which throws another whole level of complexity into the discussion. The "z" component above is based on ellipsoidal elevations. Typically we work in orthometric elevations (elevations relative to some form of mean sea level). The geoid model is the mathematical model which attempts to model this "mean sea level" surface, and allows use to convert our ellipsoidal elevations to orthometric elevations.

Maybe you can clarify what it is you are trying to ask so we can give a better answer.


While I do not discount your question's validity, I think it is quite hard, if not impossible for you to answer the first question as there are too many fine details that affect precision.

For example, even within plane surveying, the proximity of your survey points, how often you do look back checks, and all those can play a major role in how much error that your survey will have. Equipment can play a role, weather can play a role, and obviously, as you have already recognized, the size of the area surveyed can play a role as well.

Similarly, the number of satellites that you can "see", the number of epochs that you take for each determination of your actual coordinate results, atmospheric conditions, latency and other factors can affect the actual accuracy of your geodetic survey results.

So, what I am essentially pointing at here is that accuracy generally is less so affected by your method of data collection, but more so by the surrounding conditions of your data collection efforts. There are no necessarily any inherent errors within each method that will produce errors that will sufficiently invalidate the respective methodologies.

For question two, it depends on what you mean by "standard confined areas" mean. I recommend you reaching out to specific equipment manufacturers or survey equipment dealers for comparison of actual equipment that you may use.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the answer. These circumstances are obviously associated with every experiment. But it is intolerable when results are less accurate. And a method with permissible precision is always preferred I think they are accurate but only differ by precision bcz these methods are also performed for official purposes. $\endgroup$ – AScientist Apr 16 at 8:42
  • $\begingroup$ Here I mean by "standard confined area" as the "limit of area" for a surveying field decided for the performance of these methods. The area chosen should not affect to our results, not even to our considerable significant figures (as we can compensate with very little inconsiderable deflections). Right? My textbook says - plane surveying is done on area up to 250 km^2. $\endgroup$ – AScientist Apr 16 at 9:04
  • $\begingroup$ First, surveys are not experiments. Second, you need to understand the concept of "versions of truth" in surveying, and why true accuracy will always remain an illusive ideal. Limits of area are generally well defined by current surveying systems, such as the US State Plane systems, and other local systems as defined by their respective surveying agencies. I would suggest you review what may be available in your locale regarding generally accepted surveying practices to arrive at a proper way to conduct your survey. Good luck! $\endgroup$ – Isa Apr 23 at 16:15

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