The variety of being an OS surveyor

As you can imagine, no two days are the same for an OS surveyor. From checking the extent of a dismantled railway to updating building functions for OS maps, the role of surveying Great Britain comes in all shapes and sizes. 

We have a geospatial database with half a billion features across GB. We make 20,000 changes a day and have over 200 surveyors, 2 aircrafts and an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) team working to keep it up to date. Our surveyors use OS Net and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology everyday to instantly position new map detail to within a few centimetres (find out more). 

For this year’s intake, we had over 450 people express an interest in joining us as a surveyor. With a real cross section of people keen to join us from all over GB, the standard was very high. The first cohort of successful candidates joined us back in July, and we will have a further 8 joining us in October.

L to R: Richard and Sue (trainers), Joaquin (South Cumbria) Tom (South Wales), Alicja (South Wales), Tim (East Anglia), Jamie (North Cumbria), Megan (East Anglia) Andrew (South Coast), Hannah (North Wales), William (Mid Wales) and trainer Alyson.


To give you an idea of the variety of changes that our surveyors cover, some of our team have shared their latest surveying tales…

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Meet the team: Mark Greaves

Continuing our series to introduce you to the hard-working individuals within OS and showcase the wide variety of work we do, meet Mark Greaves. Mark has been with us for over 30 years and is definitely a fountain of knowledge here at OS! Here, he tells us more about how he keeps OS Net running…

How long have you worked for OS?

I have been at OS over 32 years and within this time held differing roles. I started as a Field Surveyor for 7 years, I then spent 1 year doing a HND in Surveying, 3 years as a Geodetic Surveyor, 1 year studying for an MSc in Engineering Surveying & Geodesy and 17 years as Geodetic Analyst. 

How long have you been in your current role?

I have been a Lead Consultant for Geodesy for almost 4 years. Read More


Oxford Innovation Space Incubator programme

In partnership with the UK Space Agency and Oxford Innovation, we hosted a workshop for the Oxford Innovation Space Incubator programme earlier this year. This involved inviting the next generation of thinkers at the forefront of technological innovation to come up with “ground breaking ideas with the potential to change the world”.

The challenge they chose to accept was to develop new business ideas using raw GNSS signals from the Android mobile operating system.

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Blue dots at the centre of our universe

If you tune into BBC World Service, you may have heard the series 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy.Tim Harford tells the fascinating stories of 50 inventions, ideas and innovations which have helped create the economic world. The series asked for nominations on the 51st thing and Miranda Sharp, our Head of Smart Cities Practice, suggested GNSS (the Global Navigation Satellite System which encompasses GPS, the US’ Global Positioning System, amongst others). It made it to the shortlist and is open for votes until 6 October. Miranda explains why she nominated GNSS – and why you should vote for it!

I gobbled up Tim Harford’s latest series 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy. Tales of female emancipation wrapped up in TV dinners, tackling corruption through the technology of M-Pesa and enabling rapid transfer of ideas in an urban economy with the advent of the elevator. Listen to them all, buy the book, they are brilliant stories.

Tim asked his loyal listeners for ideas for a 51st thing and I suggested GNSS. Let me tell you why.
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How do OS survey Great Britain?

This week marks 80 years since the trig pillar was first used in the retriangulation of Great Britain on 18 April 1936. We’ve been celebrating by sharing the story of the humble trig pillar, and giving you the chance to join our celebrations with The Trig Pillar Trail Challenge. But if the trig pillar is now obsolete – just how do we survey Great Britain today?

OS Net locations across Britain

OS Net locations across Britain

Life after the trig pillar

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Life after the trig pillar

Talking about the 79th anniversary of the trig pillar this month has sparked a flood of reactions. Lots of our lovely followers on social media sent us pictures of them (or their dogs) with our trig pillars around Britain. Others expressed delight that they now know what those odd concrete pillars were for. Some wanted to adopt a trig pillar if we no longer used them (sorry, not something we offer). Still more people were amazed that we no longer use the vast majority of trig pillars and asked us what we use instead. The answer to that is OS Net.

Some of the fab trig pillar photos sent in to us recently

Some of the fab trig pillar photos sent in to us recently

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OS Net data helps the Met Office predict the weather

Mark Greaves is our resident Geodetic Analyst

OS Net is Ordnance Survey’s network of permanent, high accuracy GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) receivers (see Tiree station below). A GNSS is a satellite system that is used to pinpoint the geographic location of a user’s receiver anywhere in the world. For OS Net, its day to day operation is to supply a stream of real time GNSS data covering the whole country.  The data streams enable the correction of GNSS errors to be computed in real time and, when transmitted to our surveyors, allow them to coordinate new map features to an accuracy of just a few centimetres using RTK (Real Time Kinematic) GNSS.


OS Net data is not all about positioning.  Another lesser known use is that it helps the Met Office predict the weather.  Met Office scientist Dr Jonathan Jones explains… Read More


Why ‘space weather’ is bad news for map making

What is ‘space weather’? Well this generally means solar flares – or as you might have heard on the news recently – coronal mass ejections to give them their full title!

Solar flares are related to sunspot activity which tends to run in 11 year cycles. We’re now entering the period where sunspot activity is increasing to amaximum for the current cycle. On Tuesday there was a big flare – the biggest for 4 years – whilst tonight those of you in Scotland might even get to see the Northern Lights as a result, so keep your eyes on the skies!

Solar flares

A solar flare

So what’s all this got to do with mapping?

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