Thursday 30 April 2015

Program updates

AutoCAD 2016

It's that time of year. Autodesk has released its post-dated update of its software AutoCAD 2016. The new program is available for a 30 day trial.

Thankfully, the optional VBA enabler which allows the use of Visual Basic programming is available as an add-on for at least another year despite this no longer being supported by Microsoft. The VBA enabler is required if you want to run user-defined macros such as those that I have written to Import/Export points in AutoCAD or to Transform drawings (Scale, Rotate and Move) in one easy operation.

VBA 2016 does not appear to be any different from 2015. However, I have updated, run and checked the macros in AutoCAD 2016 and they can be downloaded here

Having downloaded and installed the trial, despite some minor cosmetic changes, the core program appears to remain similar to previous versions.  

PDF Editors

A colleague of mine is due to venture into the world of steel erection as an Engineer. Whilst reviewing the National Steel Structures Specification document found on my website, it appears to be "print-locked". [View document]

However, this leads to a recommendation for an online PDF Password and Restriction unlocker. PDFUnlock is similar to another program that I often use, PDFJoin, which does what it says.  After uploading several PDF documents, they are then joined online ready for download.

I find this is handy for sending multiple documents in an email or even adding/swapping pages within a document.

Point to Plane

Finally, I had noticed recently that I did not have a "Point to Plane" program for Excel, although I had one for the Casio fx-7400. I have now written this and will add this to the website at the weekend. In addition to calculating the shortest distance between the point and plane, the program also calculates the co-ordinates of the perpendicular point.

Friday 24 April 2015

SkyTech UAV

Today I attended the SkyTech 2015 trade show for UAV users, manufacturers and regulators. The show was smaller than the annual Commercial UAV Show, but was a good excuse to get a first look at some of the latest technology, upcoming regulations and some more ideas on how this growing industry can be put to use.

Speakers ranged from the law makers CAA, suppliers HeliGuy to users and trainers such as DroneFlight.

The show was well attended by many businesses, split in half by those involved in surveying and those who use UAVs for photographic and media purposes.

Now that's a drone!

Having passed my UAV theory test for commercial flying, I intend to use a multi-rotor for aerial inspections, 3D modelling and aerial surveys. There only remains the small matter of writing an Operations Manual (similar to a combined Risk Assessment/Method Statement) and a practical examination.

If nothing else today, I got some free pens..!

Thursday 23 April 2015

Software reviews

As the administrator of, I am constantly looking for free or inexpensive software programs that can be used by surveyors to help them with their jobs.  This week, my colleagues and I have tried several programs to create contours from CSV data and also converting PDF & image files into DWG format.

Two programs were tested to create DTM's from raw data.  QuikGrid is freeware, which was easy to use and is suitable for initially viewing data on low spec hardware.  SiteTopo is an inexpensive solution (£28 at time of publishing) which also generates contours at a user defined spacing.

The latest versions of AutoCAD are capable of importing a PDF file as an underlay which can be scaled and moved in the model space. However, the DWG file and its attached PDF file can only be shared with others using a compatible version.  AutoDWG provide several conversion programs that can convert files into and out of DWG format, including a free online version which will convert a daily PDF under 2Mb to DWG. However, the cost of the full PC version may be prohibitive for all but the serious user.

InvestinTech have created Able2Extract which is capable of converting PDF files into a variety of other formats (including AutoCAD DXF/DWG, Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Excel and Publisher). The program worked well when tested and looks professional and is easy to use.  A fully functioning trial version is available for evaluation purposes and the full version is only $99.

Finally, WinTopo is a useful application for converting raster (BMP, JPEG, PNG etc) images into pseudo-vector format based files which can be imported into CAD.  There are Free and Pro versions. We tested the free version to convert a MatLab produced image and a Desktop background into DXF.

I will be updating my website to include these links over the next few days.

Welcome to my blog

This is the diary of an Engineering Surveyor.  I hope to keep a log of my activities this year as it will be a very busy one!

I have been working on the Hammersmith Flyover in London for over a year.  The concrete bridge was built over 50 years ago and is being re-strengthened to last the same again.

Unfortunately, the 600m long flyover has to be closed regularly until the end of August so that precise work replacing bearings under the 15 piers can be carried out.  The vibrations of the traffic passing over the bridge can cause sensitive monitoring equipment to be disrupted.  This week has seen four night closures to begin the installation of 4 more bearings.  Just three more to go!

External tendons

Further details to follow over the next few weeks...