Digital / electronic cave survey

A fully digital cave survey utilizes a Disto-X2, which is the only currently available device that is practical for taking on cave trips and electronically capturing the key survey measurements of distance, azimuth, and inclination between survey stations. This data can then be transferred wirelessly using Bluetooth to a paired device such as a phone, PDA or tablet. Digital devices equipped with an active digitizer can then be used with a stylus to sketch the cave around the generated scaled line-plot. There is software available that runs on Windows Mobile (PocketTopo), Palm OS (Auriga), or Android (TopoDroid, Qave, CaveSurvey, SexyTopo) operating systems. My current favorite software and device is TopoDroid running on a Samsung Note 4 phone. I still often record data and sketch with pencil and paper because it generally produces a better quality sketch, even if it’s a little slower.

Some advantages of digital cave survey include:

  • Reduces blunders (gross errors) due to instrument reading, communication, data recording, or computer data entry.

  • Automates the process of generating a scaled line-plot.

  • Automates and simplifies the shortening of high-angle shots on plan-view sketches.

  • Quickly displays as many splays as wanted.

  • Generates an infinite data table and sketch page.

  • Digital sketches tend to be more accurate, especially when using multiple splays.

Some disadvantages of digital survey over paper data recording and sketch:

  • Digital sketches tend to be less precise.

  • Digital devices need to be better protected from impacts, mud and water than traditional cave survey books.

  • Digital devices depend on maintaining a charge on the battery.

  • Electronic devices and cave survey software can be difficult to learn.

The following video provides an overview of the digital survey process and the software and companion devices that may be used.

Cave Survey on Android devices

The following video specifically addresses the software options for digital cave survey using an Android device and how to pair with a Disto-X2.

Pockettopo on Windows mobile

The following video is a detailed tutorial on how to use PocketTopo, which is free software written by Beat Heeb that runs on a Windows Mobile device such as the Dell Axim x51v.

qave software on android

The following video is a detailed tutorial on how to use Qave, which is free software developed in Poland that runs on Android devices

topodroid software on Android

The following three videos are a series of tutorials on how to use TopoDroid, which is free software written by Marco Corvi that runs on Android devices.