Plane Table Survey | Equipment, Advantages and Limitations of Plane Table Survey

A plane table survey is a graphical method of the survey in which the field observation and plotting are done simultaneously.

This type of survey is simple and cheapest than the theodolite survey. It is most suitable for small scale maps because this survey becoming hard to plot for large scale plots and maintain accuracy is difficult. 

The plan is drawn by the surveyor in the field while the area to be surveyed is before his eyes. Therefore there is no possibility of omitting the necessary measurements.

    Equipment And Accessories For Plane Tabling

    The following instruments are used in plane table surveying

    1. Equipment
      1. Plane table
      2. Tripod
      3. Alidade
    2. Accessories
      1. Trough compass
      2. Spirit level
      3. U fork with plumb bob
      4. Waterproof cover
      5. Drawing paper
      6. Pins
      7. Drawing Accessories

    A) Equipment for Plane Table Survey

    The following equipment is used in plane table surveying

    Plane Table

    The Drawing board for plane tabling is made from well-seasoned wood with its upper surface exactly plane.

    It is normally rectangular in shape with a size of 75 cm x 60 cm

    It is mounted on a tripod and clamps are provided to fix it in direction. The table can be avoided about its vertical axis and be clamped in any position, when necessary

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    Three types of plane tables are common in use

    1. Simple plane table
    2. Johnson plane table
    3. Coast survey plane table


    The plane table is mounted on a tripod

    The tripod is generally of open frame type, combining rigidity lightness. 

    The tripod may be made to fold for convenient transportation 

    Tripod is provided with three-foot screws at its top for levelling the plane table

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    The alidade is useful for establishing a line of sight

    Two types of alidade are used

    1. Simple alidade 
    2. Telescopic alidade

    I) Simple Alidade

    It is used for ordinary work

    It generally consists of gunmetal or wooden rule with two vertical vanes at the ends

    The eye vane (sight vane) is provided with a narrow slit while the object vane is open and carries horsehair. Both the slits, thus provide a definite line of sight that can be made to pass through the object to be sighted

    To draw the rays, one of the edges of the alidade is bevelled and this perfectly smooth working edge is known as the fiducial edge. The fiducial edge is graduated to facilitate the plotting of distances to a scale

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    II) Telescopes Alidade

    The telescope alidade is used when it is required to take inclined sights

    It essentially consists of a small telescope with a level tube and graduates are mounted on the horizontal axis

    It gives higher accuracy and more range of sights.

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    B) Accessories for Plane Table Survey

    Trough Compass

    The through compass is required for Drawing the line showing magnetic meridian on the paper. It is used to orient the table to the magnetic meridian 

    When the freely suspended needle shows a 0° - 0° reading at each end, a line is drawn on the drawing paper which represents the magnetic north

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    Spirit Level

    A spirit level is used for ascertaining if the table is properly level

    The table is levelled by placing the level on the board in two positions at right angles and getting the bubble central in both positions 

    Also at the beginning of the work, it is used for transferring the ground points on the sheet

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    U - Fork with Plums Bob

    U Fork with plumb bob is used for centring the table over the point or station occupied by the plane table when the plotted positions of that point are already known on the sheet

    Water Proof Cover

    An umbrella is used to protect the drawing paper from rain

    Drawing Paper

    Drawing paper is used for plotting the ground details

    Advantages of Plane Table Surveying

    The plan is drawn by the surveyor himself while the area to be surveyed is before his eyes. Therefore there is no possibility of omitting the necessary measurements. 

    The surveyors can compare the plotted work with the actual features of the area

    It is simple and cheaper than the theodolite survey

    It is most suitable for small scale maps

    No great skill is required to produce a satisfactory map and the work may be entrusted to a subordinate 

    It is used in magnetic areas where the compass may not be used

    The mistakes in writing field books are eliminated 

    It is the most rapid method of surveying 

    Inaccessible points can be easily located by the intersection

    Disadvantages or Limitations of Plane Table Surveying

    It is not intended for very accurate work

    It is not suitable in monsoon 

    It is essentially a tropical instrument 

    Due to heaviness, it is inconvenient to transport 

    Since there are so many Accessories there is the likelihood of these be lost

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