Classification of surveys can be done from different angles of view. According to the use and the purpose of the prepared maps, surveys may be classified under the following three different heads.
- Classification based upon the nature of the field
- Classification based on the purpose of the survey
- Classification based on instruments used
Classification of survey based upon the nature of the field
- Topographical surveys: The surveys which are carried out to determine the natural features of a country such as hills, valleys, rivers lakes, wooded areas, etc. and the artificial features such as roads, railways, towns, villages, canals, buildings, etc. are called topographical surveys.
- Cadastral surveys: The surveys which are generally plotted to a larger scale than topographical surveys and are carried out to determine the boundaries of fields, houses, estates and other properties are called cadastral survey. These are also sometimes used for surveying the boundaries of municipalities, corporations and cantonments.
- City surveys: The surveys which are carried out for the construction of roads, parks, water supply system, sewer system and other constructional works for any developing township are called city surveys. The city maps, which are prepared for the tourists, are known as Guide Maps.
Hydrographic surveys are the surveys which deal with the measurement of water bodies like seas, rivers, lakes, gulfs, etc. for the purpose of navigation, development of port facilities, prediction of tides and determination of mean sea level.
Classification of survey based on the purpose of the survey
- Engineering or Project Surveys: The surveys which are carried out to collect data for planning, design and construction of an engineering project like highways, railways, irrigation canals, water supply, sewage disposal, tunnels, dams, reservoirs, etc. are called engineering or project surveys.
- Military or Defense Surveys: The surveys which are carried out for preparation of maps of the areas of strategic or military importance are called military surveys.
- Mine or Exploratory Surveys: The surveys which are carried out for exploration of hidden mineral wealth beneath the surface or the ground, i.e., coal, copper, gold mines, etc. are called mine surveys.
- Geological Surveys: The surveys which are carried out to ascertain the composition of the earth crust, i.e. different strata of rocks of the earth crust, are called geological surveys.
- Archaeological Surveys: The surveys which are carried out to prepare maps of ancient culture, i.e. antiquities, are called archaeological surveys.
- Marine or Navigation Surveys: The surveys which are carried out to determine the positions of harbors and the courses of ships are called marine or navigation surveys.
- Reconnaissance Survey: A preliminary survey to inspect the area before the actual detailed survey to ascertain how the survey works can be executed in the best possible ways is called reconnaissance survey.
Classification of survey based on instruments used
According to the instruments or methods employed, surveys may be classified as:
- Chain surveying
- Compass surveying
- Plane table surveying
- Theodolite surveying
- Stadia or Tacheometric surveying
- Triangulation surveying
- Photogrammetric surveying.