In the past, the instruments used to survey land were simpler in design, but harder to use in practice. These included chains, solar compasses and compasses. For instance, chains with a specified size linkage would be used to measure distances from point to point, while compasses would determine the distance of that line.
As time progressed, newer technologies were developed to remove some of the manual calculations needed to progress with surveying. One such tool is called a planimeter – planimeters measure asymmetrical land eliminating the need for charts and manual calculations.
One of the main tools used by land surveyors today is a gadget that is also quite prominent in the lives (and cars) of millions of people – the GPS system. A GPS (or global positioning system) works with satellites that scan the earth from space and very accurately graph the view and transmit it into data to view on the small GPS or computer screen for surveyors to look at. The only downside to GPS systems is the difficulty they have reading land coordinates in dense forest area and the surroundings of concrete structures.
Of course, there are hundreds of other tools that land surveyors use on a regular basis, but these few examples should give you a good idea into how these people do their jobs.