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Methodological freedom to facilitate a comprehensive cadastral survey

Technological developments gave rise to methodological freedom and digitalisation in the cadastral survey. The aim was to achieve comprehensive coverage through the national survey programme.

Thanks to technological developments, the conventional surveying methods using theodolite systems and levelling rods were supplemented with new methods. The use of computers in surveying changed not only the utilised surveying methods, but also the way in which the recorded data were processed. Because Switzerland was still a long way away from accomplishing a comprehensive cadastral survey, a new national survey programme was initiated, together with various reforms. A long-term pilot project showed that it is possible to carry out a cadastral survey of an entire canton in digital form.

The cadastral survey as the basis for further-reaching information systems
The cadastral survey as the basis for further-reaching information systems

From 1920: improved methods for carrying out terrestrial and aerial surveying

At the beginning of the 1920s, terrestrial photogrammetry equipment was used for the first time in order to produce precise terrain maps of the mountain regions. A few years later, the first aerial photogrammetry images were recorded – initially on a trial basis from military aircraft. The resulting images were evaluated in Munich. From 1929, aerial images were recorded for the cadastral survey using a special camera installed in the federal government’s own aircraft. For surveys, the polar coordinates method was introduced, with optical distance measurement by means of «reducing double-image tachymeters».

Messerschmitt BFW M-18d
Messerschmitt BFW-18d used for aerial surveying in 1935

From 1930: new materials and calculation tools

Introduction of the use of aluminium plates as a low-distortion graphic medium instead of paper.

Use of mechanical desktop calculators and natural logarithms of the trigonometric functions for determining coordinates.

1965: changeover to electronic data processing

Survey data were increasingly being processed electronically. At the beginning of the 1970s, electronic distance measurement was introduced, plus the use of automated data processing in cadastral surveying.

1981: introduction of «Programme 2000» to achieve nationwide coverage

Due to World War II and the fostering of land reallocation, the planned 1923 surveying programme had been greatly delayed. Together with the shift in society towards digital technology, this meant that new cadastral surveying concepts were required. In 1981 the Federal Council introduced Programme 2000 in order to achieve nationwide coverage of the cadastral survey.

1983: introduction of methodological freedom

Initiation of the «cadastral survey reform» project in 1983 with the aim of providing improved services to the government, the economy and the general public. This resulted in the enactment of the Ordinance on the Cadastral Survey and its corresponding technical regulations and led to the introduction of methodological freedom and the adaptation of the cadastral survey to the new technological potentials.

Between 1989 and 1999, the pilot project in the canton of Nidwalden demonstrated that cadastral surveying in digital form could be carried out for an entire canton.

1990: introduction of satellite-based surveying

Introduction of GPS technology as a new satellite-based method in cadastral surveying. This method simplifies surveying activities and results in more precise data.

Global navigation satellite system
Diagram of the global navigation satellite system (GNSS)


Geodesy and Federal Directorate of Cadastral Surveying
Cadastral surveying and PLR Cadastre

Telephone +41 58 464 73 03


The commemorative publication is only available in German, French and Italien





Terms and abbreviations used in the Swiss cadastral surveying system

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