Lately here at DL Howell our newsletters have been taking a look at the Civil Engineering /Surveying field from the past (A Look Back), the present (A Quick and Abrupt Lesson in Civil and Environmental Engineering), and today we’ll be providing some insight on what the future might have to offer. In the upcoming years expect to see the rise in use of 3D printers, Augmented/Virtual Reality, Material Physics, Drones, and Smart Roads in the industry. While some of these advancements are already in place, they have limitless potential to grow and become part of everyday life for a civil engineer and surveyor.

3D Printers

3D printers allow for the creation of a physical object from a digital model. They can create objects by laying down a series of thin layers (plastic, metal, or ceramic) in succession over a period of time to build objects layer by layer. 3D printing is often applied to create models for early designs of projects so that engineers and clients can get a rough idea of what a proposed land development might look like. Engineers are starting to use 3D printed models now to help bridge gaps between proposed visual designs/concepts and planning/drafting that might need to be done. This will allow our engineers to bring scaled-down proposed 3D models to clients or township meetings to get a better idea of the proposed project. A Chinese construction company has already started building houses made from concrete with a large 3D printer and can build up to 10 in one day.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are now starting to be utilized in the engineering field for multiple reasons. AR and VR are being used to analyze proposed structures before construction begins on a project. AR is being used to envision how a building will look on a site, even before the site is starting to be developed. Civil engineering technicians are starting to use VR to analyze the placement of utilities, roadways, and sewage for a project. These technologies will aid in the visualization of how a project will or won’t work for structural, architectural, and civil engineers.

Material Physics

In the future look to see and hear more about Material physics and the use of metamaterials. Metamaterials are materials which are designed to have specific properties for specific situations or occurrences. The versatility of materials that civil engineers have allows them to design and create more innovative projects than ever before. One of the more well-known examples of these types of materials is graphene. Graphene is about 100 times stronger than the strongest steel. It conducts heat and electricity extremely efficiently and is nearly transparent. Who knows what other metamaterials will be created in the near future with limitless capabilities and properties!


I know, I know we talk a lot about drones, but while drones aren’t the newest thing ever to Civil Engineering and Surveying in the upcoming years, they really are going to make leaps and bounds in both fields processes. For surveying, drones will be able to provide land-related services to surveyors such as subdividing land, finding property boundaries, and surveying sites for possible placement of buildings. Drones can also produce topographic maps, volumetric calculations for stockpiles, and assist with flood insurance maps with the right equipment. Right now, drone technology isn’t quite as accurate as the current method for proper surveying, but it does allow our surveying team to get a rough estimate of an area.

Smart Roads

With more and more people buying electric cars, it’s only a matter of time before we get rid of the dumb roads and upgrade them to smart roads. While it’s still an idea that needs to be fully tested and figured out a New Zealand company has started on a concept of a road that could possibly wirelessly charge your electric car while you drive. The road would work as a bunch of solar panels that would then charge your car as it was driving. Who knows if this will ever happen, or what headaches it might cause if it happens for civil engineers when designing a road, but it would be interesting if it becomes possible!

In the meantime, if you need some present-day land surveying, or civil engineering work done contact us and we’ll be more than happy to assist!