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Local surveyor opens state-of-the-art business downtown

After 20 years of surveying for Gulf State, Dan England decided it was time to strike out on his own and open a private surveying office. The good news is that he won’t have to work alone, although his help is, let’s say, definitely the quiet type.

That’s because England’s co-worker is, in fact, a robot. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony held Wednesday afternoon at his new downtown office, England discussed the excitement of his own business and gave a demonstration of the surveying robot.

“This is what I love to do,” England told the attendees at the ribbon-cutting. “Other people call it work, but I call it fun. Instead of working ’til 10 or 11 at night I’m out having fun ’til 10 or 11 at night…I’m excited about it. This is what I wanted to do.”

England thanked those in attendance for helping spread the word about the new office.

“I appreciate everyone for coming today,” he said. “When you start your own business, you need all the help you can get. I want the local community to be able to support local guys.”

England’s office, which he said will serve an area wide enough to include Dallas and Clark counties and every thing in-between, will get a lot of the help it needs from his robot.

“It costs about $30,000,” England said, “but it does away with a $30,000 a year salary…using it, I was able to get about 70 shots in 3 hours by myself at a job in Faunsdale. That’s more than you could get in that time with a surveying crew.”

The robot, which attaches to the top of a standard surveyor’s tripod, works by automatically detecting England’s surveying stake via radio waves. Once found, it swivels in the appropriate direction, focuses a lens, and sends a laser beam to the center of the stake’s surveying glass, where another instrument records positional data based on the characteristics of the beam. The data is stored until downloaded later onto a computer and plotted.

“The equipment will pay for itself over time,” England said. He added that because of equipment like the robot, his experience, and nearby location, he expects his office will offer a very appealing product.

“The small-time surveyor is staying competitive,” he said. “In fact, we can be more competitive…I’ve been a licensed surveyor since 1980 or ’81, so almost 25 years. One advantage I have over some other crews, let’s say they send some kids down just out of school. They’re not licensed surveyors, and they don’t have the experience. Plus it’s an hour and 15 minute drive they charge for…I feel I can be a lot more competitive.”

It’s something Charles Singleton, the new Chairman of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce, appreciates about the venture.

“Dan’s someone I’ve known for a while, and we’re happy to have him serving us locally and in the surrounding area,” he said.

Singleton added that, in the wake of other downtown businesses relocating to other parts of the city, having a new business right across from City Hall was a big plus.

“We’re always glad to get people to locate downtown,” he said. “It’s definitely a positive for the city.”