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Faculty of Engineering
UNB Fredericton

Back to Geodesy & Geomatics

Undergraduate programs

Prepare for adventure with a career in geodesy and geomatics

Whether they’re deep in the bush, on top of a mountain or perched on the deck of an oil rig, our graduates are making their mark all around the world. Our academics and graduate students have visited every continent in the past 40 years.

The Department of Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering at UNB offers one of only two certified geomatics programs in the country, and we’re known as pioneers in our field.

Geomatics program options

The Geomatics Engineering program is available as a major or minor as part of a four-year Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree.

Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BScE) in Geomatics Engineering with the Cadastral Surveying Option | This degree is accredited with both the Canadian Council of Land Surveyors and Engineers Canada accreditation board and fulfils both academic requirements. (166 ch, 4 years)

Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Geomatics Engineering | This degree is accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board of Engineers Canada so graduates have fulfilled the requirements to become a profession geomatics engineer in Canada. (160 ch, 4 years)

Bachelor of Geomatics with the Cadastral Surveying Option (BGeom) | This is accredited by the Canadian Board of Examiners for Professional Surveyors (CBEPS) as satisfying the academic requirements to become a land surveyor. (120 ch, 3 years)

Diploma in Geomatics | Candidates with the Canadian Board of Examiners for Professional Surveyors (CBEPS) can do the courses at UNB that are equivalent to the syllabus items in which they would otherwise write CBEPS examinations after self-study. (At least 30 ch, at least 1 year)

Bachelor of Geomatics | This degree is accredited as with the BGeom (Cadastral Surveying Option), it offers a wide range of topics including: remote sensing, GIS, GPS, ocean mapping, and land management with plenty of employment opportunities. (120 ch, 3 years)

The department appreciates the advantage of the combination of the training and education provided by a two or three-year diploma in geomatics engineering technology followed by a degree or diploma at UNB and, in most cases, advance credits will be awarded. While previous training and education is an asset, the department will look at all applications on an individual basis regardless of background.

A Minor in Geomatics is offered to students in programs of study other than Geomatics Engineering and comprises a minimum of 24 credit hours (ch) of GGE courses.

An ever-changing career

Recent GGE graduates are working all around the world, with nearly a 100 per cent employment rate and starting salaries as high as $70,000.

Here are just a few of the things you can do with a B.Sc.E. from our department:

  • Testing a navigation system from a submarine in a fiord
  • Providing advice for a natural gas pipeline project in the Maritimes
  • Travelling the globe providing technical support for an advanced computer-based mapping system
  • Producing 3D models of historic buildings and industrial plants
  • Using advanced instrumentation to ensure construction projects are completed safely

Understanding geomatics and geodesy

What is geomatics?

Do you know what GPS, Google Earth, smartphones and 3D movies have in common? They are all based on geomatics technologies! You've been using geomatics without even knowing it.

Geomatics is an all-encompassing discipline which refers to a number of arts, sciences and technologies involved with the collection, processing, managing and displaying of geo-referenced information.

Geomatics involves primarily the fields of geodesy, global navigation satellite systems, surveying, geographical information systems, remote sensing, photogrammetry and hydrography, either individually or integrated with each other.

Geomatics also refers to the industry that deals with spatially referenced information. Geomatics is a $3.7 billion industry with a forecast demand for professionals varying from 14 to 35 percent growth in jobs over the next 10 years.

What is geodesy?

Geodesy is the basic science that underlies geomatics. In its most fundamental way, it deals with the measurement and representation of the geometry and gravity field of the Earth, including their variations over time. Geodesy studies geodynamical phenomena such as crustal motion, solid earth tides, and polar motion. There are a wide range of applications (e.g., monitoring sea-level variations, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis). It also applies to other celestial bodies in what is referred to as planetary geodesy.

The use of artificial satellites for positioning (such as GPS) and gravity field measurements have caused an enormous growth in the applications of geodesy.

Course descriptions

Career opportunities in geomatics

Global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), including GPS, have emerged as a catalyst to revolutionize applications and innovations needed to improve our daily life and understand our planet better. GPS satellites transmit radiowave signals that must travel through the Earth's atmosphere to be received by GPS antennas and receivers integrated in our iPhones, in our cars, and onboard airplanes and ships to help us reach our destinations.

Our GGE graduates use advanced GPS applications on land, sea or in the air for a variety of positioning and navigation applications including land surveying and accurately positioning off-shore drilling platforms. They also work on achieving ever-increasing positioning accuracies in real-time or post-processing modes, using a variety of GNSS receivers ranging from the simplest ones built into your wristwatch to high-end geodetic-type GNSS receivers tracking multiple satellite constellations.

Some students may wish to obtain graduate degrees in engineering or the sciences by pursuing research in one of a number of different areas. Examples include:

  • measuring how much the Earth's tectonic plates may have moved in a year;
  • calculating the Earth's atmosphere temperature profiles to understand our changing climate;
  • observing in real time how earthquakes and tsunamis may affect our atmosphere;
  • detecting and imaging volcanic eruptions in remote corners of the planet where no other instrumentation may be available to warn populated areas
  • studying space-weather effects impacting our telecommunication infrastructure.

All these are made possible by simply measuring by how much the Earth's atmosphere slows down the GPS signals. Such cutting-edge work requires high precision measurements of the phase and amplitude of the GPS signals to achieving millimetre and sub-millimetre level accuracies. Recently, GPS was even demonstrated to study the effects of meteorite impact over Russia, opening roads to more advanced GPS applications that we never thought possible just a few years ago.

GGE professors Richard Langley, Marcelo Santos, Peter Dare, and Attila Komjathy are all actively teaching and/or carrying out research in GNSS, helping to make UNB one of the best known universities in this field.

Remote sensing is the science and technology used to both collect information of the earth's surface without making physical contact with the object, and analyse this information to solve problems on earth. Remote sensing devices (such as cameras) mounted on satellites and airplanes are the common tools used to collect images of the earth.

Remote sensing is used in almost all disciplines to solve any geo-related problems, from detecting forest fires, identifying oil spill, to finding Osama bin Laden; from monitoring river flooding to surveying developments of possible nuclear weapon sites. Google Maps and Google Earth are examples of remote sensing applications. Almost the organizations which need geo-related information to solve their problems will hire remote sensing professionals, from government, academia, industry, to military. All geo-related disciplines need remote sensing professionals, such as Geomatics, Civil, Environmental Sciences, Geology, Forestry, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Defence and Security.

All the satellite images that you see in Google have undergone some processing. These processing techniques are designed to improve the overall quality and usability of the images. The figure below show the results of applying an image processing technique developed at UNB to a satellite image of the Sydney Opera House (Sydney, Australia). This technique combines a “colour” satellite image with a “black and white” satellite image and creates a higher quality colour satellite image. Many of the satellite images in Google have been processed using this UNB technique.

Hydrographic surveying involves measuring, detecting and describing features on the sea floor that affect marine construction and navigation. Offshore construction could involve the construction of bridges, oil and gas exploration and drilling, wind farm construction and other activities. Hydrographic surveying can also involve tides, currents 3 dimensional mapping of the seafloor and identification of offshore boundaries. There are countless geomatics related activities involved in offshore surveying and the job opportunities are worldwide.

Potential employers for hydrographic surveying could be both private surveying companies and the government. Within the department of geomatics engineering at UNB, the Ocean Mapping Group (OMG) performs research in the field of hydrographic surveying and a number of different undergraduate classes are offered to all students within the department who are interested in offshore surveying.

Geographic information systems (GIS) are computer-based systems designed to capture, store, manage analyze, and present all types of geographic data. They apply cutting-edge technological and scientific methods and as any information system, they convert raw data into useful information.

What makes GIS unique is that they handle data that are located in space and change over time. They are used to analyze this data and extract useful knowledge to support various applications including urban planning and management, resource exploration, environmental management, archaeology, and land use studies. Through a series of courses, students in GGE will get aquatinted with the technology and methods applied in GIS. They will learn how to apply engineering methods, develop software tools, and combine art and science to communicate their results with the end-users through appropriate visualizations, maps, as well as internet-maps.

The employment opportunities for a GIS engineer are very wide and growing. As 80 per cent of all data that humans record and analyse contains some reference to geography, the expertise of a GIS engineer is obviously well-demanded in both public and private sectors (from government, academia, industry, to military).

Laser scanning is a modern technique using the latest technology to collect information about the Earth's surface, buildings, infrastructure, and other objects, without making physical contact with them, and using the information collected to solve problems. An instrument on the ground uses a laser to produce a detailed image in three dimensions of the scanned object. Digital processing and expert analysis are then used to extract useful information from the image.

Laser scanning is used in almost all disciplines to solve any geo-related problems, from monitoring of dams and bridges for possible movement, planning for modifications to industrial plants, creating detailed images of modern and historic buildings and artefacts, determining the volume of material cut for excavation, recording accident and crime scenes, assessment of risk from flooding, to the study of river beds and valleys, geologic outcrops, and growth patterns in a forest.

Almost any organization which needs geo-related information to solve their problems will hire laser scanning professionals, from government, academia, industry, to military.

Canada is one of the top five countries in the world in global production of 12 major minerals and metals and is sixth country in petroleum production. Canada is the first in the world in potash production with two large mining operations in New Brunswick and large reserves of natural gas. Canadian mining sector faces an unprecedented hiring challenge in the next decade.

Mining surveying is critical in providing geodetic positioning control of underground and surface operation as well as positioning of pipelines and drilling platforms in oil and gas industries. Mining surveying is essential for economy and safety of mining operation and environmental protection by monitoring and interpretation of rock mass deformations and their effects on surface infrastructure.

Engineering surveys are essential in any civil, mining, and geotechnical projects at the stages of planning, construction, and operation. It provides geodetic positioning control of high precision and monitoring of structural stability of large dams, bridges, tunnels, etc. Engineering surveys are supported by the development of new technologies based on terrestrial, airborne and satellite surveying techniques.

Plane surveying involves gathering geo-spatial information (information about various features with respect to their location on the surface of the Earth), without considering geodetic aspects. This means plane surveying is usually done over a much smaller area, such as finding and determining the correct location of the boundaries of an individual property.

Other examples of plane surveying could be road construction, power line construction and surveys for oil and gas wells and pipelines. There are numerous geomatics opportunities for plane surveying not only all over Canada, but all over the entire world. Potential employers for geomatics students interested in plan surveying would be a variety of private surveying companies and the government.

Geomatics thoroughly involves gathering information about land and individual properties, such as their locations, the owners, the boundaries and additional interests in the land. Land administration, including both formal and informal property systems, includes the transferring of ownership of land, the regulation of property development, the sustainable use of land and resolving current or potential conflicts regarding the rightful ownership of land.

Geomatics engineers are thoroughly involved with land administration and management and current and past professors in the GGE department at UNB have been extensively involved with the creation of land information systems in a variety of countries. Potential employers for students and graduates involved with land administration and management include private companies, the government and a variety of national and international organizations.

Photogrammetry is the science, art and technology of obtaining reliable information from photographs. By analyzing aerial photographs and electromagnetic images, reliable characteristics of objects on the ground can be obtained. The most common purposes of collecting information by using photogrammetric methods are for topographic mapping, land inventory and terrain modeling.

Photogrammetry can be used to create 3 dimensional models of the surface of the Earth and can be used to obtain information about ground elevations of certain features. Geomatics engineers gather, store, analyze, manipulate and display information gathered from photogrammetry so it can be easily understood by other professionals. Potential employers of geomatics students and graduates interested in photogrammetry are numerous private companies, the government and national and international mapping organizations.

Geodesy is the science of determining the geometry (size and shape) and the gravity field of the Earth, and monitoring their temporal variations. Geodetic engineering utilizes the principles of geodesy to solve needs that range from industrial requirements to Earth sciences. For many positioning applications, the curvature of the Earth can be ignored when calculating positions. For applications requiring the highest accuracy, geodetic principles must be taken into.

Geodetic surveying makes use of networks to establish coordinate referencing systems, which are the foundation of any spatial positioning. Property boundaries, maps and construction projects are a few examples of things in our daily lives that rely upon coordinate referencing systems. One can imagine the consequences of a skyscraper being mistakenly constructed on the wrong property or an airplane missing a runway due to an unreliable coordinate system. Potential employers for geomatics students and graduates interested in geodetic surveying would be various private companies, the government and national and international organizations.