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The Joy of Getting Back on The Tools for a Brief Time

The survey dream

When Dave Field and myself established the Australasian survey division of iXblue over 11 years ago, we assumed that we would spend much of our time at sea playing on boats and surveying the world.

As with most things in life, our plans and visions for the future have not always played out the way we first thought it would.

Without speaking for Dave, the opportunity to follow on from my survey days with the Royal Australian Navy and continue to survey on a smaller scale, was very attractive.

I have always loved the sea, loved working on ships with great people and loved the fact that hydrographic surveying is a valuable and worthwhile contribution to the nation.  It was hard to imagine a better way to earn a dollar and support a young family.  I was very lucky, I knew it and I didn’t want it to end.

The business management reality

With the formation of the iXblue survey business in late 2007, it soon became apparent that my initial dream was not the same as reality.  Even though we have been successful financially, running the business brings a lot more responsibilities and new tasks, than I had ever thought about.  Things alien to me, like promoting the business, winning work, and staying in regular contact with clients, suppliers and partners.

Not only that, it soon became apparent that unless one is involved in actively operating todays survey systems’ hardware and software; your skill and knowledge degradation becomes a real issue.  This has certainly been the case with me.

In the last fifteen years I have transitioned from a survey position which required me to “make” things happen, to a position where I sit back and wonder “what” has happened.

Away from the desk, back on the tools

Recently I decided to join the survey team on a project.  For the first time in a long time, there was sufficient bunk space to accommodate an extra body, so I took the opportunity.

We were using a new survey ship for the first time – the 30m SILENT WINGS and we were also trialling the new iXblue Unmanned Survey Vessel – DriX.

For the last week I have found myself back on the tools keeping watches in the survey watchkeeper role.

I was delighted to find that it didn’t take long to pickup where I left off nearly 20 years ago.  It is clear that very little with the front end of surveying has changed in the last 20 years.

What is new for me since I’ve stepped away from the tools, is what the team does with the data once it has been captured.

I stand back and watch in awe as they post process inertial navigation and positional data, generate files in different data formats for various end products, and somehow manage the data being collected from two separate vessels operating on a 24/7 basis.

The technology we are using today and the data that it is capturing is quite incredible.  We are certainly doing the business of survey better and smarter than ever before, and the exciting news is that there is still much that can be improved.

What has not changed though, is the sheer enjoyment and sense of satisfaction of living and working with a team of highly motivated and exceptionally capable people, all working toward a common goal.

I have at least one more week at sea before this year is over and I am going to enjoy every minute of it.

David Donohue

As Managing Director David's role is to ensure clients' surveys are undertaken with precision and to meet budgets, schedules and relevant survey standards. His particular driving passion is innovation and process improvement.

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