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# Theory of Measurements and

Errors
Before coming to the lecture, review the
Probability concepts you learned earlier.
Required readings: 3-1 to 3-15, 3-17.
Required Figures: 3-1 to 3-6
Required Examples: 3-2 to 3-6
Introduction
Measurements are never exact and will always contain
errors.
Units of Linear Measurements:
Metric, or international System of Units (SI)
English, used only in the US, Burma, and Liberia. Two
definition of ft:
US survey foot = 0.3048006 m
International foot = 0.3048 m
All surveys before 1959, as well as some states today, use
the US survey foot.
The US is changing to the metric system.
Errors
Any measurement includes errors, we can never
find the true value, we can find the best estimate of
the measured quantity.
Types of Errors:
1. Gross Errors (Mistakes): Large amounts, easy to
find, must be eliminated before adjustment.
2. Systematic errors: Follow a mathematical
function, can usually be checked and adjusted,
and tend to maintain same sign
3. Random Errors: remains after eliminating
gross and systematic errors. Impossible to
compute or eliminate. They follow the
probability laws, so they can be adjusted
Their signs are not constant. Present in all
surveying measurements. More
observations result in a better estimate of
them.
Precision and Accuracy
Precision: the degree of consistency of a group of
measurements
Accuracy: The absolute nearness of measured
quantities to their true values.
The shooting example, Figure 3-1.
Measurements are repeated to a maximum of 16
times, good observations are both precise and
accurate.
Can we measure accuracy?
Probability
Error analysis involve random errors only.
Random errors occurrence is governed by
the probability laws, as any random
phenomena.
The most probable value of a single
quantity observed many times under the
same condition is the mean
M =
E
O
i
n
Residuals: the difference between any observation and its most
probable value: v
i
= M - O
i
Error Distribution
Random errors are randomly distributed, a bell shape
distribution that is approximated by the probability curve.
Consider tables 3-1 and 3-23-3 and 3-4 for definition of
histogram, frequency polygon, and normal distribution
curve.
General Laws of Probability:
small errors occur more often than large ones
Positive and negative errors of the same size happen
with equal frequency, they are equally probable. That is
why the mean is the most probable value.
Measures of Precision
standard deviation is the most frequently used
measure of precision. The less precise the
observations are, the larger the standard deviation
becomes

The standard deviation is the inflection point of the
curve, it represents how much the observations are
close to each other.
It has a probability of 68.27. That means 68.27 of
the observations will be in the range of o.
o =

2
1
v
n
Error Propagation
To compute the standard deviation of a quantity
Azimuth, etc.
How the errors accumulate from the measured
quantities to the computed quantity?
The problem: given the standard deviation of
measured observations and a mathematical model
to compute a certain quantity, what is the standard
deviation of the computed quantity?
General Law of Error
propagation
if u = f(x
1
, x
2
, x
3
, , x
n
)
then
o
u
2
=
o
c
c
o
c
c
o
c
c
n
n
x
.....
x x
x
f
x
f
x
f
2
2
2
2
2
2
1
2
1
2
|
.
|

\
|
|
.
|

\
|
|
.
|

\
|
+ + +
Mathematical Models
Area
A = L * W then: X
1
= L and X
2
= W