What’s a Pole?

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A range post, also known as a trim post, is a post with alternating stripes of different colors used for site measurements. Surveyors use it to calculate angles, elevations, and distances. It can be made of wood, metal, fiberglass, or composite material and may be equipped with GPS hardware. The post is typically 8 feet long and 0.5 to 1 inch in diameter, with a common strip width of 1 foot.

A range post, which may also be called a trim post, is a post painted with alternating stripes of different colors in consistent widths often used for site measurements. The tool may be common for surveyors, where the colors for the stripes are usually red and white or red and yellow. Colors are chosen based on their visibility. One end of the post will typically have a pointed spike or gripping shoe to help keep it standing on the edge. Long-range poles can be equipped with a tripod or a stand.

In typical use by a surveyor, the range post may be driven into the ground or held in place on a point, often by an assistant. The surveyor then observes the pile through a surveying instrument. The most common reasons the range pole is employed are to calculate unknown angles, elevations and distances with the aid of other equipment. The surveyor notes where a distance point falls between consistently spaced strips on the post, and plugging this information and the known distance from the distance post into a formula can calculate unknown measurements.

Some poles in the modern range may be equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) hardware. If so, the pole acts as an antenna for the GPS unit, with the receiver at the top. These GPS antenna poles allow for greater accuracy in tracking. Some versions of the poles in the modern range are also telescopic.

The range pole can be made of wood, metal, fiberglass, or any composite material, but a rigid material that resists bending is ideal. In some applications, however, non-conductive materials may be preferred for safety reasons. Strong materials that can be easily manufactured as pipes are suitable for telescopic poles. Even if the post itself is made of another material, a common choice for the pointed tip is metal, as it may be easier to drive into the ground and is unlikely to wear down as quickly as other materials.

Regular range poles are commonly 8 feet (about 2.4 meters) long and 0.5 to 1 inch (about 1.25 to 2.5 cm) in diameter. Collapsible poles vary in length, but can extend beyond 20 feet (about 6 meters), with the longer poles intended for use with GPS units. The increased length allows the antenna masts to extend the GPS unit over potential obstacles, such as trees. A common width for strips is 1 foot (about 30.5cm).

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