The United States survey foot is being retired

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have announced today that the United States Survey Foot (sft)will be retired beginning in 2023 and officially replaced by the international foot (ift) "to reduce surveying errors that can cost money" and also align with NOAA's goal to become modernized with the National Spatial Reference System (NSRS).

In the announcement by NOAA, Juliana Blackwell, who is the director of NOAA's National Geodetic Survey said,

Officially retiring one of these measurements will reduce accidental confusion in engineering, surveying, mapping, agriculture, and other industries that depend on accurate positioning.”

While the difference between the two types of feet is small, over a long distance, the difference between them can become a much bigger issue when it begins to add up to several feet. The difference between the two survey feet comes from the U.S. survey foot in meters being expressed as a fraction, 1200/3937 meters (0.30480060096 meters), while the international foot is instead expressed as an exact decimal, 0.3048 meters. Again, this very small number is not something the average person will notice in their average day-to-day use on a small scale, but when compounded over a larger distance could have big implications when it comes to the accurate measurement for a coordinate point or distance which are used daily by engineers, surveyors, the agricultural community, and several other industries all across the world.

Our vision at NOAA's National Geodetic Survey is that everyone accurately knows where they are and where other things are at all times and in all places.

- Brett Howe, NGS geodetic services division chief

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