Is there any equipment that I can rent 'inexpensively' (less than $400) that would allow 1-2 people to accurately (+/- 6") capture the topography of hilly terrain of perhaps 250' on a side in an afternoon?
My wife and I are about to embark upon a redesign of the landscape around our home in the mountains. Our lot started out on what's generally a 1:3 slope, and this has (of course) been changed in many interesting ways during building. There are small hills, patios, semi-flattened areas followed by large falloffs.
As part of our designing, we want to capture exactly what the landscape looks like now, digitally. (Then we'll sculpt in the computer what we want, taking into account existing boundaries and surrounding contours, and see roughly how much dirt we need or will need to remove.)
We performed a "ghetto" survey this weekend with strings and poles, roughly sampling a grid of elevations every 10'. The results we got produced a reasonable-looking representation of the terrain. However, the 10' sampling was a bit too coarse for my tastes and—more importantly—we were only able to sample about 1/4 of the area we need before our measuring poles weren't tall enough or we ran out of reference objects.
So... What hardware exists that I can rent to make this task easier? Ideally, I'd like to take a pole, walk all over the property, and every few feet stick it on the ground, press a button, hear it go "beep!" and have it record an XYZ sample that is accurate within +/- 6". After doing this for a couple hours I'd plug it into the computer and download some DEM, CSV, or other accessible data of all the points in a non-proprietary format.
It looks like Trimble offers some neat gadgets in this arena, and I see that some companies rent this sort of gear out, but as I'm not a landscape survey engineer professional, I cannot figure out exactly which, if any, products meet my needs.
Can someone who knows this product space please help suggest what I should be looking for?