Daily Archives: February 4, 2011

Mobile LiDAR – standing out in the crowd

Allpoint attended the 90th TRB Annual Meeting last week in Washington D.C. where two (2) workshop sessions – out of a total of 650  – focused on mobile mapping and LiDAR applications in transportation.

While two sessions may not seem like much, this is a massive transportation conference that covers a broad range of subjects from bridge construction to roadway safety design to asphalt density protocols.

The fact that the conference dedicated a series of two 3-hour workshops speaks to the advancement of mobile terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) as a viable remote sensing application.

In addition to these workshops, we also had an excellent opportunity to meet and speak directly with a number of experienced LiDAR mapping and survey professionals.  I left DC with this thought:  the 3D mobile mapping industry doesn’t quite stand out from the crowd, … just yet.  But it’s close to doing so.

Please do not misunderstand, the benefits of mobile TLS are well known among survey professionals.  Presenters from HNTB, Earth Eye, Texas DOT, Wisconsin DOT, Mandli Communications, Optech, GeoCue, SAM Inc., and McKim & Creed all properly outlined the benefits of mobile TLS:  increased safety, reduced or eliminated lane closures, cost savings of up to 35%, updated asset inventories or GIS systems, and reusable data sets.

However, what we learned in our own conversations with presenters and attendees is that beyond surveyors, the upside of 3D mapping and survey isn’t fully appreciated.  Quite simply, it’s not mainstream enough to grab the attention of managers, engineers, consultants, and contractors who are preoccupied with bridge design, safety or asphalt protocols.

Thus, in addition to addressing the common challenges industries face while moving from innovation to growth to maturity (see: Industry Life Cycle)  – challenges such as the need for standards, best practices, consistent output, verifiable accuracies, scalable workflow automation and scalable IT solutions –  survey professionals are also burdened with educating downstream stakeholders.

One surveyor told me the typical response from other departments within their organization when they introduce a scanning project is, “that’s cool.  But I have too much work to do, and I don’t see why this will help me.”  Of course, mobile scanning is safer and saves time and money for the surveyor.  But how can these benefits become better understood to all areas of an engineering organization?

Allpoint has some ideas on how tools for large-scale processing, simple 3D demonstration and reuse of LiDAR data sets can address these issues.  In fact, we are presenting our thoughts this coming week in New Orleans.

Maybe this will help us all stand out a little bit more.

Let us know your thoughts or contact us directly.

Joel Reed, President