Thursday, February 15, 2018

Throwback Thursday

Throwback to the December 1957 edition of Photogrammetric Engineering Journal.  Although we’ve grown out of our original digs in Rochester, PA and Jackson, MS, these offices live on with our Mobile LiDAR team in neighboring Moon Township, PA and Ridgeland, MS respectively.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mobile LiDAR and the Smart City

Lately we’ve been considering our Mobile LiDAR Data activities under a different light so to speak. In a word, LiDAR. We get to see our world quite differently through the vast amounts of LiDAR and
imagery we collect performing very large urban projects. I was recently at the DistribuTECH 2018 conference to better understand how utilities with electric and/or broadband services are considering and reacting to technological, economic and societal implications of a Smart City.

Development of a Smart City affects nearly all systems comprising a City’s infrastructure. An electric grid’s smart meter system and grid improvements are fully functional with 5G capabilities. Fiber and wireless networks are implemented to carry present and future data from many connected-systems. Smart technology enables real-time diagnostics and management of: utilities; aviation, automotive, commuter rail and other vessels or vehicles comprising intelligent transportation systems; and government facilities and services, health services and activities, and first responder functions. Entertainment and recreation services, domicile and commercial facilities, and consumer-driven information demands are all connected.  Web-browsing, texts, voice, machine data, automatous things, and pictures or video are transmitted at speeds of 1Gbps to 10Gbps or more with 5G.

Many Smart City displays were at DistribuTECH 2018. The photo of an AT&T kiosk shows a 3D city-street model with conceptual graphic trajectories of many smart devices communicating wirelessly to their antennas. This sort of 3D analysis is necessary for wireless propagation modeling for placing microcell and small antennas. Mobile LiDAR is a perfect solution for data needed in 3D modeling and analysis, and for preparation of design, construction and permitting data.

Michael Baker extracts many forms of utility and roadway network details from our LiDAR point clouds and exports data directly into utility pole analysis, as well as various CAD, GIS and Asset Management applications. We also collect and model aerial electrical distribution and meter services. We measure anything attached to the pole or visible on the ground like road and sidewalk conditions, curbs and gutters, signage or pavement markings, or other visible utilities in the right-of-way. This data is used in planning and designing the many networks to serve a community.

Stopping to overlook our Bay Area collection.
Michael Baker’s Mobile LiDAR vehicles have recently collected over 7,000 miles of roadway corridor covering nearly 3.5 Million metropolitan residents in the largest cities across the United States. Terrestrial-mobile LiDAR and spherical imagery is used to update maps, GIS data and 3D models to understand a city’s in situ conditions to support design and construction permitting. However, the same data can be used for a multitude of other societal purposes such as the implementation of complete streets, local transit planning, ADA compliance or similar programs.

Ultimately the collected LiDAR data helps serve a community with improved utility networks and other infrastructure. By using LiDAR, cities are creating better, safer, healthier communities in which to live and work. Better planning, design and construction is a great outcome. It’s smart, too.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Picture of the Week

One project includes over 4.3 million pictures and
consumes more than 13 TB of disk space.
Michael Baker utilizes Orbit GT software to deliver Mobile LiDAR point cloud data and imagery to each of our clients. Our use of Orbit is highlighted in our As Seen on TV post from last September. Typically, one of the first steps in our processing workflow is to extract the spherical imagery and publish through our online portal.

We have numerous projects served up through our BEAST platform and encompasses tens of millions of pictures. These images provide a means for processing, data validation and visualization.

Orbit Publisher provides a framework for serving content to our clients without their requirement of having infrastructure to support Big Data.

The map image shows all of the collected routes in blue.  The images at right show 3 different panoramic images captured.


Friday, March 3, 2017

In the News...

Michael Baker's very own Kevin Pomaski (UAS Services Director), is highlighted in a recent Nevada DOT video discussing the deployment of UAS to perform emergency assessments of road damage due to recent flooding.


The imagery captured during the collection was converted into colorized point clouds during post-processing. We have published them using Potree. (The interactive point cloud is supported in Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.)



Thursday, January 12, 2017

FAA Part 107 Certification

Jack King flying one of Michael Baker's practice sUAS's.
We continuously strive to be at the forefront of assessing innovative and emerging technologies in a deliberate effort to add value and efficiency for ourselves and our clients. In this quest, our GIT National Practice Lead – Bob Hanson, recognized the potential of small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS), and established us as an early-adopter over two years ago. Today, we now have a fleet of sUAS fixed-wing and VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) aircraft, capable of a multitude of different and challenging types of projects, and over a dozen FAA certified pilots across the country.

How did I fit in to all of this?
Through persistence, I was selected from a number of prospective pilots across our company to achieve our long-term goal of equipping each of our Mobile LiDAR systems with its own sUAS. To accomplish this, we need certified and highly trained operators as part of each Mobile LiDAR crew. With limited knowledge and experience with sUAS, it quickly dawned on me during my research just how large this emerging industry is. From the many different manufacturers, types of aircraft, specialized applications, and even down to the certification process; it is a daunting arena to dive in to head first. First things first though:


As with every other aspect within our LiDAR Center of Excellence (the Center), our goal is to be the safest and most highly trained team available to prospective clients. Late last year, the FAA made sweeping changes to its UAS regulations, opening accessible avenues for pilot registration and certification. For the Center, it meant the ability to expand our sUAS team beyond our 12 FAA-licensed pilots to now incorporate UAS pilots that could pass the newly-established FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot – sUAS test…specifically, yours truly.

Preparing for the FAA certification test was unlike any test I’d have ever taken before. In small part from being new to virtually everything I encountered, but mainly due to the sheer volume of material I had to sift through. There are multiple FAA approved study guides and materials available (totaling over 2,000 + pages). Needless to say, a lot of couch time, late nights, and short weekends. For several weeks, careful to not impede on my normal workload; I studied, researched, analyzed and deciphered the seemingly never ending pages of charts, maps, graphs, etc. All in all, the FAA put together a rather useful training guide, if not just a little hefty in size.

Test Day:
Here in Jackson, MS we are lucky enough to have a FAA testing center right down the road at a local community college. The test itself is rather meek compared to the study materials, a mere 60 questions – no room for mental lapses. I anxiously started, and quickly realized they spared no expense to provide a well-rounded and challenging gauntlet of questions. The variety of sectional charts and graphs were more than enough to cause a few hair pulling moments, but I got through it in what I hoped were flying colors. After finishing, the “instant” results of the computer’s computations felt like an eternity. For all of my worrying and hard fought studying, there it was…a passing score!

What’s next?:
Just having my certification does not mean that I am ready for TopGun with Tom Cruise (although call signs might be a cool addition). In a commercial environment liability is king, and all of our pilots need many hours in the air to learn our equipment, its performance and limitations, as well as our own. A series of training modules and training seminars have been set up by our own Kevin Pomaski, to ensure all of our operators and pilots achieve the highest level of proficiency in our sUAS operation. As with any well-built structure, it starts from the bottom. With the right foundation put in place, the limits of our sUAS operation are boundless…and I’m thrilled to be part of it!


Jack King is a Senior Mobile LiDAR operator with Michael Baker International's Mobile LiDAR Center of Excellence. He has racked up more miles and projects than any other operator and can now add more flight time than any other operator to his credentials!