Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Controlling the Cloud

Mobile LiDAR data on it's own is not what I would classify as "survey accurate" - being accurate enough to defend (sign and seal) for engineering design or similar services.  The same can be said for any survey instrument because the result depends entirely on the standard of care applied during collection and subsequent processing.  I'm going to provide the 10,000 foot perspective on how we achieve survey accuracies of Mobile LiDAR derived products.

First, let's revisit the blog on Project Planning.  In that posting, I discuss how the GPS solutions we achieve differs throughout the day due to the constant motion of the constellation.  Therefore, if we were to drive the same area twice, we would very likely get different results.  We utilize a process much like Aerotriangulation in Photogrammetry with respect to our individual strips.  The process employs ground control points (measured to a higher level of accuracy or certainty) to tie overlapping strips together.

In the image below, we've color coded the different strips and are depicting the Z/Elevation axis.  The eight strips present a "thickness" both above and below the respective control point.  In this example, the variance between high and low is about 0.25' - or 0.13' above and 0.13' below the control point.


Using tie-lines, our processing staff links the point cloud to the ground control.  The process can also be applied between an adjusted and unadjusted point cloud using "LiDAR identifiable" points (similar to a cloud to cloud registration applied in static scanning).  Below is a screen capture following adjustment. The variance in the cloud is approximately 0.02' - resulting in a highly effective adjustment and providing the foundation for deriving final products.


No matter what we would like to believe, surveying is not absolute.  There are errors, whether systematic or random, in each measurement.  Where the differentiation lies, is in the ability to minimize or effectively eliminate those errors through field collection best practices, processing algorithms and a general appreciation of the work being performed. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Year in Review

It's hard to believe, but yesterday marks the 1st Anniversary of the installation of Baker's LYNX Mobile LiDAR system in Beaver, PA.  Following the build out of the storage drawers and vehicle wrap, we spent the day installing and calibrating the system in addition to running inside to catch up on college football scores. (Revisit our first blog - Day 1: System Install)


Inside the Numbers:
Over the past year, Baker staff have exhibited or presented at a dozen national conferences, more than 30 regional conferences and countless Baker offices, local meetings and user groups.  We have written more than 30 blogs which has attracted over 3,000 visitors and nearly 10,000 page views. Our staff continues to add content and videos on an increasing array of topics.

The Mobile LiDAR unit has performed collections from Pennsylvania on south to Florida; we've collected the Atlantic Ocean in Virgina to the Pacific Ocean in California.  Our collection crew has put more than 30,000 miles on the vehicle and collected about 50 terabytes of data.

Yes, I'm reading instructions - contrary to every other time in history.
We've performed collections along levees, neighborhoods, highways, runways, railways, rivers and beaches. During all of this, I have been the only person who has managed to get the vehicle stuck - once.  And a few months ago, we added the auxiliary vehicle to our fleet increasing our capabilities.

Our Mobile LiDAR team continues to race forward and push the technology.  It is exciting to be a part of the team and work with such dedicated professionals. I'm certainly looking forward to year 2 and what it has in store for us.

Thank you to all that have made this possible.

What is Mobile LiDAR?

Mobile LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) systems are comprised of vehicle-mounted lasers, cameras and GPS/INS navigation systems to capture highly-detailed and accurate three-dimensional (3D) topographic information for surveying and engineering applications. Michael Baker International became an early adopter of Mobile LiDAR technology by acquiring our first system in 2009, with further expansions in 2014 and 2015 that increased our fleet to four (4) Optech Lynx SG1 Mobile LiDAR systems. Over that period our systems have completed more than 300 projects throughout 29 different U.S. States (and multiple countries), and encompassing hundreds of thousands of miles. Our project portfolio includes applications in roadway design, 3D modeling, railroad corridors, signaled intersections, utility infrastructure, asset management, pavement condition assessment and airport infrastructure.