Monday, September 12, 2011

Mobile LiDAR: Law #8

Today’s best practices will be tomorrow’s old habits.

We hear a lot about “Best Practices;” but first off, let me say that I’m not a fan. Context, culture, and regulations dictate our practices. What equals success in one market may not work in another. And not all locations are created equal. So, for most purposes the terms, “good practices”, “suitable practices” or “useful practices” make more sense to me.

So what makes a good/suitable/useful practice…a so-called best practice? Since bottom-line is critical in business, any best practice must be measurable and must contribute to the bottom line. If a practice isn’t cost effective, it isn’t going to happen. Systems must support change in practice, and processes must allow for interaction between the users and the implementers.

Being a relatively new technology, change in Mobile LiDAR is rapid. So while the technology is cutting edge, the processes for developing our LiDAR projects ought to be our old habits. Today, they represent good/suitable/useful practices…the so-called best practice.
  • Plan, Plan, Plan – You’ve heard about GIGO: Garbage in Garbage out. It’s as true in Mobile LiDAR as in any other project type. To avoid GIGO, getting ready for the project is as important as the actual work that follows. (See Project Planning - GPS post)  Identify all state and other relevant agency specifications and project coordinate systems. Develop a mission plan for data collection. Perform system calibration, reconnoiter geodetic control for SBET processing and establish necessary survey control necessary post processing of LiDAR data. 
  • Get the Data – Set up base stations on geodetic control.  Collect the GPS and Mobile LiDAR data . Perform preliminary data processing, including data extractions and SBET creation; and finally, generate the point-cloud. 
  • Process Data – Transform, tile and classify point data. Produce intensity images. Make various extractions. 
  • Develop the Product(s) – Digital Elevation Models (DEM's), Triangulated Irregular Networks (TIN's), contours, breaklines and detailed planimetrics. Generate tile and project level-set metadata. 
  • QA/QC – Don’t treat QA/QC as a final step. Incorporate it in every instance. 

You’ll definitely get the best product with these best practices.


Donna Kristaponis is GIT Operations Manager for our Reno, NV office. She and other managers within Baker's GIT Service Area will be providing guest postings over the coming weeks.

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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.