Monday, April 27, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Mobile LiDAR Operator - Introduction

Within the Mobile LiDAR profession we sometimes have to step back and reassess our assumptions of our audience’s understanding of the technology. Since we work with it every day, it’s easy forget that even after nearly 6 years of mainstream use, most people have no idea what the equipment is, nor how it works. Frankly, it’s not too surprising to me, because before I started with Baker a year ago, I was in with the majority of the population – no idea this amazing technology was in use, let alone having an industry pioneer right here in my home State of Mississippi.

Mobile LiDAR Vehicle in Utah
The view from the passenger seat of our legacy Mobile LiDAR unit while in Utah.
As a Michael Baker Mobile LiDAR operator I came to realize fairly early in my career that this is not an ordinary job. I have driven all across this beautiful country - from coast to coast, and points in between. Some of you are probably thinking that all that driving has to be sheer torture - but I actually enjoy it. I see it as a prime opportunity to travel this great country. I get to see new places, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that I get paid to do it.

If you’re a follower of Michael Baker’s various Mobile LiDAR social media sites, you've already seen some of my travels on Instagram. Now that I've got my first blog posting under my belt, I’m going to take this opportunity and run with it. I’m working on an upcoming series of posts in which I hope to share with you aspects of a day in the life of a Mobile LiDAR operator. I think it’s worthy to dispel some of the misconceptions about what we do - because after all, we don’t just “push a button and drive”.


Clark Jackson is a lead operator with Michael Baker International's Mobile LiDAR team.  He joined Baker in 2014 after earning a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering Technology from Mississippi State University. Clark will be providing further postings from the operator's perspective and sharing insights on his roles and responsibilities.

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.