Friday, October 14, 2016

Cultivating Excellence: Mobile LiDAR Operator Training

Base station setup, now admiring the view.
My time here at Michael Baker International has been busy to say the least. To some that would be a problem or cause for concern while working at their first professional job. For Michael Baker employees, especially those within the Mobile LiDAR Center of Excellence, it is viewed as a primary, positive element of our work. To be perfectly honest, being very busy is viewed as our normal way of life. The influx of new work over the past several years has pushed us to capacity and sometimes we can feel a bit overwhelmed with the demands for our work. However, each and every time we work on a project we have found a way to meet and exceed our client’s expectations. Our ability to meet new challenges head on and rise above it is what sets Michael Baker’s Mobile LiDAR operations apart.

Success is not given for us, it is earned. For all of my team members in the LiDAR Center our success begins through the deployment of one or more of our Mobile LiDAR vehicles. Training new Mobile LiDAR operators is the most important aspect of the LiDAR Center’s daily successes. We have a saying within the LiDAR Center: “Our operators are the ones that actually drive our business.”

Our driver/operators are the tip of the spear for all of our Mobile LiDAR projects. With our increased work load, hiring and training operators has been paramount in recent months. These vehicles carry the LiDAR systems that create vast amounts of data. Effective field operations are the base of our entire operation. Without quality data every second of every day, a ripple effect is made all the way down the project’s product line.

Training begins typically on the new hire’s first day, with a multitude of training manuals, power points, and videos. Safety is our first priority in all our training. As Senior Operator, my job is to ensure our new hires know how to be safe while performing their work and flawlessly conduct every aspect of our collection tasks with our systems. All of this must be learned before they get in a Mobile LiDAR vehicle. It will take weeks to fully break down all of the necessary information presented to them. As we like to say, “It’s more than just pushing a button and driving.” Learning takes time and attention to all details. With daily experience they gain tremendous proficiency.

All aspects of our Lynx SG-1 system are introduced to them, from basic start up and operation, to troubleshooting and diagnosis. They learn how to adjust and calibrate the system, modify existing set ups to accommodate different equipment requirements, calculate scale factor, GNSS Azimuth Measurement Subsystem (GAMS) solution, etc. all in a short period of time. (If you wish to learn more about GAMS read an article written for LiDAR Magazine by our Stephen Clancy that may help you better understand the concepts and techniques for deriving positions from the equipment and software associated with Mobile LiDAR systems.)

Training will continue even after new operators have gleaned all they can out of their training manuals. Being in a Mobile LiDAR truck and performing a collection is an entirely different animal than being in a classroom. Weather, traffic, and unforeseen circumstances (such as other’s accidents/construction) can all play an integral role on a collection’s actual performance. It is the operator’s responsibility to not only determine the collection route within the designated collection area, but plan and assess all other extenuating circumstances that may impact the project’s requirements. The operator must be mindful of state and local laws, Michael Baker’s own safety rules and guidelines and staying within the designated project’s required accuracy and information specifications. Once a new operator has a few successful collections under his or her belt, they are fully integrated with collection planning, extraction and post processing of data including Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS) data retrieval among other processing demands.

A Mobile LiDAR operator’s training is never fully complete. After two years of field experience I still find myself learning something new to share with others on our team each and every day. With constantly updated software, new, dynamic projects and the evolving LiDAR technology we adapt to such demands to keep abreast with application of this technology. Our work produces exciting new challenges every day. We will continue to meet and exceed our client’s expectations with exemplary collection practices and high quality data. With the proper training, order of operations, superior support staff and our senior leadership our operators will continue to excel both in and out of the trucks.


Jack King is 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 error handle with the best attitude and composure imaginable!

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't have said it better myself. It is an honor to be a part of such an interesting and dynamic team. Cheers from NJ.