Beyond Visual Line of Sight

As with any new technology it always seems that there is a “holy grail” that if achieved would unleash its true potential. In the case of UAVs it is BVLOS – beyond visual line of sight operations. This would open up the industry to a whole new level of applications, professionalism and opportunity.

In order for BVLOS to become a reality a number of systems have to be put in place. One of the more important of these is air traffic management. Altavian, Inc. announced today that it is working with Northern Plains UAS Test Site (NPUASTS) to help test NASA’s Unmanned aircraft systems Traffic Management (UTM) system. Altavian and NPUASTS will work to develop technology related to UTM while a third partner, iSight RPV Services will provide flight test services for the project on the Nova F7200 small unmanned aerial system (sUAS).

NASA has been working with technology leaders in the sUAS industry to develop a UTM system that can help safely integrate drones into the national air space. A UTM is considered an integral part to regulating drones on a national level, as well as beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations.

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Mobile Data Made Easy

Unlocking the information value of mobile scan and image data for everyone in a large organization like a transportation agency is the goal of the Leica GeoSystems Pegasus:WebViewer.

The Pegasus:WebViewer is the new web browser independent data sharing platform for mobile mapping data captured with Leica Geosystems mobile sensor platforms. With easy access to this cloud-based software, you can now view and share your data at anytime from anywhere, enabling faster visualization, delivery and invoicing of your captured data through cloud storage.

The Pegasus:WebViewer allows point cloud renderings in any browser without the need to install additional plug-ins. The seamless 360° images and frame imagery can be visualized, calibrated with the point cloud and can be used either for navigation or for measurement.

Storing the data in the cloud on the WebViewer server provides data security through user selected security profiles administered at the WebViewer server. You control who can access which data and at what level of access.

The WebViewer has four major components – Publisher, Administration, Viewer and SDK/API. The Publisher allows you to create the database from the mobile collected data and the back end Administrator enforces the access and user controls. The Viewer is very powerful, yet easy to use even from your smart phone. It supports spatial/time queries, on screen measurements and is browser independent. The views can be selected to display all combinations of map, point cloud and imagery.

The SDK/API lets developers incorporate the geodatabase of imagery and point clouds all managed in the cloud freeing third party developers to concentrate on the applications they specialize in.

If you are looking for a software environment that allows you to leverage your investment in mobile data by making it easily accessible to everyone in your organization you need to take a look at the Leica GeoSystems Pegasus:WebViewer. Seeing is believing.

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Digital Preservation in the Philippines

Photo courtesy of Ponzi Alampay

With 53 volcanoes the Philippines are a significant part of the the Pacific Ring of Fire. In addition to this threat they must also deal with cyclones and earthquakes on a regular basis.

In October of 2013 a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Bohol leaving centuries-old churches in rubble, with only postcards and photographs left to remember them by.

To keep the same from happening to other historical structures, 3D technology specialists DigiScript Philippines is using 3D laser scanning to document UNESCO World Heritage Sites so they can be restored faithfully should disaster strike again.

The firm’s project with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) covers the four Baroque churches constructed during the Spanish colonial period: Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte, Sta. Maria Church in Ilocos Sur, San Agustin Church in Intramuros, and Miagao Church in Iloilo.

The Spanish colonial town of Vigan, particularly the Vigan Cathedal, Simbaan a Basit, and the Archbishop’s Palace, are also being scanned.

“You just feel wow, this has been here for generations. But you also feel proud also that you’re doing your part in helping preserve part of history, and help preserve it for future generations,” Ponzi Alampay, President of the firm said. “We want to push that advocacy even more, or that awareness even more.”

The project began in May last year and is set to wrap up in March of this year.

Click here for more information.

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Data Capture with Smart Phones

UK – based Bluesky is reporting impressive results from their use of smart phones to collect and calibrate video footage which is then converted to highly accurate 3D information.

During the project, Bluesky tested a number of hardware, software and deployment options. These included the use of aerial photography to add control points to the video footage. As the project progressed, it was established that in remote areas there were insufficient features, for example road markings, lamp posts or buildings, to establish the required control. Bluesky therefore developed alternative innovative methodologies including the use of a calibration object or the measurement of a feature within the imagery.

Working alongside project partner ADAS, Bluesky also undertook rigorous testing of the solution establishing and documenting the field data capture process, identifying minimum hardware requirements, such as camera pixel capacity, and additional developments to the data delivery mechanism. Following minor enhancements and additional trials Bluesky hopes to launch the mobile phone mapping tool, complete with data processing and hosting services, in Q2 2018.

This can be a game changer.

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Ranking Automated Driving Systems

Consulting firm Navigant Research recently released a report ranking the automobile vendors automated driving systems. As you can see there are some surprising results.

Given their resources you might expect Ford, Daimler, VW and GM to be near the top, but in second place is Google’s Waymo. Not bad for a search engine company.

The report notes, “…it has become increasingly clear that mobility as a service will be the primary means of deploying automated vehicles, particularly in the early years of commercialization.”

I guess the marketplace is not buying Elon Musk’s story on lidar being a crutch as Tesla finds itself in last place by what appears to be a considerable margin over Uber and Apple.

 

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Lidar More Important Than GPS

Looking back to the early 90’s  it is hard not to rank GPS in the top five technologies especially in  terms of its impact on the average consumer. The Internet would have to be at the top of the list, but GPS would not be far behind.

Knowing one’s location anywhere in the world is a mighty valuable piece of information, but having a sensor that can “see” is even more interesting. One major drawback with GPS is the requirement of line of sight to the satellites. This rules out the use of GPS in a number of situations, like cities and indoors. Not so with lidar, although there are environmental factors that can limit lidar’s use on a temporary basis.

Today, the top technological megatrends in society would have to include the Internet of Things, smart cities and autonomous vehicles. With the exception of Elon Musk,  lidar is being relied upon as a foundation technology in the development of consumer facing applications like driverless trucks. The other day I heard a VC on a financial show talking about the importance of lidar.

Assuming the mass production of low cost, solid state lidar sensors are just around the corner, in much the same way that GPS was commercialized , lidar is destined to become more important than GPS in the next five years.

Posted in 3D Modeling, Consumer, Digital Transformation, Technology | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Waymo and Uber Settle

After five days in court the two sides in the Waymo vs. Uber lawsuit have to the surprise of many in the court room decided to settle. As a result, Uber agrees not use Waymo’s technology and to pay out a $235 million dollar settlement in the form of a 0.34 percent equity stake in Uber, worth roughly $245 million – along way from the $1 billion originally sought. That means Waymo is invested in Uber’s future – go figure. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Uber continues to maintain that its sensors are unique and that it has not used any of Waymo’s trade secrets. The judge dismissed the case calling it “ancient history.” Uber sees it as a big win as it clears the air for the upcoming public offering.

 

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Musk Says Lidar is a Crutch

In a recent earnings call with investors Elon Musk renewed his stand against the use of lidar in autonomous vehicles, at least in the case of Tesla automobiles. Musk has long argued that LIDAR is too expensive and too bulky for Tesla’s vehicles. He defended Tesla’s strategy of achieving “full autonomy” using only cameras, radar, and ultrasonic sensors.

“In my view, it’s a crutch that will drive companies to a local maximum (?) that they will find very hard to get out of,” Musk said. He added, “Perhaps I am wrong, and I will look like a fool. But I am quite certain that I am not.”

Musk says Tesla is working on a much bigger problem: passive optical recognition. This is why Tesla is banking on cameras as the key sensor component. With their ever-increasing pixel resolution and the low-price point, camera sensors are seen as indispensable for advanced driver assistance systems (like Tesla’s Autopilot) and fully autonomous systems. For Tesla, cameras are the key.

Musk said he found it “quite puzzling” that so many companies relied on LIDAR to help their cars “see.” As evidence, Tesla ranked last in a recent scorecard of the 19 companies developing self-driving cars. Analysts noted that even Tesla’s own suppliers like Nvidia have expressed doubt that the computing hardware it sells to Tesla is capable of supporting full automation reliably.

This could all become a moot point if Musk does not begin to deliver on his production promises for Tesla.

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In the Scan Anniversary

My son reminded me last week that it was just a short nine years ago this month that I started the In the Scan blog. I am closing in on 3,000 posts.  This eventually led to Lidar News and as they say the rest is history.

Many thanks to all of the readers and vendors over the years and also to my family for their support.

Here’s a link to the first post and to another nine – at least.

Posted in Business Development, Marketing, The Industry | Tagged | 3 Comments

Leica Geosystems is Listening to Customers

It’s one thing to claim that you are listening, but it’s another to make the investment and deliver the features that truly make a difference to customers. Sometimes these enhancements can appear to be “little things”, but they can turn out to significantly improve productivity and adoption, particularly when you are trying to democratize the use of 3D information in large organizations like a DOT.

A number of the new features seen in the just announced Leica Geosystems Pegasus:Two Ultimate are the result of listening to customers, combined with technical vision and expertise.

For instance, to correct the distorted images that come from six camera, 360 degree configurations the new Pegasus:Two is using just two back-to-back, fish eye cameras that produce seamless, stitchless imagery that is calibrated to the lidar point cloud. They have also chosen to focus on dynamic range rather than the number of pixels allowing the cameras to work in a number of demanding lighting conditions.

The Pegasus:Two has a number of additional upgrades including a removal hard drive with a USB 3.0 interface, new post processing software that features the Leica Pegasus Webviewer – an online platform that visualizes all captured data from any browser, four additional sensor ports, and on-board JPEG compression.

I am going to get a demonstration of the software next week and will report back.

Posted in 3D Modeling, Data, intelligent cities, Mapping, Mobile LiDAR, Sensors, smart cities | Tagged , | Leave a comment