Reality Capture

AdeskAutodesk has coined the phrase “reality capture” to describe all of their technology related to 3D data capture, processing, modeling and much more whether acquired with a scanner or with a camera. The main software platform is ReCap 360 Pro for scan data and Photo, for you guessed it cameras.

The latest version of the software includes auto registration, scan to mesh and intelligent clean up as key features. There is more information in this Product Showcase.


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GNSS and INS Primer

gnssFocusing on mobile mapping applications over the past several months we have looked at what is available regarding the GNSS component. Now it is time to move along to the INS. There seems to be considerable confusion and misunderstanding about the role of GNSS receivers in an INS. By this I mean it is often thought that the two were almost the same or that the GNSS receiver was the more critical part of the INS. The fact is, both are important and without either we are pretty much stuck in the pre-1980’s era. Let’s start by clarifying a few terms.

The GNSS, or Global Navigation Satellite System, is a system of satellites that provide 3D geo-positioning information (e.g. lat., long, elev.). As we have previously noted there are several GNSS working at least in part already. GPS is the most common GNSS and the terms are often used interchangeably in conversation.

The INS, or Inertial Navigation System, uses dead reckoning to compute the position, orientation, and velocity of an object using accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers. The position is relative to some arbitrary starting point. It does not require any external reference. Additionally, the INS is completely passive. It does not require input from any outside source (aside from the natural environment, most notably gravity). Often times, the term IMU – inertial measuring unit is used interchangeably with an INS, as defined.

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Day One at Transportation Asset Management Conference

nvidiaThe first day at the 11th National Conference on Transportation Asset Management kicked off with a number of short keynotes. The most interesting opening comment was that DOTs must look at becoming performance – based organizations, not just implementors of performance – based programs. It has to become the culture of the organization which is a major change in the business model.

It was noted that the final rule for implementing the performance programs required by Map-21 and FAST will be issued this fall. This will provide a lot more detail and drive more investment in asset management including data collection particularly for pavement and bridges.

The conference was organized into 5 tracks which were supported with a number of papers. There were no vendor booths at the event which was a surprise, but it did simplify things. The next conference will be in two years.

Posted in Conferences, Government, Mobile LiDAR, The Industry | Tagged | 1 Comment

Automated Scan Data Processing for Common Design and Construction Challenges

2016_Symposium_Landscape300pxwideThis is a guest blog post from John Russo, AIA and founder of ARC and the USIBD. Thanks John for sharing this valuable information, and if you have an interesting message please contact me at

I think it is pretty safe to say that laser scanning has become widely accepted and is being applied to many different applications in today’s AEC market.  One of the challenges my firm ARC faces working with scan data is the number of different programs and plug-ins needed to process the various deliverables we produce.  Not too long ago we got to the point where it was becoming too costly to support the sheer number of software packages we used.  We made a decision to cut back and focus only on a couple of key programs and abandon the rest.  Overall, it has been a good decision for the company.

Recently, however, I came across a new series of apps by Rithm Software (short for algorithm) that I found to be very useful for automating the processes to produce deliverables from scan data for floor flatness, beam / deck analysis and accessibility applications.  In fact, I’ve found them so valuable ARC has decided to include them in our select list of key programs it works with.

Currently there are three Rithm Apps; 1) Builder, 2) Inspector, and 3) Surveyor.  For the fore-mentioned applications we’ve found the Builder and Inspector apps to be tremendously helpful.

Floor Flatness

Many of the contractors we work for are very interested in floor flatness and floor leveling.  This is one aspect of construction that can have major time and cost implications.  Traditional workflows historically have relied on the dipstick method to verify floor flatness.  While this method has been widely accepted in the industry, the Rithm Inspector App is able to meet both the ASTM 1155 and the American Concrete Institute’s ACI 117 specifications, and yet provide a more thorough analysis based on millions of measured points, not just a select few.

Beam and Deck Analysis

With the Rithm Builder App we’ve been able to easily produce deliverables to allow our contractor clients to quickly analyze concrete and/or steel beam clearances and deck thicknesses.  What would have taken weeks to produce, we’ve been able to produce in just days.


Compliance with ADA and accessible path of travel is not just a code, but a law.  The traditional method of using a smart level to determine slope and cross slope has been used for years, however at best, only a representative handful of readings is practical along the path of travel.  In fact, designers and contractors may believe they are in compliance based on their measurements, but when the inspector comes out to the site they may quickly find the inspector is getting different results.  Having laser scan data to base one’s findings can significantly reduce the risk of non-compliance and provide a repeatable means to show compliance.  The Rithm Inspector App automates finding slope and cross slope along the accessible path of travel from scan data.  I have not seen anything else like it on the market.

The speed and efficiency at which we are able to produce deliverables for some very common design and construction challenges made the Rithm Apps a no-brainer to add to our limited list of key software programs that ARC works with.  I still believe that our decision to work with fewer software packages was a good decision for the company.  However, regardless where you may stand on the number of programs you and your firm work with, if you are looking to automate some very common solutions to many daily challenges faced by the AEC industry today, I highly recommend taking a look at the Rithm suite of products.

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JALBTCX Annual Conference

noaaThe Joint Airborne Lidar Bathymetry Center of Excellence – JALBTCX is hosting their annual conference in Silver Spring, MD July 19 – 21. If you are under the impression that there is not a lot of work being done in this highly specialized field then a look at the agenda should convince you that is not the case.

There are a number of outstanding presenters and topics relating to coastal mapping and charting at this 17th annual conference.

The Joint Airborne Lidar Bathymetry Technical Center of Expertise (JALBTCX) mission is to perform operations, research, and development in airborne lidar bathymetry and complementary technologies to support the coastal mapping and charting requirements of the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the US Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). JALBTCX staff includes engineers, scientists, hydrographers, and technicians from the USACE Mobile District, the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO), the USACE Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), and NOAA National Geodetic Survey.


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A New Method for Road Feature Extraction

caltransThis paper by a team of researchers at the University of New South Wales presents a new framework of road feature extraction from color component–based data fusion of aerial imagery and lidar data. The proposed framework consists of six procedures: (1) removal of elevated objects (e.g., buildings) from lidar data with a flatness index constraint; (2) removal of shadows and vegetation from aerial images using the Otsu segmentation; (3) data fusion of the modified lidar data and aerial images; (4) initial extraction of road features from the fused data; (5) refinement of road features to remove false positives and join up misclosures; and (6) final extraction of road surfaces and centerlines.

A new method is proposed for data fusion of aerial images and lidar data to extract road features by utilizing color components, such as luminance, saturation, and hue, in hue/saturation/intensity and brightness/blue difference/red difference color spaces. A series of refinement processes, including hierarchical median filtering and k-nearest-neighborhood, are implemented to remove open areas (e.g., parking lots) of the road extraction results. A local spatial interpolation method is applied to join up misclosures, and curve fitting is used to obtain accurate road centerlines. The results of tests on sample data sets indicate that the proposed framework performs well, with high accuracy, completeness, and quality.

The approach certainly seems to be interesting. Definitely worth a look.


Posted in 3D Modeling, airborne LiDAR, Research, Software | Tagged , | 2 Comments

RiCOPTER at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg Austria

ricopterI just received a link to the following video from the folks at Riegl. What is impressive to me is that the Riegl RiCOPTER is flying a sophisticated lidar sensor as well as the overall level of integration of the complete system. This package appears ready for production work, albeit in the U.S. it is not going to be able to take full advantage of its potential. We need to get rules for beyond visual line of sight.



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UK’s Environment Agency Makes Lidar Available

Credit - Environment Agency

Credit – Environment Agency

The UK’s Environment Agency has been collecting lidar data to help with flood modelling and to monitor coastal erosion. They have recently announced that 175,000 square kilometres of land has been made available to the public. The ‘point cloud’ data has been collected over the course of the past 18 years, and covers over 75 per cent of England.

In January, start-up Emu Analytics used the open point cloud LIDAR data to develop an interactive map enabling people to see the heights of buildings across London. More recently, the company has expanded that map to include the top 25 urban areas in England.

“It is superb for start-ups like us that the Environment Agency is making its LIDAR point cloud available as open data,” said Jonathan Smith, head of Data Insight at Emu Analytics.

“Point cloud data is a step up in terms of the level of detail we can achieve in modelling infrastructure and the natural environment. We are able to define the shapes of buildings and vegetation and even discover temporary infrastructure, such as cranes.”

“With the detail that point cloud provides we will be able to open up new use cases and offerings such as providing clutter data for line-of-site broadband companies or calculating the shadows nearby buildings would cast on a proposed array of solar panels.”


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Transportation Asset Management Conference

UDOT-Mandli-2I will be attending the 11th annual Transportation Asset Management conference next week in Minneapolis, MN, July 10 -12. The conference is organized by the Transportation Research Board and hosted by the Minnesota DOT. It also is supported by the FHWA, AASHTO and the private sector consulting firms.

With the federal mandate to shift from construction to asset preservation this conference is an important gathering to better understand where the opportunities are to assist the DOTs with this transition and of course to make those critical personal contacts.

Mobile lidar data collection is an enabling technology that will be front and center, but this is actually just a small part of the technology required and organizational change that will be taking place over the next 5 to 10 years in all of the DOTs. Much of this geospatial data management is also needed to support the Smart Cities programs.

On Sunday there are a number of workshops including a 3.5 hour return on investment and best practices session that should provide key insights on this critical issue. Sustainability is another key theme that can be seen in the program.

This is certain to be one of the key events of the year for mobile lidar and much more. Stay tuned for updates.

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Mysterious Mapping Vehicle

Alexei Oreskovic

Alexei Oreskovic

On the lighter side to get the holiday week started here in the U.S., I had to laugh when I read this. I wonder why the author of this article didn’t think to reach out to one of us in the mobile mapping world. We could have easily explained what the hardware was being used for on this van and demystified what the large “antenna” by the wheel was being used for.

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