The Future of the Surveying Profession

Thanks to Terry Bennett at Autodesk for the contribution. Here are some excerpts:

Surveying is “the application of special knowledge of the principles of mathematics, the related physical and applied sciences and the relevant requirements of law for adequate evidence to the act of measuring and locating lines, angles, elevations, natural and man-made features.” among other things. An example of our new role as curators of the built environment information centers on man-made features, big data, analytics, security, and the like, under the guise of critical infrastructure protection. It involves bringing all our data capture knowledge and tools (total stations, laser scanners, drones, underwater UAVs/sonar etc) in a “Scan to BIM” approach for a very real modern need – digitalization of infrastructure.

Today anyone with a cellphone has a camera and GPS. If you have a drone, you have a personalized aerial mapping and photogrammetry system that can not only capture ortho imagery but calculate volumes. It is the surveyors who must step up and lead as experts in accurate, precise, and certified digital twins of the physical world. The ability to fly a dam or a hundred-acre project site or scan miles of highways off the back of a truck, all to create 3D models within hours to a few days, accurate to 5-10mm, means surveying is being re-imagined. The question arises – will surveyors take a leadership role in the development of new technologies and processes or will we react to technological advances that continue to come from outside the surveying profession?

Whether field crew, party chief, managers, or survey firm owners, we must make the transition yet again to remain both relevant to the new digital age but more so continue as guardians of “determining areas and volumes, for the monumenting of property boundaries and for the platting and layout of lands and subdivisions of land, including the topography, alignment, and grades of streets and for the preparation and perpetuation of maps.” So, when you hear things like big data, IoT, Critical Infrastructure Protection, or smart cities, pay attention; that is opportunity calling.

The full article is an important read.



Posted in 3D Modeling, BIM, Digital Transformation | 1 Comment

Using Lidar to Understand Rockfalls

Thanks to Dr. Michael Olsen for this reference.

Rockfalls and debris avalanches triggered by earthquakes quakes during the 2010–2011 Canterbury earthquake sequence in New Zealand killed five people and caused an estimated US$400 million in damages. In total, about 200 dwellings were directly impacted by some of the ~6000 rockfalls and debris avalanches that occurred across the Port Hills of Christchurch.

This research presents the results of the analysis of a high-quality database of 61 individual rockfall impacts on 29 dwellings in the Port Hills of Christchurch,
New Zealand . Dwellings in the Port Hills are typically simple timber-frame structures with wooden or unreinforced masonry cladding, comparable to most dwellings across New Zealand, North America , Australia, and elsewhere.

Rockfall impacts on dwellings in this study were observed to follow a power law relationship between kinetic energy and (1) the runout distance into and through the dwelling and (2) the impacted area within the dwelling. The results have been quantified and are presented as a damage proportion, which is defined as the proportion of the area
affected by an individual rock block inside the dwelling divided by the total area of the dwelling. These data provide a fundamental input for rockfall risk analysis and will allow the losses from rockfall impacts to be better constrained.

The data were collected through field reconnaissance, terrestrial LiDAR scans, aerial LiDAR terrain analysis, and high-resolution image acquisition made between 2014 and 2015. The results provide a unique, high-quality database on the consequences of rockfall impacts on these dwellings.


Posted in 3D Modeling, airborne LiDAR, Research | Leave a comment

Audi First to Support Level 3 Automation

Instead of Tesla or General Motors it looks like Volkswagen’s Audi division will be the first to offer Level 3 self driving capability or what is called conditional automation. This means the vehicle is capable of fully autonomous operation, but allows for human intervention when needed.  Audi recently announced the A8 will ship with support for Level 3 automation.

Audi’s solution has certain limitations. For one it is only meant to be activated in relatively slow moving traffic (up to 60 km/hr) and only on divided roads where a physical barrier separates vehicles driving in the opposite direction.

The new Audi A8 will be the first production vehicle to use LIDAR along with cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors. Both Tesla’s Autopilot which does not use lidar and GM’s Super Cruise are only able to support Level 2 at best. This requires that a human be focused on the driving task at all times.

From an investment perspective this article from Seeking Alpha provides more insight.


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3D Dublin, Ireland

According to Tech Crunch New York University has made available what they claim is the densest public LiDAR data set ever collected, via its Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP). At 300 points per square meter the airborne laser scanned data, is about 30 times as dense as a typical data set, covering a 1.5km square region of Dublin’s city center.

The data was collected by Professor Debra F. Laefer and her research team, and includes both a top-down view of the roofs and distribution of buildings, as well as info about their vertical surfaces. This makes it possible to build 3D models of the urban landscape with detail including building measurements, trees, power lines and poles and even curb height, CUSP says.

Open access to this scale and quality of data has big implications for researchers working on urban planning and development, and for engineering teams tackling everything from infrastructure, to autonomous vehicles, drone fleet operation, and infectious disease transmission tracking. It’s something that would understandably be of use if captured for other cities, too – and that’s exactly what CUSP hopes to do, with discussions underway to tackle New York City with a similar data imaging project next.

You can download the data set here.

Posted in airborne LiDAR, Data | Leave a comment

Waymo Drops 3 Patent Claims

In an interesting move, reported by Bloomberg, Waymo has dropped three of its four patent – infringement claims in its lawsuit against Uber. The judge in the case has been encouraging Waymo to focus on theft of trade secrets and to drop the patent claims. In its explanation, Waymo now claims they are not using the technology covered in the three dropped claims.

The judge specifically requested that the more than 100 trade secret claims be reduced to less than ten before proceeding with the jury trial.

Uber is using this move as evidence of the weakness of the claims by Waymo. The beat goes on…

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Standardizing Terminology

Ever wonder if you are using a new term, such as structure from motion (SfM) correctly? Well if it has to do with remote sensing or photogrammetry then you are in luck.

Photogrammetric Terminology – Third Addition is an official document of the International Society of Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry. This update is a valuable resource to authors and practicing professionals.

As evidence of the pace of change in these fields SfM was not included in the previous addition first published just 4 years ago.

Its important that we all “speak the same language” when it comes to the use of terminology.

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2017 Esri Imaging and Mapping Forum

The Esri User Conference kicks off this coming week with the 2017 Imaging and Mapping Forum July 8 and 9. Topics include imaging, lidar, 3D, drone technology, as well as multidimensional analysis and modeling to solve organizational problems. There are likely to be more than 15,000 attendees for the UC from around the globe.

Data integration and fusion are primary themes, all available to the ArcGIS platform where powerful geographic analysis tools and databases can be accessed.

Your registration to the Forum includes access to the user conference on Monday, July 10, and Tuesday, July 11 which gets you into the keynotes and the exhibit hall for a day.


Posted in 3D Modeling, Conferences | Leave a comment

ILMF 2018 Call for Papers

The 18th Annual International LiDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF), taking place in Denver, Colorado, USA, February 5-7, 2018, has announced a Call for Papers and invites interested parties to submit their abstracts by August 14, 2017.

ILMF is a technical conference and exhibition focused on surveying and mapping technologies including aerial, mobile and bathymetric lidar as well as other emerging remote sensing technologies.

Aerial, mobile and underwater measurement and monitoring are being aided by new tools and technologies, all of which are addressed ILMF. Technologies include aerial and mobile lidar systems as well as emerging technology platforms including UAV/UAS. Other technologies include topo/bathymetric solutions, Geiger-mode and single photon lidar, multi and hyperspectral imaging. Data processing content addresses latest innovations to solve data fusion, data integrity, post-processing, analytics as well as updates on data interoperability.

ILMF is growing, with more than 900 professionals from 27 countries participating in 2017.

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The BLK 360

Here is a quick video introduction to the Leica Geosystems BLK 360.


Posted in 3D Modeling, Sensors | Leave a comment

Crowd Sourced High Definition Maps

In order to support level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles some vendors are looking to machine vision and deep learning to provide the needed object recognition. This article in Electronic Design explains that in addition to machine vision, radar and lidar will also be needed to provide the needed imagery. Needless to say this is a very complicated problem.

As an alternative MobilEye (recently acquired by Intel for $15.3 billion) plans to rely on crowd sourcing for a real time updating of the highway network.

If there are challenges with the more traditional approach what will the problems be like aggregating crowd sourced data and updating the high definition maps in real time? It’s the last 20% of the problem that there are still no solution for.

Posted in 3D Modeling, Autonomous vehicles, Consumer | Leave a comment