Using LiDAR to understand complex forest environments
10 mins per scan
1km in length
University of Leicester | Eden Project
Monitoring and understanding our environment has never been more important as the threat of climate change looms and governments step up to better manage their greenhouse gas emissions. Tom Potter, a doctoral researcher at the University of Leicester, UK, set out to further develop a technique to estimate biomass and carbon more efficiently using state-of-the-art, mobile LiDAR sensors across multiple, complex forest environments.
To do so he visited the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK which reflects a true tropical forest – representing different forests from around the world with a rainforest ‘biome’ of over 1,000 tropical trees and plans. However, he had to work around several challenges. For fixed point scanners, the high-density plots of specimens created a problem of shadows – known as ‘occlusions’ – whereby the nearest features will block out features behind. This also limits the ability to acquire accurate measurements to create a comprehensive 3D model. And with the biome being open to the public and a popular tourist destination, Tom only had a few hours each day before opening hours – insufficient time for a traditional static survey.
“Using GeoSLAM’s local processing software, the raw scan data was processed on site, with no internet connection required – useful when in an actual rainforest!“
Mobile surveying equipment that was able to take readings easily and quickly from even the densest areas was needed to ensure precise scans were taken to accurately calculate biomass and carbon storage potential.
Tom found the mobility and speed of GeoSLAM’s ZEB Revo to be the perfect solution. The lightweight scanner can be pole mounted, handheld or even attached to a vehicle or drone – collecting over 43,000 measurement points per second. Instead of hundreds of time-consuming static scans, Tom captured all angles by simply walking in a loop around the rainforest environment.
He then converted the point cloud data into 3D volume-based plots to derive above-ground biomass and carbon densities for multiple types of tropical forest. A comprehensive dataset was built, containing information for any type of forest that scientists can use to make calculations with minimal survey effort or expertise. And all at considerably less expenditure than traditional survey methods.
COWI embraces mobile mapping technology to measure buildings
COWI | Words by Morten Thoft
Digital technology is changing the way we design, construct and maintain our infrastructure. With the built environment ever more complex, traditional 2D data is not up to the task. As we move towards a more intelligent, more integrated, BIM-focused methodology, 3D data is becoming the norm. To stay ahead of the competition, surveying firms need to integrate innovative engineering approaches, digital technologies and intelligent data.
COWI is a multi-discipline engineering and planning firm based in Denmark. We have been eager to accelerate survey workflows and, as a result, have embraced digital engineering and added several GeoSLAM solutions to our arsenal of specialist scanning equipment. In just 6 short months since acquiring their first handheld laser scanner, a two-man team at COWI has used the ’go-anywhere’ mapping device to survey the interiors of some 400 municipal buildings; mapping over 16,000 rooms and measuring more than 300,000 m2 .
“We can now measure building plans 10-times faster than we used to with total station or traditional survey equipment.“
GeoSLAM’s solutions are changing the way we survey buildings. We can now measure building plans 10-times faster than we used to with Total Station or traditional survey equipment. Our decision to purchase another GeoSLAM solution was easy. With their handheld devices, we surveyed more buildings with more rooms in six months than traditional survey equipment would have allowed in many years. And we were able to capture more information in the process.
Choate Construction utilizes GeoSLAM to create floorplans for hurricane damaged properties
7 mins per scan
111,000 sq ft
Choate Construction | Construction company
2017’s Hurricane Irma was the most powerful storm to hit the continental United States since Katrina in 2005. Besides the high human cost (almost 100 lives lost in the US) the financial cost to property was estimated to top $50 billion – the 5th costliest hurricane in US history.
Amongst those damaged properties were the Westlake Apartments in Savannah, Georgia – a complex of 14 buildings containing 100 individual apartments encompassing over 111,000 sq. ft. These residential structures were flooded by the storm surge – meaning major renovations were required to repair the significant water damage.
With the complex dating from 1974, no building blueprints were in existence. The huge task facing contractor Choate Construction was therefore to rapidly collect this spatial data to produce the necessary internal floorplans and external elevations. Utilizing a static scanner was out of the question as to capture all necessary data would have required over 1,500 individual set-ups – at an estimated timescale of 3 weeks.
“This would have taken over 75 hours of scanner time along with a static scanner, with the ZEB Revo we were able to accomplish this in only two days“
Mobile, handheld mapping was therefore the ideal solution – chosen for its incredible speed and ease of use. Instead of 1,500 scans, just 14 scans were required (one scan per building) to collect the necessary building elements (floors, walls, ceilings, rooves, doors, and windows) within the required accuracy tolerance.
The Choate Construction team utilized the ZEB Revo to complete the job. With individual scans as quick as just 7 minutes, the average scan time was 40 minutes per building. In total, the team spent less than 10 hours scanning – spending just 2 days on site.
This speed was of particular importance as the residential units were in occupation – with a scan time of just 5 minutes per unit, disruption to residents was kept to an absolute minimum.
The survey team were delighted with the high reliability of the scan data, all within 1” relative and absolute accuracy. They were also surprised by how well the external features (exterior walls and sloped rooves) were captured – with no drift or errors encountered.
The 3D scan data was quickly processed in GeoSLAM Hub – a one-stop shop for point cloud manipulation.
The office team were able to view the individual 3D point clouds, as well as merging them into one. The data was also sliced into plans, sections and elevations within GeoSLAM Draw, and exported in a CAD-friendly format. From this data, an accurate 3D Revit model was built and supplied to the project architect.
With the increasing incidence of ever-more powerful tropical storms, and an ageing property stock, such quick and simple survey solutions are surely the way of the future
Established in 2001, Builders by Design Ltd are a multi-disciplinary design and construction company based in London. Their expertise and services are mainly in the residential sector for new builds, conversions, and extensions. The core business is a combination of collaborations via competitive tender, negotiated contracts and design and build. They also have a bespoke joinery workshop facility in Park Royal, designing and fabricating furniture, kitchens, windows and doors. One of their greatest achievements to date, was being selected as the main contractor for Peacock House, a new build in Aldeburgh, Suffolk which was awarded a National and Regional RIBA award and was longlisted for Grand Designs House of the Year in 2017.
We spoke with Director, Nick Phillips, following their recent purchase of their GeoSLAM ZEB Revo RT to get an understanding of how this was helping to support their business. Previously, external companies were appointed to produce the 2D surveys which proved to be expensive, time consuming and not without errors and omissions.
Traditional 2D surveys instructed, would only take limited data, meaning important details on areas, such as staircases were incomplete. Inevitably there were times during the later stages of design and construction that the absence of such details required re-working of proposals. The manual process was also not very efficient, as it could take a full day for 1 person to survey a 3-bedroomed house and several weeks to receive the results. Nick identified that projects with existing structures should always start with comprehensive 3D data, which led to the purchase of the GeoSLAM ZEB Revo RT to enable 3D data capture in-house.
“Bringing 3D data capture in house was the obvious next step, with speed and accuracy important factors. For this and other reasons we selected GeoSLAM to provide the equipment and software required. It has had a positive impact on our workflows, which we will look to keep improving“
Before purchasing the ZEB Revo RT, other scanners were considered, such as terrestrial and static, but there were time and software limitations to adopting these more traditional systems. Using these methods was not efficient enough for Builders by Design, as they needed technology with speed, accuracy, and ease of use. Using GeoSLAM handheld solutions meant they could complete between 6-8 scans a day, with the accuracy they needed, whereas a static scanner may only achieve 1-2 scans a day. With current Covid-19 restrictions, having a single operative on site for only 30-minutes to complete the internal and external data capture can bring logistical advantages where a property is still occupied.
Builders by Design have integrated the ZEB Revo RT as an integral part of their digital workflows, providing all the stakeholders with dynamic visualisation material for project design. They use the ZEB Revo RT to scan the 3D point cloud, importing the data into CAD software to create 3D models and 2D planning documentation for the design team. Working in 3D environments together with other visualisation tools has also created a transparency and understanding of design intent between the Architect, the site team and the client that could not have been achieved with 2D plans, sections, and elevations.
Having utilised the GeoSLAM ZEB Revo RT in-house to identify the many benefits to the business, they plan to collaborate with external Architectural and Design practices undertaking their own digital transformation journey, to build templated 2D documentation of existing buildings, 360° site photos, 3D model and bespoke CAD packages. In closing, Nick emphasised that:
“Delivering a point of difference from the competition will become increasingly essential to remain relevant in the market, requiring new 3D technology adoption to assist in achieving fewer errors and more predictable outcomes for all building projects.“
“Billund Airport (BLL) in central Denmark is the second largest airport in the country, processing over 3 million travellers a year. Quite a few of the arriving tourists head to the original LEGOLAND resort which is situated nearby.
Similar to many airports, conveyor belts in the BLL departure terminal carry luggage down to the central baggage room for automated sorting before being loaded onto trolleys for the final few metres out to the waiting aircraft. With a ceiling nearly five metres high, the baggage room is a three-dimensional maze of ascending and descending conveyor belts, support structures, catwalks and HVAC piping.
A 3D model was needed to help determine if new conveyor belts could be threaded through the existing features for the expansion.
“As long as it takes to capture the scan data, that’s how long GeoSLAM Hub takes to process it. That is what is amazing about this technology“
Early in the project planning stage, BLL wasn’t sure how much detail they would need to proceed with the expansion design. We had worked extensively with the GeoSLAM ZEB Revo solution on multiple post-construction quality control jobs and were confident that the handheld device would provide an impressive level of detail in a short amount of time. In fact, it took less than 10 minutes.
After scanning the space, the data was imported into GeoSLAM Hub and the pointcloud was processed in just ten minutes as well.
To further demonstrate the detail of the data collection, LIFA sent a 30m2 section of the point cloud to a subcontractor for feature extraction and modelling. We had quite an amazing set of data, The 3D model included floors, walls, ceiling, conveyor belts, beams, cable trays, lights, railings, pipes, and structural features.
BLL officials were so impressed with the level of detail captured by the ZEB Revo, the information formed part of a more detailed model for a tender to upgrade and expand the belts and sorting for arriving baggage.
Creating a digital twin to transform an aging school
Kansas City, USA
Aurecon | Engineering company
BHC Rhodes | Engineering company
Transforming an aging school in the Jazz District of Kansas City to a community arts centre required the power of today’s real-time technology.
The Attucks building, built in 1905 and renovated in 1922 due to overcrowding, has undergone several developments over the years. For any plans to be approved on the site of the Attucks School, the commission needed substantial and comprehensive drawings – materials, floor plans, site drawings and elevations.
“A BIM model was provided two weeks earlier than expected, providing a comprehensive picture of the asset“
With several hazards identified – visible deterioration in the wood floorings, ceiling collapses, and air quality conditions including asbestos – a fast, accurate and safe survey technique was required.
Civil engineering firm, BHC Rhodes, embarked upon the complex task of a 3D Revit BIM (Building Information Model) using GeoSLAM technology. The handheld “go-anywhere” ZEB Revo is designed to be used without comprehensive training, meaning you can ‘pick up and go’, saving additional preparation time for any members of staff previously unfamiliar with the technology. It’s a simple setup and data gathering is quick and easy; wherever you can walk, you can scan.
With the aid of these lightweight, mobile scanners, specifically designed to scan difficult to access spaces, the entire property was scanned in only 4.5 hours, recording more than 43,000 measurements per second. A BIM model was provided two weeks earlier than expected providing a comprehensive picture of the asset. Only with these modern tools could a real-time digital twin of the ageing building be created quickly, and safely – saving considerable time and money.
There is no doubt that historical projects hold great significance for a location’s cultural heritage and its people. This is the fundamental concept that Historic England apply in their protection and conservation of sites that define English history and the nation itself. They work within communities and alongside specialists to share their knowledge and skills so that everyone can enjoy and maintain the history that surrounds us.
This is evident in Historic England’s Ramsgate Tunnels project, a five-kilometre network of underground passageways which were paramount to the war effort and the safety of local people of Ramsgate, Kent.
Ramsgate Tunnels were once used as an underground narrow-gauge railway, built to connect the town and docks to help improve trade links to Europe. However, the railway soon became a target for enemy bombing. To combat this, it was decided that the network of tunnels should be adapted to protect the people of Ramsgate, and work on this began in 1939.
“GeoSLAM technology was at the top of our list to scan the underground network, primarily due to its long range capabilities”
After falling into disrepair, leaving behind a long-existing collapse in one area of the tunnels, our team at Historic England was invited to work alongside Ramsgate’s Heritage Action Zone in order to redevelop the area’s much-loved historical sites. Enlisting the help of GeoSLAM’s ZEB Horizon to provide a preliminary map of the damage, plans were put in place to assess tunnels that were previously inaccessible in order to extend visitor access.
The ZEB Horizon allowed our team to reach further down each channel where we needed a quick overview of the extent of the damage, and its approximate location relative to the surface. A total of nine scans comprised the complete survey, taking around 10 minutes for each scan. Compared to a static scanner, GeoSLAM’s ZEB Horizon improved the speed of the scanning process dramatically
Beck Engineering uses GeoSLAM for creating accurate underground maps for mining
Beck Engineering | Words by Evan Jones
“Beck Engineering is an Australian mining engineering consultancy specialising in mining and rock mechanics analysis. Creating highly-accurate underground maps for the mining and natural resource sector is one of the most demanding forms of surveying. Most mine environments are hazardous, and we need to work in tight, enclosed spaces, which are uneven and difficult to access. GPS coverage is, of course, non-existent.
We map mines under intense time constraints using versatile technology which must be adaptable to this tough environment. For this purpose, the we have chosen GeoSLAM’s handheld mobile mapping devices that are compact, portable and deliver a high level of accuracy. With GeoSLAM’s ’go-anywhere’ 3D technology, Beck Engineering has immediate access to invaluable data regarding underground conditions. This time-sensitive information means we can accurately measure the shape of an excavation or tunnel over time.
As a result, tunnels can be faster and better constructed, while being safer and considerably more cost efficient. The applications of the spatially continuous monitoring data collected by GeoSLAM’s devices are being applied to a wide range of geomechanical applications, providing their clients with a previously unattainable insight into rock mass behaviour.
“Laser scanning in underground mines is now routinely conducted to measure deformation, assess residual ground support capacity, determine rehabilitation requirements and confirm excavation stability “
We have continued to use GeoSLAM products as they have proven to be affordable, lightweight and sufficiently robust devices for their application underground. GeoSLAM continue to produce a high-quality device that is at the forefront of practical mobile laser scanning devices.
Placed first in Australia and 20th in the world, Australian National University (ANU) is a research institution with its main campus in Canberra, the country’s capital. The university’s research priorities typically reflect the challenges facing the world today. One such project is to track tree growth and development over time in a joint effort between ANU and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
Known as the ‘Precision Measurement of Trees and Forests’ project, the field team is charged with comparing and contrasting different ways of collecting data, using different terrestrial and airborne laser scanners, and working with digital imagery. The survey takes places in the National Arboretum in Canberra which features some 44,000 rare, endangered and symbolic trees and is made up of 94 mini forests.
GeoSLAM’s “go-anywhere” mapping technology was a natural choice for the outdoor project. Unlike terrestrial systems, the splash-proof, dust-tight, mobile laser scanners are designed to operate in the most difficult-to-access spaces, inside or outside, in daylight and darkness – without the need for GPS. What’s more, you can easily attach the portable laser scanners to a drone or helicopter for fast outdoor surveying.
In addition to GeoSLAM’s versatile handheld technology, the team also uses fixed point scanning and traditional forestry measures – such as Suunto and digital photographs from UAV’s. Tom Jovanovic, former CSIRO researcher and now Interactive Technology Specialist at the University of Newcastle, Australia, explains that the technologies are complementary, “Using GeoSLAM from the outset, as well as a different system, has enabled us to compare and contrast different measurements and combine them into a heavily monitored site finding. This includes the high level of resolution being sought.”
“What I really like about this product is that wherever you can walk, you can scan. It really is a case of ‘go-anywhere’ “
Emphasising that the project is specifically designed to take advantage of both static and mobile approaches, Tom Jovanovic says, “What’s nice about scanning with GeoSLAM’s technology is that it doesn’t involve repeatedly setting up in different locations within the research plot. You just initiate the start-up procedure then walk around the plot covering the trees from different angles.”
All forestry professionals like Tom need access to user-friendly technology that is easy to operate but is robust and reliable enough to do the job quickly and accurately. With GeoSLAM scanning technology, he says it takes only 10 to 15 minutes to completely cover a 180 square meter plot, adding, “What I really like about this product is that wherever you can walk, you can scan. It really is a case of ‘go-anywhere’. The scanner has made a significant contribution to an important undertaking. Mobile scanning that gives us dynamic changes over time – from any angle and in 3D – is a very important contributor to this work.”
“Mobile scanning that gives us dynamic changes over time – from any angle and in 3D – is a very important contributor to this work“
These GeoSLAM-delivered findings are vital to the project’s long-term aim. Combining them with knowledge of water usage and photo synthesis, plus meteorological data and high resolution photography, they feed into very fine scale modelling that will guide forestry research management and habitat protection policies into the future.