Leveraging Lidar Supports Company Growth

Leveraging Lidar Supports Company Growth

By Tony Bartol PS, Fishbeck Vice President/Senior Surveyor 

Editor’s Note: This article is being reported as a narrative as told by the author.


I am a Michigan – licensed surveyor with 17 years of experience, nine of which has been working with terrestrial and mobile LiDAR. Fishbeck purchased our first RIEGL mobile LiDAR in 2018. At that time, we had 15 staff members in the geospatial department. Having the mobile scanner provided tremendous growth and opportunities for Fishbeck, and since adapting the unit, we have been able to hire an additional 21 geospatial/survey professionals and are continuously looking to grow our staff. This year we were able to expand our services by purchasing a new RIEGL VMX-2HA with multiple cameras to streamline and improve the data we provide clients. 

Equipment Inventory 

Over the years Fishbeck has purchased the following hardware sensors, data collection platforms and software:

RIEGL VMX-2HA with Ladybug Camera – purchased April 2022

RIEGL VMQ-1HA with Ladybug Camera- purchased May 2018

RIEGL VZ-400i Terrestrial Scanner – purchased May 2018

Leica P20 – Purchased 2013

DJI Matrice 300 UAV with Zenmuse P1 camera, Zenmuse L1 LiDAR – purchased May 2022

Software – Leica Cyclone, TopoDOT, RIEGL processing software, Autodesk NavisWorks, Revit, Pix4d

Technology Acquisition Process

We decided to purchase a new terrestrial and mobile system in 2018. We compared many different brands and models and scheduled demonstrations with vendors for several months. These demos helped us see the hardware and capabilities up close and after considering all factors, we decided the RIEGL systems were the best fit for our need to streamline data and processing workflows. 

Now that we have worked with the systems and data for four years, we are continually impressed with the quality and accuracy of the data we are collecting, and clients are requesting RIEGL data as a deliverable for these reasons. The VZ-400i is the unit we use the most and it has really paid off for MEP, smaller civil design sites, and road mapping projects. Having extremely fast scan times and workflows that provide clean, reliable data help us to remain efficient.

 Lidar Company Growth

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

We are continually discovering new ways to use the RIEGL LiDAR systems. From large-diameter underground pipe inspections and creating BIMs, to busy intersection mapping and long corridors, we have made use of the RIEGL technology. Our firm is full-service, so we use the systems for a wide variety of disciplines – civil engineering, architecture, direct engineering, transportation, and water/wastewater to name a few. Our geospatial department supports our services internally and externally. Each project has its challenges but using 3D LiDAR has saved us time and resources by not returning to sites to collect missed data. In addition, safety is paramount, and the use of 3D LiDAR reduces the risk of staff being injured onsite or having to work along busy roadways.

Case Studies

Fishbeck completed scanning a large diameter storm water system with the VZ-400i. The scope of the project involved scanning four miles of the mainline pipe to identify the location and elevation of the 11.5- to 12-foot diameter pipe, as well as any blind taps and leads entering the system. The data that was gathered was used for the placement of an insystem storage device to limit flow into the downstream treatment facility. Scanning took two days and the data gathered was invaluable not only to the scope of the project, but to also further evaluate the condition of the system. Scanning versus conventional mapping reduced our time onsite by four days.

Fishbeck completed the scanning of approximately 1,600 feet of roadway along the shores of Lake Huron.  Fishbeck was tasked with mapping and documentation of a sensitive area of bank erosion. The nature of the project site prevented conventional means of surveying due to the rapidly eroding banks adjacent to the highway. Fishbeck scanned the road with the mobile LiDAR unit and used the VZ-400i to scan the eroding banks. A detailed map of the roadway and embankment was created by merging the data sets and producing a point cloud. The deliverable gave the client the information they needed to remedy the situation and provide an excellent base map to compare future erosion along the roadway.  

Looking Ahead

As 3D technology becomes more common, the use of scanning and the back-end processes will continue to advance as well. I see streamlined extraction processes, with the aid of AI, start to finish point cloud to model workflows with much less human interaction. Conventional mapping will always be needed but is becoming less and less necessary as the lower cost of scanning/extraction workflows continue to advance.  

We are currently looking into multibeam sonar systems for bathymetric surveys of the many lakes, rivers, and streams in our region. This seems to be the logical next step for our firm and its 3D capabilities. We believe this will create more opportunity and growth for our geospatial division.   

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