Solution-Based Remote Sensing Analytics

Solution-based mapping for a variety of applications has become predominate over the last five years as a result of advancing technology and the need to provide solutions with a variety of sensors for a given application. Merrick & Co. has been applying a variety of mapping technologies to address these applications. They include but are not limited to positive train control (PTC), autonomous vehicle mapping, transmission mapping and highway safety mapping.

TransmissionPTC can be collected by using GPS but it is extremely time consuming and difficult especially in tunnels. At times it yield less then desirable results in recollection and additional processing. It also requires extensive coordination with train schedules and the regular operation of the rail system.

The combination of airborne LiDAR, mobile LiDAR, ortho and oblique imagery provide a rich solution for PTC. There still is some survey required for this solution, but the result is far less coordination with schedules and regular train operations. The data collected using this approach is significantly more accurate and provides much more information than the GPS approach. The data can also be used for other applications as it relates to the operation and maintenance of the rail network.

The PTC system relies on the information extracted from the LiDAR and Imagery. This is all the asset information and its relationship to the centerline of the track. This information is provided in the WGS84 ellipsoid and all extracted asset information is provided with location and elevation information typically in a geodatabase format which can be uploaded into a PTC computer system. This can be referenced to the train’s location using a real time GPS system mounted on the train.

PTCIronically, autonomous vehicles rely on very similar technology to that used to collect the data for the database to navigate the vehicles. The autonomous vehicles use GPS, IMU, lasers, a camera, and radar to figure out where they are and what is around them. This technology sends real-time information to the vehicle and relates it to the database, so the vehicle can properly navigate the roads. Currently, most autonomous vehicle mapping is done using mobile mapping systems which include LiDAR and camera sensors. Many of the automakers and autonomous vehicle companies are gathering their database information differently.

Mobile mapping system data is very detailed information and provides a very thorough LiDAR data set for this application. The question is do they really need this amount of data for use in the database? Merrick & Co. currently provides our clients with both mobile LiDAR and airborne LiDAR collected from a helicopter platform including 360 degree imagery and airborne imagery. In some cases the permits required to do this work in places like California are extremely schedule and cost prohibitive. Much like PTC, autonomous vehicle mapping needs detailed road information such as speeds, lane information and signal information.  Although the elevation information is important, does it have to be as dense as mobile provides and can the vital information be ascertained from imagery information such as a 360 degree camera and high resolution ortho imagery?

Although, transmission mapping has been in full force for almost a decade now as a result of the NERC regulations, there is still a need for this information. Several power companies as a result of the NERC have developed sophisticated GIS databases of their entire networks and continually update these networks.

The NERC was created to prevent power failures or massive power outages experienced in the mid to late 1990’s. The mapping of all the transmission lines as required by NERC have helped prevent this from happening at the scale that it did in the 1990’s. The power companies have realized the value of these data and now want continued support from mapping companies to maintain transmission lines and provided vegetation mapping information. An example of a continued GIS and mapping campaign can be view at the following link:

Electric_SubstationMerrick & Co. is currently participating in a highway safety mapping project as a sub consultant to Maser Consulting P.A. The Maser –Merrick team is currently collecting mobile LiDAR, airborne LiDAR and imagery to map state and local highways for PennDOT, District 6. The data set developed from this hybrid approach is significantly more detailed and useful for developing better conditions to improve highway safety on a network of 3600 miles of highway. The data is being used to develop safety models as it relates to areas of high accident areas such as intersections that are prone to higher accident rates. This is being done to change the road configuration in order to improve safety.

Merrick & Co. continues to expand the innovation envelope as it relates to LiDAR, imagery and remote sensing data in order to help develop the analytics necessary to improve our daily lives and the world in which we all live.


For more information contact James Wilder Young –


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