SSI: Investing in 3D Technology
Andrew Semenchuk was an early adopter of laser scanning technology. As a professional surveyor, licensed in multiple states, he has over twenty years of experience in the transportation industry. Andy served for 15 years in state government and held the position of Automation Specialist where he was responsible for developing and successfully operating the first statewide CORS network and the purchase of the Michigan DOT’s first terrestrial LiDAR unit in 2000.
Andy served as the Supervising Surveyor for the Michigan DOT until he decided to further his career on the private sector side, later joining forces with Surveying Solutions, Inc (SSI). SSI was founded in 2001 and now has four offices in Michigan. SSI provides a variety of geospatial services and technology to solve their client’s problems nationwide.
Andy maintains his close involvement with SSI’s advanced technical equipment/software to ensure that SSI remains on the forefront of emerging technologies so that they can provide SSI’s clients the solutions they require.
SSI purchased their first mobile LiDAR system in 2011. As part of their investigation of the available systems on the market, SSI set up a test course that had previously been conventionally surveyed. Andy recalls, “We requested two manufacturers, RIEGL and a competitor, to come to Michigan and drive the course that we had set up. The vendors were asked to set up their systems from scratch, collect the data along the 1-mile test track, and process it in front of us so we could see the entire workflow.”
SSI found that the RIEGL VMX-250 system had more predictable results and much crisper data, compared to the competitor. Not having to boresight the RIEGL system also served as a major factor in their decision.
Over the years, SSI has continued to invest in RIEGL technology. In 2016 they purchased their second mobile LiDAR system, the RIEGL VMX-1HA, and most recently, they purchased a RIEGL VZ-400i terrestrial laser scanner.
On the software side, SSI purchased the RIEGL software suite, Applanix suite and third party software packages. They have also developed a number of in-house solutions.
Andy pointed out, “We simply view the RIEGL products as another tool in our toolbox and utilize them when most appropriate. SSI’s main goal is to provide clients with the best possible solution to their project. Having the proper tools at our disposal allows us to provide those results much more efficiently.”
One of SSI’s most notable projects was the Gordie Howe International Bridge (GHIB) project in Detroit, MI. This project was both state and nationally recognized by the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). The overall goal of this project was to create and validate a comprehensive survey dataset to be used for the design and construction of the U.S. portion of the GHIB Bridge including approaches and toll plaza.
Overall, there were over forty miles of roadway data that needed to be collected. Before the project could begin, there were several challenges and unique factors that needed to be considered including impacts on the motoring public, safety of the field personnel, the amount of data that was to be collected, and tight scheduling.
To meet the project challenges, SSI utilized mobile LiDAR to provide a 3D model of the accessible portions of the project and also utilized data sources from several previous past projects including aerial LiDAR, aerial mapping, and conventional survey data. With the use of data fusion, SSI was able to create a fully controlled, dense dataset that has since been used downstream for multiple other purposes.
SSI was also involved with the MBTA’s Engineering and Maintenance Track Chart initiative in Boston, Massachusetts. The MBTA’s overall goal for the project was to update the track charts for the entire system. In order to provide the required data with the most minimal impact on operations, SSI proposed the use of mobile LiDAR. At the end of the project, SSI had scanned over 164 miles of track and over 20 storage yards delivering a comprehensive LiDAR dataset that met the client’s needs.
Return on Investment
As with all hardware and software SSI invests in, the main goal is that the piece of equipment can be incorporated into SSI workflows. Andy noted, “RIEGL primarily manufactures hardware. Their software suite is designed to allow you to prep the data for downstream sources. As a result, we have invested in in-house software to utilize the data to its fullest. This allows the data providers like SSI to customize our solutions to their client’s needs.”
“We believe the sky is the limit,” Andy commented. “You are already seeing a lot of modeling and simulation taking place and this will only continue to improve as more data becomes available. It is now only limited by the imagination of the user. Our job as data providers is to understand the needs of our clients and be ready to provide a solution. We are doing things today that we did not anticipate doing when we bought our first system in 2011. This is driven by the fact that we can collect more data in a shorter amount of time. With more data, our algorithms for extractions, modeling, and simulation only get better.”