Turning Cutting Edge Technology into 3D..

Turning Cutting Edge Technology into 3D Productivity Gains

By Jared Martin, Vice President of Operations

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

Can you please provide a brief overview of your professional background (s) and experience, particularly with 3D laser scanning/lidar technology, and/or a brief history of the growth of the company and its use of 3D technology? Please include an idea of the timelines.

I cut my teeth working with 3D laser scanning technology at my first job out of college, the company specialized in the acquisition of lidar and RGB imagery from helicopters for powerline corridors. This gave me an instant obsession with laser systems and the entire remote sensing industry. In the time between then and now I was exposed to a myriad of airborne, handheld, mobile, terrestrial, and UAV – based laser systems utilized for a multitude of projects ranging from large scale wide-area mapping to autonomous systems for indoor modeling. 

Sanborn has been an incredible conduit for like-minded individuals who live on the cutting edge of 3D laser scanning and who continually seek out the latest technologies to provide comprehensive solutions for today’s remote sensing problems. Sanborn has been actively using and adding lidar technology since 1998 and has continued this investment with our latest purchase of the RIEGL VMY-1.

Can you provide an inventory of some of the primary 3D surveying and mapping hardware and software that your company currently uses, as well as any other related products? Please include an idea of the timeline of purchases.

Sanborn has an arsenal of 3D surveying equipment that allows us to operate in nearly all environments capturing robust, functional, and cost-efficient data for our broad client base. Currently we operate multiple airborne laser scanners, including the RIEGL VQ-1560 II wide-area airborne laser mapping system since 2021. Each of our airborne laser systems contain either multispectral or RGB cameras to provide comprehensive airborne solutions. 

Sanborn Mobile Mapping has used mobile laser scanning systems since 2009, with the RIEGL VMY-1 added in 2022. These systems are combined with a series of optical sensors to provide modular mobile data solutions adaptable to any use case. We also operate a smattering of handheld, terrestrial, and UAV systems including a non-laser scanner solution to provide sonar based high-resolution hydrographic surveying safely and efficiently.

What attracted you to the use of RIEGL hardware and software? Did you look at other products? Why did you choose RIEGL?

We have experienced great success with the RIEGL VQ-1560 II since its addition in 2021. The performance and data quality has increased our acquisition efficiencies as well as expanded on our already considerable lidar offerings. When evaluating possible additions to the Sanborn Mobile Mapping hardware line it was necessary to review not only the hardware performance but also the user experience regarding operator training, daily use, and data processing. After evaluating multiple system solutions, it was clear that the RIEGL VMY-1 offered the best return on investment when it came to versatility, operation, and reliability. The system is equipped with the miniVUX-2UAV laser scanner which allows the user to scan mobile data in the original mounting, but we can also pull the scanner and integrate the laser on a UAV for aerial collection. This multi-integration capability allows Sanborn to offer our clients both mobile and airborne surveys in a single mobilization.


How do you integrate RIEGL products into your workflows? What were some of the challenges with that? What were some of the best practices and lessons learned?

As I’ve previously mentioned, Sanborn has been operating RIEGL systems since 2021, however that was not our first experience with this line of laser scanners. Since the adoption of UAS operations in 2013, Sanborn has provided program management, training, and data processing services for many surveying and mapping organizations operating these systems. 

Sanborn has adapted to the ever-increasing performance of lidar and proactively developed training and education for those operating the systems and processing data. Understanding the differences between eachsystem has allowed our geospatial team to develop best practices for copious project scenarios and provide supervised guidance to our clients. Internally Sanborn has enacted robust standard operating procedures to provide accurate, feature rich products from all platforms.

Can you provide a brief overview of two or three of the projects where you made use of RIEGL’s technology, especially the VMY? Can you provide any thoughts on time savings vs. other methods? Any thoughts on return on investment?

One of the first projects for the RIEGL VMY-1 was to provide a quick, cost-efficient solution for capturing 3D modeling data to serve as a baseline for autonomous delivery systems. The VMY-1 offered a high-fidelity solution that is more accurate than a handheld GPS device, faster than traditional survey, and in conjunction with optical sensors provided automated extraction capabilities through the aid of artificial intelligence and deep learning. Quick collection of suburban curb and sidewalk models combined with the location data was achieved safely and quickly from the vehicle without traditional survey methods or manually extracted planimetric data. This solution required no boots on the ground and was driven continually over the course of a few days. This allowed for greatly reduced manual effort in the field and the office which improves operation safety while decreasing production schedules and costs.

On another project the VMY-1 was utilized to support the collection of distribution line corridors. Airborne platforms can provide a quick, dense lidar point cloud perfect for feature extraction and modeling of transmission lines, however distribution networks can pose a more difficult problem in suburban and urban environments. Heavy vegetation overgrowth which occludes the infrastructure as well as many auxiliary lines on each tower often results in sparse lines or missed spans. Additional scans from the mobile lidar system filled data voids caused by vegetation above as well as captured all the vertically stacked cable, fiber, and phone lines omitted in the airborne only solution. When the VMY-1 data was added to this project the results provided considerably more than a basic solution to those who needed it, fewer interpolations and guess work provided a more complete and accurate model.

What do you see in the future for the use of 3D technology on your projects? Are you investigating other advanced technologies that will create new business opportunities?

There will always be a demand to provide all forms of geospatial data that is of better quality, with faster turnaround schedules, at a lower cost. In order keep up with the those demands 3D data may be taking on a more hybrid approach in the future. The viability of combining and integrating different forms of 3D data allows for both a larger swath of information along with the ability to intelligently update areas, features, or landcovers based on seasons, growth, or natural disaster events. This is going to come from advancements and incorporations of airborne, bathymetric, mobile, and UAV lidar, hydrographic sonar, synthetic aperture radar, and even structure from motion imagery solutions. Sanborn is constantly investigating new technologies, methods, and processes to consistently provide the highest value to our customers with quality products, information, and services.

To learn more about this project CLICK HERE.

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