Latest Advances in Laser Scanning and the Impact on Day-to-Day Survey Operations

Geospatial Leadership

Christine Grahl speaks to Marcus Reedy, vice president of surveying and geomatics at David Evans and Associates, in this HxGN News podcast covering the benefits of new laser surveying technology including the Leica Nova MS50 Multistation. Learn more about how these new technologies can affect a surveyor’s day-to-day operations including client expectations and scope of work. You can hear the podcast, read the transcript of the podcast below or download the podcast from iTunes.

Christine Grahl:  Technology advances over the last several years have provided a host of new capabilities to surveying and engineering firms on the leading edge.  One such company is David Evans and Associates, a multidisciplinary firm that provides clients with award-winning approaches to transportation, energy, water resources, and land development design, planning and management.  The company was one of the first to adopt laser scanning with a Cyrax instrument in 2001.  It now has a Leica HDS6000, two Leica Scan Station P20s and one scan station C10, as well as two mobile mapping systems.  In June 2013, David Evans and Associates became one of the first companies to embrace the new Leica Nova MS50 MultiStation, which integrates laser scanning into an everyday surveying workflow.  With me today to talk about some of the latest advances is Marcus Reedy, DEA’s vice president of surveying and geomatics.

Christine Grahl:  Marcus, how is technology changing the role of surveyors today?

Marcus Reedy:  One of things is that we can collect so much data much faster these days, so the measurement piece is becoming easier. But contrary to that,  the data management portion of what we do is becoming more difficult. This is also affecting the traditional workflows of our field and office staff. For example, our field staff, with the sensors they have available to them, can swamp the office very quickly [with data]. We have to really pay attention when we’re incorporating multiple sensors—whether it is a total station on the laser scanner, GPS, RTK, or some sort of imagery type of system—all on one project, because the coordination and processing of that data is critical to the success of the project.

Client expectations are also changing – so, for example, in the past where you would collect 50 or 100 cross sections of data, and that would be just fine for design level projects,  now, because of some tools like laser scanning that we have, the expectation is that you might deliver a 2-foot or 5-foot grid. So the level of detail in projects is increasing.

The investment that a surveyor needs to provide in equipment, in software, not to mention the training of staff in multiple platforms, is the result and outcome of the technology piece. The thing that really has not changed, though, is that the surveyor is still an expert in measurement and that they use these as tools to apply these measurements to solve problems.  They just have a much larger toolbox to pull from.

Christine Grahl:  I would imagine that for today’s professional the situation is very challenging because they are having to go outside of their traditional roles and really think about the service they are able to provide in a much more creative way, maybe thinking outside of the traditional boundaries of what they have done in the past.

Marcus Reedy:  Absolutely, I think where a lot of market potential is for surveyors these days is outside the traditional roles of what they do. There is a ton of electronic geospatial data out there, and one of the key roles of the surveyor is to educate people on where that data came from, its accuracy and whether it’s being used for the appropriate purpose. One of the challenges, but also opportunities, is the nontraditional markets that are out there for us.

Christine Grahl:  I would think that for a firm like David Evans and Associates, having these capabilities also presents new opportunities in terms of expanding your business.

Marcus Reedy:  Absolutely. Historically, there would be projects that would be very expensive to collect from a large prospective or a project that may be too small or inaccessible. Now with the use of technology, we can actually do those types of projects. A few years back, we were engaged by a contractor who was putting in a new elevator in an elevator shaft, and they believed there was twisting in the elevator shaft. And so we simply said, “Okay, we can use a laser scanner,” and just one scan of the elevator shaft very quickly provided them the information that they needed.  Their alternative was that they would have had to build scaffolding and take measurements by hand, which is time consuming and very expensive. So that is small scale. On a very large scale, we are able to map an entire county road system in very accurate measurements and deliverables. So we are able to do large-scale projects that would be outside the cost realm of surveyors using old, historic methods of collection.

Christine Grahl:  With technology such as laser scanning and mobile mapping and even some of the newer technologies like the multistation, it is obviously changing the way that you are able to create your deliverables. You are able to create a much more visual deliverable in many cases I would imagine.  What is the first thing that clients notice about your deliverables and how much of that is a result of your aggressive adoption of technology advances?

Marcus Reedy:  I think the visual part is important because it does help people understand what the product is, so I think that is changing. I mentioned those expectations are changing as well.  It is not that our deliverables necessarily look different, but it really is about the functionality of the deliverable. You are able to essentially customise for what the client needs and how they are going to use it, so it is key to really understand how they are going to use the data and what is the platform  they are going to use it in.  The worst thing that we could do as an industry is provide a product that they struggle to use and you hand them over multi gigabytes of information that they cannot use. You’ve got to put it into the format that is usable for them. But if you are going to do that customisation, it takes investment in software, hardware and training on those platforms.

Christine Grahl:  What do you believe is the key to success for modern surveying and engineering firms?  With everything that is out there, obviously technology plays a huge role that is sort of skill set, so what do you think is really that key to success?

Marcus Reedy:  We mentioned a little bit before, but in looking at those non-traditional markets and solutions. Clients have problems, and the survey community can help solve them, so I think looking for those can provide growth and expansion areas. Getting there requires developing relationships, and it could be with other consultants or industry partners and universities to support the education side. We have got to educate ourselves and our industry and the clients, and I think that is going to be key to the success.

Christine Grahl:  Everything is changing so quickly; it really is important for everyone to stay on top of those changes, what it means to them and how they can take advantages of those changes.

Marcus Reedy:  Yes, absolutely.

Christine Grahl:  Thank you Marcus.  For additional information about David Evans and Associates, visit www.deainc.com. You can find Leica Geosystems online at www.leica-geosystems.us or on the Nova Learning Network at www.novalearningnetwork.com.