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Calculating Stockpile Volumes using LiDAR & SiteMonitor4D

Data Mining – Using LiDAR for Enhanced Business Intelligence in the Extractives Industry

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According to recent research, the IoT will have a potential economic impact of between $4 and $11 trillion by the year 2025, with the number of connected devices estimated to reach 50bn by 2020.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the latest buzz-phrase being used to describe the progression towards automation – the inter-connection of technology with every element of human life.

We can see developments of this in many areas, from self-ordering refrigerators that add milk to your online shopping list, to the fitness watch which syncs your heart rate with your phone or computer, which then in turn talks to your diet app and helps manage your daily food intake. These are all simple, everyday examples of how the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the world we live in.

From self-driving and parking vehicles to home automation gadgets such as intelligent light bulbs, companies are in a race to get technology to market which automates difficult or laborious processes and enhances the user experience. Smart cities are another example of the importance of the IoT, where critical urban infrastructure is controlled using sensors with real-time monitoring capabilities. As the Smart City concept starts to see widespread successes, is it time for the mining industry to also embrace the IoT wholeheartedly?

Traditionally risk averse, mine operators often need some encouragement to adopt new technologies. Learning from the accomplishments of early Smart City projects, the mining sector can see how automation has helped improve both the quality of life for its inhabitants and increase the efficiency of public services provided by the local authority.

There is an underlying belief that these systems will also make cities, including roads, safer for residents and commuters. In an industry where safety and efficiency are paramount, integrated digital technologies can lead the way to safer, more productive mining operations.

The M2M, or Machine-to-Machine concept is another way to describe the IoT, whereby networked devices are used to collect and exchange information and carry out tasks without human participation. Many mines have already started to incorporate autonomous vehicles into day-to-day operations, using vehicle mounted LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) systems and RFID tags to increase productivity whilst lowering the safety risk element for workers. We saw examples of this at the recent MINExpo, as Komatsu unveiled its latest Autonomous Haulage Vehicle, which doesn’t even have a cab for a driver.

Komatsu self-drive haulage truck for mining

Combined Intelligence

Autonomous mining vehicles do not simply perform haulage tasks, but can also be used to provide visual situational reports via integrated cameras and sensors. This gives operators the ability to gather safety critical data without exposing workers to hazardous conditions.

As hardware predictably shrinks in size, it also becomes easier to transport. Advancements in wearable technology now include survey-grade LiDAR scanners which can be attached to a backpack, allowing for faster scans to be performed in previously inaccessible areas. These results can then be reported back which can then be used for a variety of purposes, such as asset mapping and the schedule of maintenance. Personal Protective Equipment is also changing with progressive wearable technology, allowing business operators to monitor not only the location, but also the health and safety of their employees.

These advancements in technology all sound promising but are somewhat limited if it is only used independently and without a ‘smart’ strategy which realises the potential of combined intelligence. The amount of data now being captured within any business throws up a new set of challenges including collection, sharing, storage and analysis. It is this collected information that can improve processes to drive new levels of efficiency, productivity, and even safety.

Big Data Revolution

Big Data is a term commonly applied to datasets, which are so complex that traditional processing applications simply cannot deal with them. ‘Big’ applies more to the multifaceted potential carried within the data than to the data’s sheer size in terms of quantity. LiDAR data falls under this category and holds part of the solution when it comes to embracing the benefits of the IoT in a mining setting.

Traditionally, mine operators have used LiDAR to assist with mine planning and the assessment of stockpile volumes, however, with the advancements in both remote sensing technology and analytical software, the ability to use big data for comparative analysis within the mining industry is now a reality.

Calculating Stockpile Volumes using LiDAR & SiteMonitor4D

Software programmes now allow for the in-depth evaluation and comparison of increasingly complex data, meaning that the monitoring of critical infrastructure can be carried out more easily and in more detail. This also enables critical data to be made available in near real-time. When tied into a wider strategy, mine operators will see significant benefits from the planning stages through to operational efficiency.

Solutions such as SiteMonitor allow for the advanced analysis of geological features via repeat, time-series LiDAR measurements. Assets can be mapped remotely and regularly, comparing the resulting data with previous scans to monitor any 3D changes over time, giving an early warning of slope instability and potential failures. This allows for precautionary measures to be taken without having any impact on day-to-day operations. Inaccessible or hazardous areas can be safely and continuously monitored, allowing decisions to be made quickly and without putting human lives at risk. All of this collected data ultimately builds a virtual model of the operation, allowing other ‘intelligent’ applications to access the information – from autonomous vehicles to robotic drilling systems.

In the short term, the rise of intelligent infrastructure relies on the human element to ensure that correct decisions are made. For the IoT to have maximum impact in a mining context it is going to take investment, commitment and a better understanding of how the power of collected data can be harnessed for widespread business improvement.

survey grade pointcloud from laser scan

Survey Grade Laser Scanning: Just How Accurate is ROBIN + PRECISION? – 3D Laser Mapping

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The popularity of mobile laser scanning is on the rise in the surveying world, as are expectations for survey grade accuracy. LiDAR systems have now reached a size where they are not only easily portable but also able to provide greater levels of accuracy than previously possible.

The collection of field data has previously relied on repeated set-ups of a traditional terrestrial laser scanner but mobile scanners now allow surveyors the opportunity to collect data rapidly and remotely using either wearable units or systems such as ROBIN which can also be mounted on to a road vehicle, helicopter and UAV.

As part of our development process we often look to challenge ourselves and our technology, so for a recent demonstration, we decided to see how quickly we could scan the Silver Jubilee Bridge in Runcorn and get the data processed using ROBIN, our latest mobile LiDAR system.

Panoramic Ladybug 5 Camera
3DLM Carbon Fibre Vehicle Mount
IGI FOG Inertial Measurement Unit
x2 GNSS Antennas
Why use a FOG IMU?

Generally speaking, FOG IMUs have better accuracy than traditional MEMs (Micro Electromechanical System). In particular attitude accuracy is higher and gyro random walk (gyro-rw) is less which leads to reduced drift when there is no satellite coverage.

The Challenge:

Completed in 1961, the Silver Jubilee Bridge has an elevation of 87 metres over the River Mersey and is constructed out of 6000 tons of steel. At nearly 500m long, it remains one of Europe’s longest steel arch bridges. The bridge had previously been surveyed using a total station by one of our civil engineering clients so control points could be used to measure the success and accuracy of the trial.

ROBIN has a relative accuracy of around 10-20mm but often, when dealing with complex structures such as this, engineers and surveyors prefer to collect the most accurate data-set possible, so our chief engineer Dr Chris Cox decided to test the powers of our most accurate mobile system yet – ROBIN +PRECISION.

ROBIN +PRECISION represents the latest in technological innovation for situations where absolute accuracy is important or applications where GNSS is limited. High accuracy applications include highway surveying and monitoring of critical infrastructure such as rail networks. With a survey grade fibre optic gyro (FOG) IMU, ROBIN +PRECISION can be used on projects where there is little or no GNSS, such as urban mapping, tunnel surveying and forest mapping.

ROBIN’s unique mounting system means that the pod can be attached to either the included backpack or vehicle mount and weighing in at only 9KG, a scan can easily be set up and performed by a solo operator.

Chris got the system attached to the 3DLM truck and calibrated in under ten minutes and set off. With only 4 passes needed (two per lane), a detailed scan was performed in around 30 minutes, including the roads at either end of the site, capturing data at over a million points per second. Back in the office, Chris set about processing the data using the bundled software package, MMProcess. In a little under 3 hours, we had a full dataset and pointcloud of the Silver Jubilee Bridge, demonstrating the accuracy of ROBIN +PRECISION to 7mm.

survey grade laser scanning data

The Results:

The scan data was compared to control points provided by the client. The control points were placed on the ends of the white painted lines on the bridge carriageway, which were surveyed in and levelled using total stations. When compared to the scan data the resulting RMS in elevation was 7mm and a standard deviation of 7mm.

The numerous overhead sections of steelwork on the bridge presented GNSS difficulties, but the survey-grade IMU used on the ROBIN Precision kept the IMU drift to a minimum allowing the system to achieve a very high level of accuracy. The standard model ROBIN may have had slightly larger drift, potentially decreasing the absolute accuracy to over 15mm.

Upon identifying a gap in the market, ROBIN was designed to meet the ever increasing needs and demands of field-based survey teams who not only require the latest in technological innovation but also need to prove a tangible return on investment. ROBIN is currently the only system available which has the ability to be mounted on to different vehicles, including airborne units, as well as be used in difficult to reach locations on foot. Extra upgrades and integrations, such as +SLAM also mean that any investment made is future-proof, making one system suitable for a range of additional applications.

Watch the Point Cloud Animation

What applications would ROBIN + PRECISION be most suitable for?

Any application where absolute accuracy is important or applications where GNSS is limited. So for example, high accuracy applications include highway surveying and monitoring. Applications with poor GNSS include urban mapping, tunnel surveying, forest mapping.

What are the technical benefits of the FOG IMU over the MEMS?

Generally speaking, fibre optic gyro (FOG) IMUs have better accuracy than MEMs, in particular attitude accuracy is higher and gyro random walk (gyro-rw) is less which leads to reduced drift when there is no GNSS (i.e. absolute accuracy of a FOG IMU will be better than a MEMS IMU when there is little or no GNSS).

What are the other benefits of the +PRECISION model?

Better accuracy when there is little or no GNSS. Better heading, roll and pitch (attitude), which is important for long range applications.


3D Laser Mapping invites UK Delegates to Open Day – come and see the NEW RIEGL VZ-400i Laser Scanner.

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UK delegates are given the chance to explore the features of the new RIEGL VZ-400i laser scanner, at an open day held by 3D Laser Mapping. After hosting the official UK launch of the RIEGL VZ-400i last November, 3D Laser Mapping is now offering customers the chance to discover further the capabilities of this technology at an open day on 14th April 2016.

The event is free to attend but places are limited. It is recommended to sign up soon via the website, to avoid disappointment.

When considering the purchase of any new technology, it is important to understand the workflow and outcomes thoroughly to ensure business goals will be met. The aim of the open day is to encourage those in attendance to try out the scanner themselves, using the hardware and the relevant software, to ensure a greater knowledge of what the RIEGL VZ-400i and laser scanning can do is achieved.

‘The new VZ-400i retains the features that many of our customers love about its predecessor, the RIEGL VZ-400, yet brings with it a whole new host of capabilities,’ commented Charlie Whyman, Global Sales and Marketing Manager at 3D Laser Mapping. ‘We are very excited to demonstrate these to everyone at our Open Day’

3D Laser Mapping has been a premier distributor of RIEGL laser scanners in the UK and Africa since 1999. Customers receive the highest level of technical support obtained through years of supporting and testing this technology. RIEGL laser scanners are also used in 3D Laser Mapping’s market-leading solutions; StreetMapperIV, for mobile mapping, and SiteMonitor for monitoring. Why? Because they believe RIEGL laser scanners to be the best!

Transportation Systems

The Road to Recovery: Using Mobile Laser Scanning for Highways & Rail

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Any disruption to transport networks not only infuriates travellers, but it also has huge cost implications for operators. However, as our Research & Development Manager Dr Neil Slatcher explains, recent advancements in LiDAR systems (Light Detection and Ranging) technology are already helping to improve Intelligent Transport Systems.

The effects of climate change have long been a consideration within the transportation industry. This year has seen its fair share of landslides, structural collapses and surfacing issues impacting on services across the world. While in the past identifying problem areas would have been labour intensive, the sophisticated use of laser technology can help recognise unstable situations that are the precursor to rapid failure. The recent landslip in Watford is a prime example.

Two people were injured when two trains collided after torrential rain caused a landslide near Watford Junction in September. While the line owner, Network Rail reopened the affected tunnel after three days, more could possibly be done to highlight problem areas and prevent future incidents.

images    _80733028_landslide3

Network Rail’s ‘Railway Upgrade Plan’ represents the biggest programme of rail modernisation since the Victorian era and while much of the infrastructure in other countries may be younger, the changing climate continues to affect ITS across the world. Advances in technology now allow us to gain greater insights into how our services can be improved and how necessary maintenance can be scheduled without added disruption. By observing changes in the landscape in 3D, we can now begin to identify areas which are at risk. Incorporating the use of LiDAR systems allows potential issues to be detected early and technical intervention teams to be deployed before or after an incident, allowing restitution work to be carried out more quickly and efficiently.

Traditionally, surveying rail infrastructure has meant using in situ sensors, which provide constant measurements of known unstable areas. The downside with this method is that only known problem areas are monitored. Mobile scanning provides a comprehensive scan whilst attached to a train or backpack, capturing everything in the path of the unit, allowing for scrutiny of an entire track or network.

The advancement into mobile laser scanning holds great possibilities due to the sheer extent of the area able to be captured in one scan – up to tens of kilometres a day. By combining a high accuracy survey-grade inertial navigation system and two LiDAR scanner heads each measuring 550,000 points per second, the technology captures an extremely high resolution dataset with achievable accuracies to within 10-20mm.

The following video shows the Silver Jubilee Bridge in Runcorn. Created with ROBIN +PRECISION in DRIVE mode, the data took only 10 minutes to collect and has an accuracy of around 7mm.

In France, engineering company Groupe Fit Esic has used 3D mapping technology to survey hundreds of kilometers of the French rail network for operator SNCF. The team used a rail-mounted StreetMapper LiDAR system with two high accuracy lasers that offer a 360° field of view and high precision mapping to a range of 300 metres, which enabled engineers to build a detailed 3D topographic map of the track and its surroundings. This provided length data and cross profiles, as well as detecting potentially dangerous objects and vegetation near to the track, which were measured to determine clearance from the line and passing trains.

StreetMapper LiDAR System

StreetMapper LiDAR System Being used for by Groupe Fit Esic

The data has then been used to carry out infrastructure inventories and clearance analysis as well as identifying and prioritising maintenance needs and contributing to the country’s Smart City ambitions.

This type of technology also dramatically increases the safety and efficiency of survey personnel. In comparison to static terrestrial laser scanners, mobile laser scanning units can be mounted to trains and other vehicles as well as backpacks, allowing automated scans to be completed without dedicating a large team to the job. This means staffing costs can be reduced, freeing team members to work on other projects.

In regards to time savings, Fit Esic has been reported as saying that its use of 3D mobile mapping technology has significantly reduced time-to-delivery of surveying projects. Other reports suggest that mobile laser scanning allows projects to be carried out up to 80% faster than when using terrestrial scanners.

Pre-construction specialists Central Alliance operate emergency response teams on major landslide sites across the UK’s railways and continue to invest in LiDAR technology to assist in their work. They recently acquired a cutting-edge universal MLS (Mobile Laser Scanner), ROBIN.

“With the challenges of acquiring data in often difficult to access locations that pose a severe safety risk, gathering LiDAR data quickly and accurately becomes invaluable for this type of emergency work where an accurate representation of geomorphological features for assessing slope stability is key. When making assessments on a failing slope for example, we need to know exact information about the existing condition of the slope so that we can assess how it has failed, what the mechanism of failure is and how to tackle this in remediation. It helps immensely in this situation to have a detailed 3D model of the site which we can provide using ROBIN - the multi-platform laser scanning capability of the technology means that we can capture all required mobile mapping data on any site by driving, walking or flying over it.”

The Road to Efficiency

The use of LiDAR has increased dramatically over the last 18 months with laser scanners being used in the development of autonomous vehicles. When positioned on the top of a car, these smaller units can scan around 60m in all directions, producing an accurate 3D map of a vehicle’s surroundings. This allows other sensors to assist the vehicle in navigating obstacles in real time, but before driverless cars hit our roads, all of our cities, towns and highways need to be mapped in great detail to include barriers, traffic lights and street furniture. By scanning every centimetre of public infrastructure, companies like Uber and Google are creating interactive 3D models which could help us towards an optimised, data driven, smart city culture, where different stakeholders can benefit from accessing the layers of information collected – rail assets, vegetation growth, road markings and bridge clearances.

In the US, one city council planned to spend around $1 million to evaluate its pavements and street furniture using a team of engineering students who would walk the route, evaluating the damage by sight. This process was estimated to take around a year. Using a LiDAR system, the scan and data processing would be complete in less than a month – including detailed visualisations to assist with monitoring high traffic areas most in need of regular maintenance. Road users, the transport sector, travellers and the local and national economy will all benefit from less congestion and delays caused by emergency repair work.

Having to dispatch emergency repair teams is costly for highways maintenance firms and diverts resources from other scheduled maintenance jobs. There is also significant impact on the economy, which relies on the highways being open and maintained. And while every set of roadworks causes some delays, with unplanned works there is little opportunity to facilitate adequate diversions or countermeasures, to pre-position materials and equipment or to pre-fabricate solutions.

Who's Ahead of the Curve?

So, the question is, where is LiDAR technology already being used to improve our over-burdened transport infrastructure? The Road & Transport Research Institute in Lithuania provides a great example, where road authorities have easy access to mapping software, allowing them to keep on top of change on the highways and plan accordingly. The KTTI has been able to produce black-spot maps and other studies which highlight incident prevention, rather than reactive response.

Over in the Netherlands, land surveying and engineering company Geomaat also uses a StreetMapper system. The majority of the company’s work is road and highway survey based and it was looking for a solution to improve safety, accuracy and speed of delivery of data to their customers.

The StreetMapper system can be attached to any vehicle and allows scans to be completed at normal road speeds with no disruption or road closures necessary. The team at Geomaat has developed its own post-processing software to automatically identify the white lines and barriers on the roads and also round shaped objects, all visible on the resulting pointcloud.

Geomaat Data from LiDAR System

This system has already been used on projects including planning the upgrade of the A50 between Ewijk and Valburg on behalf of the Rijkswaterstaat, a project to upgrade the runway at Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport and surveying and monitoring over 500km of highway in support of Lifetime Maintenance Contracts (LEM).

The results speak for themselves. In terms of cost efficiency, the new solution proved to be 50% cheaper compared with traditional surveying methods and by reducing the need to work through the night savings were made on staff overtime. Because the StreetMapper is attached to a vehicle, workers are not exposed to fast moving traffic and disruption to road users decreased because the roads no longer needed to be closed to perform highway surveys. Furthermore, the accuracy of the end data has greatly improved as it is presented in both absolute and relative terms.

No matter what area of transportation you are involved in, LiDAR technology can help to provide highly accurate data to assist with planning a safer and more cost efficient future.

To read more about Geomaat's work with StreetMapper, have a look at our Case Study

The King, The Castle and The Laser Beam – LiDAR Mapping for Heritage Applications

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Across the world, when you mention Nottingham, there are a few different things people automatically think of. “Ah, Brian Clough” is common one, especially on the football mad Asian continent, however most common is, of course “Oh, Robin Hood!”

The legend of Robin Hood has been around since the 13th century and has spawned several contentious[i] movies featuring Errol Flynn, Kevin Costner and more recently Russell Crowe. It is yet to be established whether Robin ever lived in Ireland as Russell’s accent may suggest…
giphyThis month marks the 800th anniversary of the death of ‘Bad King John’. Remember the greedy tax obsessed Lion in the Disney cartoon Robin Hood? King John ruled England from the 6 April 1199 until his death on 19th October 1216. King John was portrayed by Disney as a greedy, malevolent lion in the cartoon Robin Hood and has been dubbed the ‘Most evil monarch in British History’. After contracting dysentery on his travels, King John painfully made his way as far as Newark Castle where, after a large feast, he died aged 49.[ii]

Rumour and folklore speculates that Robin Hood & Friar Tuck conspired to poison John as revenge for the murder of Maid Marian. Being based 10 miles away from Newark we decided to take ROBIN back to Newark Castle to mark the anniversary of King John’s death so that we could take an in-depth look at the historic landmark.


Newark Castle stands on the bank of the River Trent and is inaccessible by foot on one side. Using a mobile mapping system, attached to a backpack, our team performed a 360° scan of the castle in under 15 minutes. A similar scan with a terrestrial laser scanner would take around a day and a half, with multiple set ups required to capture the same amount of data. Full details of the castle emerged, from the detail of the original mullioned windows to lost and damaged bricks on the ramparts. With survey-grade mobile systems now available, mobile scanning can now achieve accuracies of around 10-20mm. Making systems such as ROBIN ideal for documenting the intricacies of historical heritage.3d-laser-mapping-newark-castle-2

The following video shows an elevated animation of the resulting pointcloud created by ROBIN.

Documenting heritage sites such as Newark Castle allows for closer inspection of architectural details as well as the potential to maintain and even rebuild an exact replica in the event that the structure is damaged beyond repair. The benefits of LiDAR in archaeological documentation were first recognized at a NATO symposium in Poland in 2000. A survey of the River Wharfe in Yorkshire revealed a Roman fort, previously thought to have been destroyed. This led Historic England to engage with the Environment Agency’s Geomatics Group to conduct an aerial LiDAR survey of World Heritage Site, Stonehenge. This produced a highly detailed terrain model which allowed for the study and identification of archaeological features which otherwise may have gone unnoticed. Several new sites were discovered in the investigation and the scan also provided a map of much greater accuracy than previously recorded.

figure_5-1449x1557Other recent findings include the discovery of a network of medieval cites buried beneath the floor of the forest close to Siem Reap in Cambodia, a number of ancient sites have been uncovered in Honduras and more has been learnt about the AONB Cannock Chase and its involvement in the Great War, all using LiDAR technology.

Almost all cultural heritage projects require the recording of dimensions, position and form to allow for documentation and analysis. Laser scanning also allows for the detailed retrospective study of buildings and artefacts, giving conservation experts the ability to spot changes and erosion over a period of time by comparing repeated scans. Project Managers can also plan restorative works more easily when they have access to an accurate 3D scan of the project.

Despite recent accomplishments made in the application of LiDAR to archaeological projects, it is yet to see extensive use within the industry. There are several obstacles preventing the technology being more widely used. Technological innovation comes at a cost which can prohibit the use of certain equipment, especially in the not-for-profit sector. To perform effective scans of remote areas can also involve the use of planes or helicopters, especially where vegetation is dense and impenetrable. Often, external grants or funding are applied for to help fund specific projects, though collaboration between stakeholders and interested parties can help to raise funds or provide resources for larger scale applications, such as Cannock Chase where Staffordshire County Council worked with Historic England to deliver the project with help in the form of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Even though scans and scanners in particular can be an expensive acquisition, the data collected allows for the examination of a large area, in detail, with the ability to zoom in to specific areas of interest. This has proven to be an invaluable way of referencing scale pre and post excavation, with mobile systems cutting the time spent scanning even further. As shown at Newark Castle, vast amounts of data can be collected in minutes if a system is moving. In a recent project in a school in the US, Leica estimated that the scan was carried out over 80% faster than if using a TLS. When factoring in the cost of human resources, the speed and practicalities of mobile mapping systems can suddenly become a game-changer. With the cost of LiDAR systems dropping and the technology becoming more commonly used in other industries, there are many more opportunities for collaboration between the private and non-profit sectors.

The CyArk 500 challenge is a great example of where collaboration is helping to document heritage sites using 3D mapping technology. The aim is to digitally document 500 of the world’s most important cultural sites, preserving them for future generations in the event that they are ‘lost to natural disasters, destroyed by human aggression or ravaged by the passage of time’. With time and resource being donated by some of the world’s foremost specialists in realty capture, CyArk have already documented 40 sites including Pompeii, Mt. Rushmore, Sydney Opera House and the Tower of London.

The Scottish Ten project is a similar success story spawned from the CyArk project. Historic Environment Scotland and The Glasgow School of Art’s Digital Design Studio joined together to digitally document Scotland’s then five World Heritage sites. The resulting ‘Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualization’ or CDDV brings together people and businesses with skills in heritage, surveying and digital and interactive technologies such as virtual reality.


Professional guidance to cover 3D laser scanning for archaeology and architecture has been developed by Newcastle University, following a 2 year project by the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences. The project sought to provide information to guardians of national heritage such as local authorities, archaeologists and architects, to facilitate the use of LiDAR scanning for documentation and preservation. Historic England have since released two publications; ‘3D Laser Scanning for Heritage’ which builds on the guidance notes from Newcastle University, covering decision making – accuracy required, time and access restrictions about more  how the captured data can be used and archived. ‘The Light Fantastic’ focusses on Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) for archaeological surveys to help those in charge of historical documentation decide whether LiDAR data can help them achieve their research aims.



ROBIN provides a multi-purpose all round system, integrating a 360° field of view laser scanner, 12 MP camera, two GNSS antennas, inertial navigation system, touch screen control unit and three mounting systems, allowing for applications via WALK, DRIVE & FLY. The ROBIN package also includes complete capture and a post-processing software.

Our technical team are always happy to answer your questions. Give them a call or visit www.3dlasermapping.com/robin to find out more about ROBIN


[i] One movie which will always be forgiven is the Mel Brooks classic ‘Robin Hood: Men in Tights’

[ii] Not all of John’s legacy was bad - His excessive taxation of normal citizens led to a rebellion led by the Church which culminated in the signing of the Magna Carta, the first document to limit the power of the Crown and give rights to the common folk.


AAM India Survey Team

Mobile Laser Scanner Case Study: Road Surveys with AAM India & StreetMapper IV

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AAM Group is a global geospatial service provider, operating across Africa and Asia with offices in India, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, South Africa and Singapore.

The company specialises in the collection, analysis and delivery of geospatial information across a variety of sectors, including mining, infrastructure and utilities, construction, coastal, government and forestry.

With a team of consultants committed to developing innovative solutions to solve business challenges and add value to customers, AAM Group purchased the StreetMapper system for its South African office in 2011. After receiving exceptional feedback, AAM’s operation in India also adopted the solution in 2015.



AAM Group wanted to achieve a standout reputation amongst an emerging, competitive and crowded field surveying market in India. The company was particularly keen to take ownership of the growing road-surveying sector.

Whilst many competitors were relying on traditional field survey methods, AAM Group knew that investing in new technology could be the point of difference they needed, especially given the often-challenging landscape in the country.

More traditional survey methods were taking far too long for the rapidly moving roads sector, and did not provide the level of thoroughness required for detailed and optimal project design.



Having already heard about the benefits and results achieved by 3D Laser Mapping’s StreetMapper from their colleagues in South Africa, the team at AAM Group in India were confident it was the solution they were looking for.

From AAM Group’s perspective, the company was in a unique situation to introduce a survey grade Mobile Laser Scanner (MLS) unit, with the in-house skills and experience to immediately utilise it to its maximum potential.

It soon became clear that AAM Group had the ability to offer the Indian market a winning combination with their head of technical solutions saying -

“Our StreetMapper has significantly increased the accuracy expected by the industry from MLS. Before StreetMapper arrived, the majority of the Indian market only had inexperienced users and non-survey grade MLS units. It has allowed us to contribute towards setting a new standard.”

“Our customers love the fact that StreetMapper can capture data efficiently and accurately. We have found it to be 75 per cent faster in terms of capturing and processing when compared to traditional survey techniques. Customers also like having access to 3D pointclouds for easy reference at any time, alongside geo-referenced panorama imagery.”




To maximise the benefits for the company, AAM Group integrated StreetMapper with other bespoke software.

Along with TopoDOT(certainity3d) and Terrasolid modules, the company also uses its own, internally developed, software called eLAStic. This was developed from AAM’s 18 year association with LiDAR; it provides additional flexibility and efficiencies when it comes to the processing of pointclouds.

Having the ability to integrate in-house software offers a low cost option for increased, high-level functionality.



As the team at AAM India predicted, StreetMapper delivered the results they were looking for. However, it surpassed their initial expectations, turning the division into an industry leader in India and helping to create both increased profit and capacity.

Results included:

  • StreetMapper positioned AAM India as one of the leading players in the market. This resulted in several new government and private road contracts being won.
  • A 75 per cent reduction in data acquisition and processing time.
  • In road projects, AAM Group now delivers millions of survey points to 5-10cm accuracy, instead of the few points laboriously gathered by closed traverses.
  • Disruption to traffic flow and pedestrians was reduced to zero.
  • Compared to conventional surveying methods, StreetMapper has allowed the team to fully complete comparable projects 70 per cent faster.
  • Safety for surveyors, designers and motorists was dramatically increased, especially given the reduced need for repeat site visits and design field checks.
  • Staffing costs were reduced as StreetMapper’s complete capture of the road corridor negated the need to redeploy surveyors for specification and priority changes.
  • Previous surveying methods resulted in high staff numbers and low equipment cost. StreetMapper requires less staff time and the cost has been offset by the subsequent increase of both revenue and team capacity.



"With the advantage of having StreetMapper and a good MLS team, AAM India has won many road project contracts in India, both from government agencies and private companies. The StreetMapper has positioned us as the provider of first-class equipment, with the skills and experience to successfully deploy it and execute challenging projects.”


With thanks to Satish Kumar, technical head of solutions at AAM Group, for his time, input and photos.

For more information on on Mobile Mapping or StreetMapper IV,  visit our dedicated page


hurricane katrina flooding aerial map

LiDAR – The First Line in Flood Defence?

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LiDAR – The First Line in Flood Defence?

Homes washed away, crops destroyed and the risk of airborne diseases; floods are one of the most common and devastating of natural disasters, costing an estimated £13.7bn in damage each year. According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, an estimated 96.9 million people will be affected by flooding in 2016.

Most disasters cannot be predicted, yet new technology available is starting to help some of the most vulnerable countries to monitor environmental conditions which are often responsible for mass destruction and loss of life.

LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) systems were originally used to measure clouds and became more well-known following the use of a laser altimeter to map the surface of the moon during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971.  Advances in LiDAR technology now allow rescue and research teams to map an at-risk or post-incident area within hours, without putting additional lives at risk. Detailed data can be gathered in 3D using mobile mapping devices which now allow for remote capture, allowing for fast deployment and giving operators the ability to map areas which have been rendered inaccessible. From planning routes for emergency vehicles after Hurricane Katrina to scanning the tsunami hit ports of Japan, LiDAR systems are now invaluable to us in times of trouble.


The recent floods in Louisiana devastated large parts of the state with around 7.1 trillion gallons of water falling during the storm. With 13 dead and over 110,000 home damaged, it is hard to imagine that things could have been worse. Louisiana’s LiDAR project began in 2000 in response to the high level of repeated flood-loss insurance claims across the state, as well as frequent oil spills caused by flooding. Given Louisiana’s low relief and remote wetland environment, LiDAR has been the ideal solution to monitor the state’s floodplains as it has allowed for access in to remote areas, including areas with dense vegetation which are impassable on foot.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005, it exposed huge flaws in the construction of the city’s food defences. With nearly 2000 deaths and over a million people displaced, Louisiana’s flood protection systems and levees came under great scrutiny, with LiDAR maps from both before and after the disaster assisting in the creation of the Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System (HSDRRS); a 133-mile perimeter system, incorporating flood walls, improved levees, pump stations and gated structures .



In the aftermath of the surge, emergency services used pre and post-event LiDAR images to route emergency vehicles around the city. This not only helped identify areas where people may be trapped but also enabled responders to reach locations such as hospitals, much faster.

Terrestrial and airborne laser scanning has continued to be invaluable to the state, enabling regular monitoring of the most at-risk areas, proving that the new flood defence measures are effective and helping to prevent another disaster on the scale of Katrina. In 2012 mobile mapping devices were used to conduct a field survey of the structural stability of the new levees, giving in-depth 3D images of selected sections. This practice continues.

Global Collaboration: Project NOAH
With a long history of flooding in the UK, the Environment Agency have been using lasers to map the British landscape for 18 years, assisting with the monitoring of flood plains and coastlines and helping to enhance flood modelling methods.
Following a series of devastating typhoons, the Philippian Government requested the Environment Agency’s help with Project NOAH, the National Operational Assessment of Hazards. According to the UN’s World Risk Report, the Philippines is the third most vulnerable to country to natural disasters.  The EA helped to set up the DREAM-LiDAR project which would map 18 Major River Basins, covering approximately a third of the country, to enable the production of flood risk maps. 4 years on, with most of the basins mapped, government agencies have been able to relocate at risk communities as well better visualize emergency response and relief efforts needed when the floods inevitably come.

The images below show pre-LiDAR flood mapping methods compared with the detail now available within the NOAH flood hazard system.

previous     NOAH 2

After Hurricane Desmond hit Cumbria, the UK Government announced a £50m relief fund to help with temporary accommodation and clean-up operations. With estimated annual flood damage costs said to be around £1.1bn per year, even the £700m committed to the cause after the increase in Insurance Premium Tax leaves a significant hole in the accounts.

Getting funding for new technology is always a difficult task, especially in the public sector where budgets are tight and the benefits are not able to be accurately quantified prior to the spend. When we consider the amount of funds deployed after a severe flood surely it makes sense to fund preventative research?

Between 2006 and 2009, the state of Florida, assisted by the Florida Division of Emergency Management, instigated a LiDAR project to monitor areas affected by hurricane surge following the House Bill 7121 - Disaster Preparedness Response and Recovery which stated "The Legislature finds that hurricane evacuation planning is a critical task that must be completed in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Appropriated funds may be used to update current regional evacuation plans and shall incorporate current transportation networks, behavioural studies, and vulnerability studies. In addition, funds may be used to perform computer modelling analysis on the effects of storm-surge events." Paving the way for public funds to be used for LiDAR projects in the US.

Flood Plain Monitoring via LiDAR offers the opportunity to understand changes in coastal areas and waterways on a large scale, with the ability to spot fluctuations in danger areas quickly, enabling early warning procedures to be activated. In the cases of both Louisiana and the Philippines, monitoring also enables the fast mobilisation of emergency teams to flood-hit areas, saving lives and limiting damage.

Whatever we learn from these amazing advances in technology, it should be shared with developing countries and communities with limited infrastructure and skills, who are often most vulnerable to these catastrophic disasters.


Want Free LiDAR Data from the UK?

In December 2015, under an agreement with the Government, the UK’s Environment Agency made data, covering around 72% of the UK, open for all to use for free. This data covers over 95% of the UK’s coastline and 90% of its floodplains.

Click here to access the open data 

You can read more about the Louisiana Statewide LiDAR project here:

You can see the live flood mapping system from project NOAH here


You can find out more about LiDAR Mapping & Monitoring Solutions here



bridge collapse in barrow upon soar

3DLM’s Dr Chris Cox contributes to Barrow-upon-Soar bridge collapse article

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After the Barrow-upon-Soar bridge collapse last month rail industry publication Rail.co.uk penned article questioning whether visual surveys are enough to prevent disruptions to public transport.  3DLM’s Dr Chris Cox contributed;

“With many of today’s bridge designs dating back to the Victorian era, there has never been a greater need to survey and monitor these decaying structures and to schedule regular, necessary maintenance to prevent such costly and disruptive events”

Read Dr Chris Cox's comments and the full article here.


bridge collapse in barrow upon soar

Could the Barrow upon Soar Rail Closure Have Been Avoided Using a Mobile Monitoring System?

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Could the recent collapse of Barrow upon Soar’s railway bridge have been avoided by employing regular bridge monitoring?

Not long after the last train had passed beneath, half the railway bridge wall and a large section of brickwork had collapsed onto the tracks at Barrow upon Soar. Network Rail teams worked constantly  to restore normal service, but the ­­Midland Main Line connecting the East Midlands and beyond to London St. Pancras was out of action for 48 hours at great cost and inconvenience to businesses and people across the East Midlands.

With many of today’s bridge designs dating back to the Victorian era, there has never been a greater need to survey and monitor these decaying structures and to schedule regular, necessary maintenance to prevent costly and disruptive events such as Barrow upon Soar. Systems such as 3DLM’s StreetMapperIV enables measure the deterioration of vital infrastructure like rail and road bridges.

StreetMapperIV, 3D Laser Mapping’s survey grade mobile mapping system, is one of the most reliable, accurate and robust mobile mapping systems on the market today. Surveys can be carried out without costly road or network closures as the system can be mounted on a train or car travelling at normal speed.

The survey grade system is supplied with two sensors which provide a dense pointcloud allowing for detailed feature identification – such as cracks in brickwork, as seen in the Barrow upon Soar railway bridge shortly before the collapse.


Local residents spoke of assessments being carried out on the bridge, but visual inspections can be unreliable and do not reveal the true extent of the deterioration. Visible cracks often occur in structures and are usually the first sign of a greater problem. Regular monitoring, incorporating the use of an accurate LiDAR system, ensures that any potential issues can be detected early enough to avoid the safety and cost implications involved in a collapse.

If you’re interested in a mobile mapping systems, or would simply like to bend our ear – please get in touch! Drop us a line at info@3dlasermapping.com or dial 01949 838004.

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