streetmapper vs robin

StreetMapper vs ROBIN – Battle of the Mobile Mapping Systems

In by Harriet Brewitt

As fight night looms and the country prepares for another exciting faceoff between two of the biggest names in boxing, here at 3DLM we thought we’d get into the spirit of things by throwing our own Mobile Mapping Systems into the ring and seeing how they compare. While we don’t have too much refereeing experience and probably couldn’t tell you the difference between a ‘swarmer’ and a ‘slugger’ (some of my more sporting colleagues may wish to dispute that), we do like to think we’re fairly well up on mobile mapping. So join us on the side-lines and see how our MLS systems measure up and find out who will reign supreme.

First into the ring is long established and experienced StreetMapper. The first commercialised mobile mapping system brought to the market in 2004, StreetMapper is now in its latest iteration, StreetMapperIV. “SMIV”, is the most lightweight and portable version yet and is ready to show off its accurate mapping skills.

New kid on the block ROBIN, launched in 2016, is billing as the world’s most flexible mobile mapping system. No other system on the market can WALK, DRIVE and FLY quite like ROBIN. But can it take on the might of StreetMapperIV? Will one system knock out the other? Let’s find out and begin round one…

ROUND ONE: Data

The data produced by a mobile mapping system is created by the LiDAR sensor firing pulses of light at a surface. The amount of time it takes for each pulse to bounce back, allows the system to calculate how far away objects are (as light moves at a constant speed) and produce a 3D model called a point cloud (each ‘point’ is where the laser has hit a surface).

It is therefore important for mobile mapping systems to be integrated with sensors that can scan many points per second, as this affects the pointcloud density and visualisation of the data.

ROBIN is integrated with a sensor that scans at 1,000,000 points a second, which creates a point cloud with one of the highest point densities on the market.

Much like ROBIN, StreetMapper is provided with a single scanner as standard and one scanner is certainly sufficient to produce high quality data. However, the SMIV can be upgraded to a dual laser scanner system and here is where it pulls a real punch. With two LiDAR sensors, the data produced from SMIV is more accurate as twice the number of pulses are emitted, creating a point cloud with greater density. The LiDAR sensors in a dual pod StreetMapper system scan 2,000,000 points a second with a point density of 4000 p/sqm.

In tests both ROBIN and StreetMapper have collected data with 2cm absolute accuracy (1cm in good GNSS conditions with ground control points) so both systems really do excel at producing accurate data. However, dual scanner StreetMapperIV may just pip ROBIN to the post in this round as its mapping accuracy is really unparalleled.

ROUND TWO: Flexibility

StreetMapper has evolved a long way since its inception in 2004. As with many of the current mobile mapping systems on the market, the first SM models required a team of people to install and calibrate the system, as well as a kitted-out vehicle complete with lifting platform. These days the StreetMapperIV can be mounted on almost any vehicle, including boats and trains, by just one person. It’s lightweight and portable and can be taken to any job in the world within normal luggage allowances on commercial flights.

ROBIN is a fully flexible mobile mapping system, not only is it lightweight, portable and operable by one person – but it’s the only mobile mapping system in the world which combines three systems in one. In WALK mode, ROBIN is mounted onto a backpack to allow accurate surveys to be carried out in difficult to access locations. ROBIN DRIVE is a vehicle mount which can be adapted for virtually any vehicle. And finally, FLY means ROBIN can be installed onto a heavy lift UAV or helicopter. Just a few simple adjustments stand between these three options, all of which can be included in the standard ROBIN package.

ROBIN’s capabilities are further enhanced with the ROBIN +WINGS airborne LiDAR extension. +WINGS is a robust and fully certified protective pod which can be quickly installed on almost any helicopter.

While StreetMapper is still pretty nimble, its competitor is not called the ‘World’s Most Flexible Mobile Mapping System’ for nothing…

We think ROBIN’s got this round in the bag

ROUND THREE: Usability

The video on the right shows just how easily the StreetMapperIV system is mounted to a road vehicle. After a ten minute installation SMIV is secure and ready to be driven around at normal driving speeds. After a long day out on the road scanning, SMIV very simply unclips from the vehicle’s roof bars.

There are no specialist tools to get lost and the system fits easily into two rugged peli cases for safe storage and transport.

Earlier this year, ROBIN and its airborne extension +WINGS flew over to Canada for a project in Manitoba. ROBIN +WINGS was used to carry out both an airborne and vehicle scans of over 100km of highway in a single day. Our Airborne LiDAR expert Nick Harrop said he was blown away by the ease of transition between WINGS & DRIVE modes. As a man with more years in the air than on the ground under his belt, this is high praise indeed.

The judges look impressed with both sets of skills in that round…

ROUND FOUR: Data Processing

Both ROBIN and StreetMapperIV systems are provided with our bespoke software package with full support and regular version upgrades. MMCapture, as the name suggests (no jargon here!) is our user friendly capture software. All data is captured at the push of a button and initialisation is made easy through simple onscreen steps.

Following data capture, MMProcess is used to manage the captured data and to geo-encode the raw laser data into a georeferenced point cloud.

We are proud suppliers of Terrasolid and Orbit GT software packages and recommend the use of both with our Mobile Mapping Systems for more advanced data processing tasks.

We pride ourselves on providing the best software for our customers, so there’s no competition where this round is concerned. We call this a tie!

FIFTH (AND FINAL) ROUND: Protecting your Investment

When it comes to protecting your investment, you will be pleased to know that both systems are pretty future proof – our R&D work to push the limits of our technology on a daily basis, as seen with the dual scanner SMIV and ROBIN +WINGS extension. We’ve also had clients upgrade their IMU at a later date.

Look out for our latest upgrade for ROBIN +SLAM and the ROBIN MINI, a lightweight UAV LiDAR system.

This round is a draw, fair and square!

The results are in…

We call StreetMapper vs ROBIN a tie! Both systems are precise, versatile and above all, produce the best quality LiDAR data – it’s simply impossible for one to knock the other out! The two systems represent the best in surveying technology, the remaining consideration would be intended use. If most of your projects consist of road or rail surveying, StreetMapper IV would be the obvious choice. If you often need to collect data in difficult to access or remote locations, ROBIN’s WALK & DRIVE modes give you this flexibility.

Whether you purchase a ROBIN or StreetMapper system, 3D Laser Mapping provide their customers with the highest level of support and aftercare.

A comprehensive two-part training programme is included with the purchase of every mobile mapping system and we have a truly knockout team of global support staff on call 24hrs a day to answer customers calls and emails.

If you’re not sure which system weighs up better against the other, contact us and our team would be more than happy to talk you through the benefits of each system with your specific application in mind.

Knocked out by our blog? Still not sure how the systems weigh up? Contact our team to see which system would pack the best punch for your applications.