As the global population continues to grow and urbanisation increases, the civil engineering sector is significantly expanding. Despite unprecedented growth there are still many challenges facing those working in the surveying sector. High initial investment, a low rate of ROI, a lack of skilled labour and long project turnaround are all potential threats to the expansion of the industry and individual businesses.

TLS systems still have their place in many environments, yet when working in difficult and potentially hazardous locations such as construction sites and tunnels, they can be prohibitive to both efficiency and safety. Laser scanners have come a long way since static terrestrial systems – with flexible mobile mapping systems now available which can be mounted to a vehicle, backpack, helicopter or even a UAV.

Capturing over 1,000,000 points per second, with a 360° field of view, modern mobile laser scanners create point clouds which can help to identify structural deformation and slope instability, which is particularly helpful where visual inspections are difficult and dangerous to carry out. The collected data can be processed and manipulated to highlight topographical details alongside key features, with the ability to extract or classify assets such as rail components and communication equipment. The ability to continually analyse data in this level of detail means that sites only need to be visited once, saving on time and resources – critical in the event of an incident but paramount when it comes to planning future works and maintenance.

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LiDAR Surveying

Mobile mapping solutions such as ROBIN and StreetMapper allow LiDAR surveys to be carried out by a lone worker around 80% faster than Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) systems. Rather than relying on multiple set-ups to generate a map of a large site, mobile LiDAR systems can collect accurate data in a continuous stream.

One of the most difficult aspects of any civil engineering project can be collaboration and the sharing of information with different stakeholders. Because LiDAR survey data contains such detailed information, it means that one data set can be used by different departments and companies who all have a part to play in the project. Shared business intelligence gives greater opportunities for improvements in business efficiencies, improves project time scales and makes data collection more affordable.

LiDAR surveying can also be a game-changer when it comes to safety. Time series scans can help to detect new issues that may arise part way through a project. A comprehensive and updateable risk model can be introduced, allowing risk to be managed, rather than responded to.