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3D Laser Scanning for Surveying

Surveying is a technique that determines the relative position of various features beneath, above, or on the earth’s surface through means of indirect or direct measurements, and ultimately representing them as part of a plan or map.


It is used over an extensive array of engineering applications by considering the current reality and mapping it to virtual reality via similar mapping systems or advanced software.

The entire purpose of surveying is to provide comprehensive records of buildings, trees, land contours, sidewalks, topography, and the many kinds of man-made features.

Over the years, several different measurement methods have been implemented to gather such data. However, the world is rapidly advancing, and the need for more precise measurements also continues to evolve.


Advanced 3D technology is now more accessible than ever to meet the current needs.

In addition, it can now offer thorough documentation, which seemed nearly impossible with the traditional measurement methods.


In this guide, you will learn all about the numerous applications and benefits of 3D laser scanning for surveying and how our 3D measurement and metrology solutions can help you on your next project.


A Brief Overview of Surveying Measurement Methodologies


Land surveying happens to be the world’s 2nd oldest profession.

With passing years, surveyors have worked hard on enhancing the various types of technology they need to collect the proper measurements required.


One of the most common technologies used by surveyors today is the total station. The total station is an incredibly prevalent geodetic instrument used in traditional surveying technology. It features a combo of EDM technologies and digital theodolite in one device operated using an onboard survey program.

The data gathered from the total station is then processed using software for creating surveys or 3D models of objects and or the terrain.


The total station has undergone tremendous enhancements in its technology.

For example, the addition of prismless or reflectorless technology enables the operators to take specific measurements without contacting the object via a prism or target.

However, even though this method is more efficient and accurate than the traditional total stations, there are limitations.


In addition, some more improvements like GPS (global positioning systems) were introduced to further aid in the provision of additional measurement data. Initially, when GPS was presented in the 1980s, surveyors used it to measure the distance between 2 individual points that served as a way to input the vertical and horizontal control.


As it continued to evolve, GPS for surveys has advanced into a concept called real-time kinematics GPS (RTK GPS). The receivers can now relate to a radio link that enables users to plan everything in real-time with the GPS rooted in the measuring pole.


RTK GPS has significantly helped to speed up the process of data collection and is even implemented in drone mapping, to provide positioning data for improved absolute accuracy on image metadata. However, there is still a specific positional difference amid vertical and horizontal measurement that isn’t present with other methods.

While most surveyors' preferred surveying instrument is the total station, the rapid developments in laser scanning technology have ultimately led surveyors to adopt 3D laser scanners as a more convenient and beneficial solution.


3D Laser Scanning for Surveying


A 3D laser scanner operates much like the reflectorless total stations to collect the 3D coordinates (x, y, and z coordinates) of a specific environment entirely with just a single device to produce a high-resolution point cloud.


However, they gather a comprehensive line of sight and do not need any location input because the points collected are referenced spatially to the instrument itself and not the actual coordinates. Thus, as a line-of-sight, non-contact device, laser scanners can successfully get hold of 3D measurements with up to 1mm accuracy.


Today’s laser scanning procedures incorporate advanced sensors, laser beams, GPS, receiver electronics, inertial measurement units (IMU), and photodetectors.

With all these components, 3D laser scanners can accurately calculate the structures’ and surfaces’ coordinates.

Laser scanning enables surveyors to provide the complete details of a specific structure or site. Then, like in a total station, the data gathered is carried back to the office to produce models or surveys for the clients.


The Advantages of 3D Laser Scanning for Surveying


More and more companies are adopting 3D laser scanning technology to boost efficiency and enhance the details and specifics for their clients’ deliverables.


At ScanTek, our 3D laser scanning solutions can effectively reduce manpower and speed up the overall data collection process, while maintaining safety for the field crew.


Laser scanning technology offers numerous benefits over traditional land surveying methods, like photogrammetry. Here are a few benefits of 3D laser scanning:


1. Reduce Health and Safety Risks


Using 3D laser scanners to gather information from hard-to-reach or dangerous places signifies that field crews do not need to place themselves in risky situations. Instead, the crew can stay safe and away from harm while the laser scanner does the job.


2. Provides Incredibly Comprehensive Details


With total stations and real-time kinetics surveying methods, surveyors need to gather measurements and multiple benchmarks at every direction or grade change.

A 3D laser scan takes on a complete 360-degree line of sight scan of a particular area and captures an incredibly dense point cloud comprising millions of points. These points can then help map land contours and provide an accurate figure of how the land appears.


3. Non-Intrusive Technology


Surveying in threatening environments is another significant concern of interest for surveyors. The non-contact and non-intrusive nature of laser scanners makes it incredibly helpful to conduct surveys of industrial facilities and plants as they will be minimally affected by field crews.

In addition, Surveyors can quickly gather data in hazardous working environments from a safe distance with the help of laser scanners, without needing any safety harnesses or scaffold platforms to capture the scan data.


4. Saves Time and Effort


In most cases, traditional methods of conducting surveys call for a 2-man crew to capture data. However, implementing the state-of-the-art 3D laser scanning technology allows companies to capture detailed and comprehensive data with just a one-man team.

This significantly reduces field time, manpower, and project costs.


Furthermore, laser scanning also enables taking virtual trips to the site of interest, which ultimately eliminates the need to make additional visits to the site to capture measurements that have been missed.


5. Precise Measurements


With numerous scan setups, 3D laser scanning can provide a comprehensive level of detail that is hard to achieve with the traditional surveying methods.


Using the 3D data gathered with 3D laser scanning technology, surveyors can offer clients detailed and precise measurements or 3-dimensional models of multifaceted environments or areas for use in:

  • Architectural, civil, or mining engineering

  • Piping and ductwork design

  • Industrial construction

  • Retrofit and installation projects.


Applications for the 3D Laser Scanner


Presently, surveying plays a significant role in almost every aspect of our lives.

For example, it is used to map the ocean’s floor (hydrographic survey), set the boundaries of private and public properties (cadastral survey), and provide engineering data for land development and the construction of roads, bridges, buildings.


Here are a few examples of how surveyors can use 3D laser scanning technology.


1. Urban Topography


Urban topography is studying the layouts, forms, geography, and architectural history of towns that help in town planning. Therefore, the data gathered in a topographic survey needs to be precise, regular, and thorough.


As a result, it requires urban planners to use 3D laser scanners to collect and thoroughly process the data before they commence the development work. It also plays an essential role in many projects related to civil engineering and helps private authorities and governments accomplish their tasks promptly, with high accuracy.


2. Mobile Mapping


Mobile mapping is a novel application for 3D laser scanning for surveying that involves gathering geospatial data from mobile vehicles. Specific projects require measuring hundreds and thousands of miles of coastline or roadway. Mobile mapping serves as an excellent non-invasive way of gathering data safely from a moving vehicle.


3. Spatial Scanning


Typically, spatial scanning processes consume a lot of time. Sometimes, even a single small mistake can affect the whole project. 3D laser scanning technology helps in reducing the time required for spatial scanning and plotting and enhances the planning process by considerably cutting down the possibilities of errors made during the process.

Due to the significant amount of value that laser scanners can generate for spatial scanning, many experts utilize them for surveying, mobile mapping, and scanning the interiors and exteriors of buildings.


4. Volume Extractions


Surveying also plays an essential role in the construction and mining projects that call for volume extractions.


Using laser scanners, surveying crews can quickly scan sites before and after the extraction process to determine the precise amount of extracted material.


5. Road Surveying and Traffic Construction Analysis


Developing highways is another task that can be incredibly challenging for authorities.

It is impossible to put the traffic on a halt for too long to collect information on existing roads. However, with the help of 3D laser scanners, the turnaround time for traffic construction analysis and road surveys can be significantly reduced, from months to just a few hours.


6. Piping and Bridge Applications


Documentation for high-traffic consuming bridges and complex piping within manufacturing plants is hard to gather, considering the safety hazards of operating on roads or in a risky environment. Still, field surveys are necessary for verifying the accuracy and ensuring the correct integrity and placement of structures while they are undergoing construction.


3D laser scanning technology is an alternative solution to reduce the risk for field crews. This enables surveyors to gather data safely without needing to physically stand amid hazardous work environments and materials.


Laser Scanning Services for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) at ScanTek 3D


Laser projection solutions and 3D laser scanning swiftly changed the architecture, engineering, and construction industry by allowing contractors to take up the challenge of more multifaceted and geometric intensive projects.


At ScanTek, our mission is to help architects, owners, and specialty contractors bring their designs to life.


Our team will help you set realistic deadlines and speed up the completion process using the latest 3D laser scanning technology.


ScanTek’s high-speed, non-contact 3D laser scanning solutions can enhance your project collaboration and management by accurately recording the smallest and most detailed aspects of a current object and or building.

In addition, our software integrations and solutions with lidar technology enable our engineers to analyze data instantly, be it on or off-site.

  • Capture data autonomously in the most daunting project conditions and environments.

  • Produce accurate as-built documentation and measurements.

  • Accurately perform machine installation, alignments, and machine calibration with the utmost precision.

  • Get precise measurements and data quickly to make more well-informed and intelligent decisions.

Whether you need equipment analysis/alignment, site scanning, dimensional analysis, or 2D/3D drawings and fabrication drawings, our team is here to help you solve all your challenges.


Get in touch with our team at ScanTek to learn more about our innovative solutions.

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