Laser scanners are big investments, but there’s no denying the expanded opportunities that come with owning the technology.
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based WestLAND Group, Inc. spent years looking for the right instrument. The mid-size civil engineering, GIS, surveying and mapping, and planning firm had a definite need for laser scanning; the work they do for railroads often calls for clearance surveys around tunnels and bridges, and point clouds and cloud-based models are ideal for this. But there wasn’t a huge demand; buying a dedicated scanner seemed like too much investment. The company had tried renting scanners and subcontracting LiDAR work, but it didn’t work out particularly well. Buying a dedicated 3D laser scanner also didn’t seem like a good option; the firm did not have scanning projects lined up, and it seemed difficult to market scanning to existing clients without an instrument readily available and a workflow in place.
WestLAND’s topographic and as-built survey workflow is already quite efficient; ideally, scanning would fit into and extend this workflow, not be a separate solution with parallel-but-separate field and office workflows. So the firm looked with special interest at the first instruments that combined total stations and scanners into one housing. They weren’t impressed. The ones they looked at didn’t provide the speed, point density and precision that they needed. When they needed a scanner, they needed a complete high definition solution.
That changed in December 2013, when WestLAND took delivery of a Leica Nova MS50 MultiStation from James Yaccino of Leica Geosystems. The instrument combines a robotic total station with a reflectorless range of 2,000 meters with an impressive built-in scanner that has a scan range of 1,000 meters, millimeter precision, and up to 1,000 points a second. GNSS can be integrated, and the Nova MS50 also has very good imaging capacity and image-assisted documentation.
WestLAND appreciated that it didn’t cost a great deal more than the high-end total stations currently on the market. And the fact that the MS50 is a complete robotic/reflectorless total station that could be put straight to work on typical topo, boundary, and construction surveys made a lot of sense. When they received the initial demonstration, they could tell that this instrument was the ‘real deal’ for their regular surveying work and for scanning. They knew they could put it to work immediately in the field, and that they would be able to create opportunities to integrate scanning into their design and as-built surveys, which would be a great way to market scanning and expand their services into scanning-specific projects.
After a couple of months working with the Nova MS50, WestLAND is confident they made a good choice. The instrument has already proved itself to be a very effective scanner—the company was scanning 20 minutes after it was delivered and has now performed several scans for rail, building façade and pipeline as-built surveys. The crew has found that it really is simple to switch from conventional surveying to scanning, and that processing and adjusting point cloud data is a relatively easy extension of their current workflows.
With just a few hours of training, the firm was able to get to work immediately on actual projects and provide high-quality 3D deliverables quickly. Processing all the points we gather, in one environment, is a real time saver. The company is already under contract to provide an as-built of a pipeline network located in a steam power plant; that’s work that would be very difficult for them to perform cost-effectively without a good scanner.