If you want to add laser scanning to your services or expand your existing scanning capabilities, you have more options today than ever before. How do you know whether a multistation is the right tool for you?
The Leica Nova MS50 MultiStation is a robotic survey instrument with integrated laser scanning capabilities. It has a maximum speed of 1,000 point per second (pps). (For comparison, the Leica ScanStation P20 dedicated laser scanner captures 1,000,000 pps.) The MS50 is a tool produced for scanning specific items during a survey, not building a scan world. It can also be used to easily supplement data in a scan world.
Workflow is an important consideration. Unlike dedicated laser scanners, point clouds captured with the MS50 do not require registration. Since the surveying instrument already knows its location, so does the scanning portion; the scans are essentially registered in real time. You can adjust the locations or orientation of the scans just like you would the data from a total station; the process is the same. The data can come directly out of the instrument and into several forms of software, such as AutoCAD Civil3D, Leica Infinity or MicroSurvey CAD.
The MS50 has a maximum 2000-meter range, but that is to a flat, white target, which is rarely found in the field. The effective range, or the range at which it will get most features and objects at 1,000 pps, is approximately 200 to 300 meters. Variables such as the color of the target and the angle at which it is being observed are among the factors that determine the effective range. The range increases at slower scanning speeds. For instance, when I'm scanning a road surface from a tripod, I rarely try at 1,000 pps. Instead, I slow the scanning speed down to 250 pps or 62 pps and I am able to get much more quality data at greater ranges. There is even a 1 pps setting for much longer ranges.
If you are in an area where satellites are not an option and traversing is required, then the MS50 will be perfect. There is no need to first traverse and set out targets, then return later to scan. You can traverse and scan at the same time with no need to register after.
If you are looking for full dome scans that capture everything, or if your deliverable to your client is a 3D model rather than a 2D drawing with 3D data, then you should consider a dedicated scanner. Although the MS50 has a highly effective scanner built in, you’ll spend a long time scanning if you’re trying to capture everything in sight. However, if you want to supplement your survey data by scanning a road, a bridge or specific objects within your line of sight, then the MS50 is the right tool for the job.
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Image: Scan data captured with the MS50 for an obstruction/clearance survey of an existing bridge with surrounding topography along existing tracks in a railroad yard. Image courtesy of WestLAND Group, Inc.