Laser scanning, multistations, 3D design—how do these trends predict the future of surveying? Marcus Reedy, PLS, of David Evans and Associates, Inc. doesn’t have a crystal ball, but he does have keen insights on where the profession is headed next. Here are his views.
Knowing when to invest in a new technology often requires predicting the future.
Since Marcus Reedy doesn't have a crystal ball, he relies on the next best thing. Through a partnership with Oregon State University and Leica Geosystems, the vice president of surveying and geomatics for David Evans and Associates, Inc. (DEA) gets a firsthand look at some of the up-and-coming technologies that are in development and a voice in how those technologies might apply in the market.
“A big portion of my job is identifying what’s next—next year, two years from now, five years from now,” Reedy says. “Some of that insight comes from attending trade shows, and some of it comes from conversations with people. Through our strategic partnership with Oregon State University and Leica Geosystems, we get to discuss research opportunities, what’s new and what’s needed in the market in addition to helping students become work-ready with modern technologies and processes. That has been a good arrangement for us.”
The relationship allows DEA to implement the best technologies, make sure they work, and then apply them consistently to achieve positive results. It’s this approach that leads clients to view DEA as a true partner rather than just a subconsultant. It also gives the firm confidence in applying new technologies, which has allowed DEA to build a reputation as a leading-edge service provider. The company was one of the first to adopt laser scanning with a Cyrax instrument in 2001; it now has a Leica HDS6000, three Leica ScanStation 2s and one Leica ScanStation C10, as well as two mobile mapping systems. With each new advancement, DEA has established a stronger foothold in the world of 3D. “3D is big,” Reedy says. “And it’s not just 3D models and 3D data—it’s metadata. We’re able to get more information and attach it, whether it’s 3D models or points. We’re able to collect a lot more detail, a lot more information, a lot faster and more efficiently. So it makes sense for people to want to use that information.”
Despite the growing popularity of 3D design, there have been challenges. For one, laser scanning has largely been seen as an elite and expensive technology, making it difficult to justify for smaller projects or those in which only a portion of the project—an intersection or a corner of a building, for example—would benefit from being scanned. Another challenge has been data management; with laser scanners capturing millions or even billions of data points that require registration and processing back in the office, turnaround on datasets takes time.
Reedy predicts this is about to change, thanks to recent advances in software and the introduction of a new multistation category of instruments that combines laser scanning, total station measurement, GNSS and imaging in a single solution. “With the Leica Nova MS50, we’ll be able to put laser scanning in our everyday workflow,” he says. “Every job could potentially have some scanning component to it, no matter how big or small it might be. We could then use our scanners on larger, more full-3D model types of projects.”
Reedy, who purchased 12 MS50 instruments for DEA, says he’s impressed with the extremely fast Piezo drive and the ability to tie imaging into scanning to create rich 3D deliverables. But it’s the familiar Viva interface that really stands out. “The MS50 puts scanning in reach for people who haven’t done it before by incorporating it in traditional workflows. The ability to have that information right there in the field is powerful.”
It isn’t difficult to envision the advantages. For firms like DEA, the ability to incorporate laser scanning into any project without the need for separate registration or processing creates new workflows that allow survey crews to work more efficiently. For clients, having fast access to information-rich maps and models that come alive with imagery makes it easier to confidently make the right decisions.
“Looking ahead, it’s exciting to think about the new ways that we can deliver information to our clients,” Reedy says. “In the field, technology is changing our workflows and our workforce. But the impact it will have on our deliverables is key.”