Surveying and mapping goes mobile

Rapid Survey Solutions (RSS), based in Melbourne, is successfully operating Australia?s first Topcon IP-S2 vehicle-mounted, mobile 3D mapping and survey system.

The system has widespread applications in civil construction, maintenance and infrastructure management programmes, with the potential for applications in the quarrying and mining sectors, according to Brad Chambers and Nick Nolan, the principals of RSS. The system allows them to map, log and locate all objects along a roadway, rail reserve or construction right of way, with accuracies of 30mm to 50mm, at distances of up to 50m, all at standard on-road speeds of 50km to 80km per hour.

As a comparison, during initial tests with the IP-S2, Nick Nolan, an experienced surveyor, carried out a conventional survey (on foot) of a 500m long by 150m wide section of road, using a robotic total station and GPS rover.

?I was moving along at a pretty reasonable rate and surveyed about 1200 points. It took me a day and a quarter,? he said.
?Then we ran over it with the IP-S2. It took us 12 minutes to survey the same section of road. We mapped and surveyed about 8km of road in the vehicle in those 12 minutes.

?The IP-S2 allows us to speed up our surveying operations, collecting an incredible amount of data with great efficiency for clients ? and all from the safety of our vehicle.

?The improvements from a safety perspective are very significant. You no longer need surveyors on the ground alongside busy roadways or around construction traffic.

?There?s no interaction with any traffic whatsoever. That allows us to significantly improve the risk factors for any project that we are working on.?

The vehicle mounted IP-S2 works off a standard 12-volt power connection. It combines dual frequency GNSS signal tracking and positioning with inertial measurement for laser scanning and digital imaging integration.

Using laser scanners and cameras, the data is integrated and time-stamped, allowing RSS to quickly and accurately combine LiDAR ?point cloud? information and digital imaging data to build 3D models of the areas covered.

Sensor integration creates unlimited applications for the technology in construction and maintenance, infrastructure management, machine control, GIS, agriculture and mapping, all areas where Topcon has a strong market presence.

Brad Chambers and Nick Nolan see a number of applications for the technology.

?The main areas we are looking at include asset management for councils and government agencies, and the construction industry for road reserves, rail reserves and river reserves,? said Brad.

?It can also do highly accurate volume calculations, for example in earthworks and for the resources and mining industries.

?A major application is for survey work in civil construction, where we can provide very rapid digital terrain modelling (DTM) generation for design, progress volumes and machine control.

?It can also be used for clearance surveys for heavy haulage work on very long routes. We can capture all the required data simply by driving over the route at normal road speeds, and also without any traffic control.

?The other areas we are looking into are accident investigation, so it is a broad spectrum of jobs that we can cover.?

RSS?s two principals have a long term background in surveying and the civil construction industry, which has made them aware of the advantages and opportunities available from this latest technology.

Before setting up RSS, Nick Nolan had spent nearly 10 years with Melbourne?s Winslow Constructors, first as a surveyor and then as a project manager. Brad Chambers had been a survey manager with Leighton Contractors for two years, and before that was responsible for survey management on sections of Melbourne?s Eastlink.

?Nick and I could see a hole in the area of mobile mapping, survey management and DTM creation and in particular the integration of all of these areas,? said Brad.

?A lot of projects are starting to use GIS systems, as are a lot of municipal councils. We were really looking for a way of rapidly mapping streets and other asset recording, along with digital terrain modeling.

?We could see big benefits to the whole industry with a mobile scanning solution, spent 12 months researching it and ended up with the Topcon IP-S2,? he said.

Initially RSS was going to develop its own mobile precision surveying and mapping system.

?However, we moved away from that idea when we found the IP-S2,? explained Nick. ?It was more of a complete solution for mobile mapping, in that Topcon had put together the whole thing.

?We only have to deal with one supplier and, if any one element happens to fail or go down, we can get better service and support out of a single supplier.

?It gives us a lot better control and more confidence with the service and support that we get through Topcon?s Australian distributor, Position Partners.

?Another key element is the software that runs the whole system. While you can buy the hardware itself, such as the scanners, the camera and other elements, this is only part of the system. The IP-S2 combines all of the hardware and software to produce an integrated solution.

?Since taking delivery, the support from Position Partners and Topcon has been excellent. If we had to mention anyone, it would be Jeff DeBoer at Topcon in the US, who?s been exceptional.

?He came out at the end of January and he?s obviously the knowledge base behind the whole thing and he?s been fantastic in getting everything up and going and answered any questions that we needed answered.?

Jeff DeBoer also trained three Position Partners sales and support personnel so the company can further develop and support the mobile scanning market in Australia.

RSS has been carrying out considerable trialling and testing, including feature pickup of pavement surfaces and off-road areas, while looking at how it records these features.

?These areas are where we see the IP-S2 being used most, but in other areas such as asset management, it?s very, very clever,? Nick said.

?This technology is very new to the Australian market and the integrated solution is one of the few in the world that provides an instant on-site solution.

?We are working very hard to ensure that this technology fits into the surveying world and is accepted into that industry, and many others. We are getting definite interest in utilising the IP-S2 on a large range of different projects.

?It?s now a matter of demonstrating to our potential clients that they are going to get the results that they require for their projects,? said Nick.

Source: Topcon Positioning Systems/Spitfire Communications

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