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This case study describes how Mobile Mapping systems are designed and configured to collect highly detailed and commonly geo-referenced LiDAR and photographic datasets from vehicles travelling at highway speed.
The achievable geo-referencing accuracies from sophisticated GNSS and inertial navigation systems enable professional end user applications ranging from mass GIS data capture through 3D modelling and detailed topographical mapping.
As with the mass market Google Street View product, it is the power of the panoramic photographic imagery that renders the data-sets accessible, intuitive and highly productive from a mapping perspective. Whereas the vast majority of professional users remain rather intimidated by a 3D LiDAR model alone, when the point cloud is combined with high resolution photographic imagery the power of the underlying geometrical model is unlocked allowing powerful 3D modelling and representation.
Not only does the photography remove ambiguity from feature identification but it provides an invaluable textural input to modellers, condition assessment to asset managers and overall context to all. It is the human ability to instantly interpret and relate photographic data to reality that is so effectively leveraged with the mobile mapping approach.
The mobile mapping system user may view geographically unique environments from any aspect and is now enabled to coordinate what they see. Mobile mapping technology provides fully geo-referenced models, in which coordination, measurement and modelling is as simple as pointing and clicking.
Regardless of whether the feature coordinates are derived from photogrammetric or LiDAR aided techniques, the essence of the mobile mapping system challenge is the ability to maintain accurate and robust 3D coordinates of the mapping platform, i.e. the survey vehicle. Without this assurance the value of the mapping sensors – whether photographic, LiDAR or other – are limited.
Of course, ubiquitous GPS, or rather GNSS, is at the heart of the solution, providing not only high accuracy dynamic positioning but also a definitive timing reference. However, as all seasoned surveyors and GI professionals know, even with multiple-constellation, advanced signal processing GNSS receivers in a static mode the chances of maintaining accurate position within a built up environment are minimal.
The real breakthrough with mobile mapping technology has been the augmentation of the GNSS solution with inertial navigation technology – the use of multiple accelerometers to determine positional change. Now the survey platform can maintain accurate position, and motion compensation, even while passing under such adverse GNSS environments as a bridge. What was until recently the reserve of specialist high budget mapping campaigns utilising custom-built vehicles with protracted mobilisation and calibration procedures, is now available as a commercially-viable tool for routine mapping projects.
A single data acquisition campaign at highway speed provides an exceptionally rich data-set, enabling data to be used for multiple applications by multiple users at multiple sites. The photographic core component of the data-sets enables multiple users - asset owners, operators, planners, surveyors, engineers, structural modellers, security advisors and maintenance teams - to all benefit from the single source of data.
The ability to derive substantial value from this homogenous dataset within a GI platform greatly supports asset management workflows. Mobile mapping enables exceptional rapid acquisition of fit-for-purpose data as an aid to the development of the asset management life cycle, i.e., What assets do we have? Where are they located? And, in what condition are they?
ORBIT AIM3 software from LandScope Engineering has been developed to extract the asset inventory data from the mobile mapping model. This is a GIS-based software package developed specifically for the extraction and GI management of asset data from photographic panorama data, recently enhanced to manage point cloud data embedded within the data-set. The technology has evolved over many years, however the introduction of a LiDAR aided solution, based on the Topcon IP-S2 system and format, has significantly increased the capability and productivity rates.
The software allows the user to view, inspect and extract from and overlay content within the mobile mapping model. Within the user interface the operator is equipped with the tools to select from map canvas, panorama, point cloud, measurement and table information to enable a project specific workflow. Assets within the model are, by definition, features commonly represented by points, lines or polygons. In addition to this symbolic representation the model allows for the capture of descriptive information which is managed through the user interface or directly within the database.
Metadata is also extracted for each feature alongside the x, y and z coordinate value. Generally within ORBIT AIM3, user navigation within the model is of similar layout and process – panorama and map plan view – to Google StreetView, providing a most intuitive solution in maximising efficiencies.
A new level of productivity for geodatabase population is achieved through the map point and click technique. This allows for rapid population of assets into a central spatial repository which can seamlessly integrate into existing back office asset management systems.
The advantage of the technology available is that it meets the challenges of a number of GI issues. That of:
It is the interpretation and the ability to provide location-based asset analysis, quantification and trend mapping from the captured data which built into the workflow, provides a useful tool for the asset manager. However, perhaps a more fundamental challenge is to provide this rich dataset in organisations where functions are often disparate and not transparent. So having captured the data, sharing it is key!
Within the mobile mapping GI extraction model the ability to serve an intuitive fully geo-referenced photographic or video model to a multi-disciplinary user base, which allows all users to take their own accurate measurements, is an extremely powerful and cost effective tool. Data may be revisited time after time for further measurements or feature extraction.
LandScope have also deployed the mobile mapping system to various survey platforms including small survey and utility boats. Given that river banks, shorelines and ports and harbour environments are generally restricted access for traditional survey techniques, the mobile mapping system provides a versatile solution for mapping, asset inspection and asset capture.
Mobile mapping enables the asset manager with a rapid and accurate data acquisition tool in which the photographic core unlocks multiple applications to multiple discipline users at multiple sites. The spatial intelligence embedded within the photographic domain – from both LiDAR and photogrammetry – takes mapping to the next level.
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