Geo Positions: An Exciting Time for LiDAR
Working as a photogrammetrist and LiDAR expert is not something Robert Crawshaw always planned on. He was, however, always interested in the features of the earth. Crawshaw is a senior project manager with McKim & Creed Inc., a surveying, engineering and planning firm with locations across the country. He has been with the company for almost five years and has 20 years of geospatial experience.
After working toward a degree in geography/planning, he started a career in city planning in the Chicago area. After what he calls “a particularly bad winter,” Crawshaw headed south and took a job with a geospatial firm in Atlanta. There he started stereo-compiling and aerial triangulation. “It was there that I realized that being able to take 2D images and create accurate 3D data was fascinating,” he says. “After transitioning into a management role, I relocated to Austin, Texas, where I have been for about the last 10 years, enjoying the dynamic field of remote sensing, and its expanding technologies and applications.”
Crawshaw sees this as an exciting time for LiDAR since sensors are continuously evolving to meet customer demands and new applications. Keeping up with the changing technology is one of his biggest challenges, but he says LiDAR holds great value. Aerial LiDAR makes up a great deal of McKim & Creed’s remote sensing work and Crawshaw says it has been the go-to for high-resolution terrain and feature data mapping. “Whether it is airborne, mobile, terrestrial or combinations of all, LiDAR has proven to be a cost-effective, timely and safe way of obtaining this data.”
Q. What do you do for a living?
A. I am an ASPRS-certified photogrammetrist serving as a senior project manager at McKim & Creed Inc. From traditional photogrammetry to airborne, mobile and terrestrial static LiDAR technologies, I identify, negotiate and sell technical solutions for clients throughout the U.S. I work closely with production staff and technicians, and provide clients with quality data.
Q. What is your favorite tool to work with?
A. Having led cross-functional teams to complete mapping projects, I have been exposed to a wide variety of hardware and software. Since each project has its own distinctions, I really do not have a “favorite” tool to work with. However, I pull from various platforms, packages and proprietary solutions that best fit the project at hand. For example, processes that we run on electric utility work differ from those that we use on floodplain mapping or transportation projects.
Q. What is the toughest challenge you face?
A. Pairing clients’ needs and wants with actual sensor capabilities and end goals of projects. Because I deal with numerous clients that have their own unique LiDAR experiences, or no experience at all, this field presents a continual learning experience.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
A. Have a passion for what you do and learn from your experiences (good and bad).
Q. What advancements would you like to see made?
A. New capabilities and functionality are being introduced on a regular basis. From a remote sensing standpoint, the advancement of an all-in-one package and lower associated costs of acquiring data will have a significant impact on our work.
Q. What are your keys to success?
A. I don’t think that success is really ever achieved. You can have successful outcomes, but that is just something to build upon. I will say that I have been lucky to work with some very smart and talented people, so first and foremost I would say personnel are the key to success. A well-trained staff that understands the complexities of spatial data and has the ability to extract the relevant project-specific information is paramount. When coupled with the latest and greatest technology, a successful outcome is almost guaranteed. I would also say that being prepared and able to adapt to ever-changing technology and markets is critical. What worked 10 years, five years, one year ago may not be the best approach for today. So, without trying to sound like a “Successories” poster, always keep learning and simply enjoy your work.