In Review: Visual Survey by CAiCE
CAiCE Software Corporation
410 Ware Blvd., Suite 1200
Tampa, FL 33619
800/793-0692 (technical support)
When I approach a survey site, I try to envision how the data will be manipulated by CADD software. I am a young surveyor trained in "old school" methods. I was blown away the first time I used a total station. I enjoy seeing the data collector perform functions I learned to do longhand. Upon downloading this data into a survey data processing reduction program, I prepared it to be used in CADD programs. Eventually, these CADD programs evolved into pseudo survey-friendly programs. Still, there were always functions and routines these programs lacked, such as allowing alphanumeric and feature codes to be associated to the survey data.
I have seen the future of survey CADD software, and it is called "CAiCE." I sat down and used Visual Survey to import, view and edit my data. After three days, the only thing I did not like was the hardware lock.
Project SetupCAiCE's Visual Survey is a Windows-driven program with fully functional pull-down menus. Customizable toolbars help users follow the tutorial program as well as their own applications. The tutorial files are included with the installation of the software. During project creation, a fully loaded geodetic library is readily available to incorporate with the project database. Other features, such as units, coordinate state plane and UTM zones, project elevations, horizontal and vertical datums, coordinate labeling and report formatting, are available as well. All of these can be edited any time during a project's life. The data can be stored in the user's choice of directory. I did not use the software in a network environment, although it is capable of being run from a server.
Data Input/DownloadPoints are easily entered by several methods. Raw survey data for most formats, including TDS, can be imported directly from the field for processing in a Least Squares processor. Direct links are provided to several data collectors. User-defined tolerances and standard error constants can all be edited. Corrections for curvature are also available. The most easy-to-use method to read reduced data into the database is the "Flexible File Format" utility. A seemingly endless amount of options present themselves here, including the loading of line strings (which CAiCE calls chains). Data brought into the CAiCE database are maintained in a geodetic environment and not treated just as a CADD drawing. This concept took a few moments to totally appreciate. The store/edit dialog boxes allow access to all aspects of point and survey chain data. This includes feature codes and attributes, which are becoming necessary with GIS/LIS applications. I used the Flexible File Format utility with data extensions TXT, ACS and ESU to download data files. I found this utility easy to use and accurate with the data selected.
Data ManagementMy favorite feature here is the report log. Prior to ending each session, the user can access a project history of that current session. This is managed in a text window that also serves as a text editor and can be toggled on and off. It stores user information, time, date and all actions in that session. Working in an office with several users, I constantly hear: "I didn't do that," or "It was that way when I opened it." This gives the manager or supervisor the ability to track usage of a project. The only drawback is that this portion of the database is stored in memory and is cleared at project closeout. However, since it is an editor, the report log files can be printed and stored in the project paper file. There seems to be no limit to the number of projects that can be loaded.
Another feature is the use of segments, which are like sub-folders to the project. Data can be loaded from the segments in many different formats including ASCII-type data. I could read and write files both in DGN and DWG format. CAiCE also offers an add-on product called Visual CADLinks that lets you link Visual Survey to the CAD system of your choice.
Viewing and EditingEvery element of the database can be viewed in 3-D. The display settings controlling the attributes to be shown or labeled can be selected during the viewing process. When data is input, the user has many options available for editing. Survey "chains" are strings of 3-D data that receive attribute information during input, such as feature codes that control the color, line style, symbology of the points, and chains. Chain information can be sorted and viewed by simple selection of a specific chain name through the edit dialog box. The screen has various selections to view data. Multiple view windows can be created to show different perspectives simultaneously. I was able to clear the screen and modify the settings to customize the view. Upon import, data can be viewed and displayed with various colors at the click of a button.
Digital Terrain Models (DTMs)I was able to produce a digital terrain model for a 5-mile road corridor I was working on. I compared this to a DTM I ran with Land Development Desktop (Autodesk, San Raphael, Calif.). Although the results were similar, the construction of the DTM database and the computation of contours seemed to go faster in CAiCE. I have a 500 MHz machine, and it produced a DTM containing 6,500 points over a 100-foot by 5-mile area in less than two seconds.
Data from several sources can be loaded into the DTM database. Multiple DTM databases can be created and stored within the project. 3-D survey chains are loaded as breaklines. Points controlled by attribute can be loaded into the DTM database. If the survey chains have spline curve attributes, the breakline made from those chains are stored as curved breaklines.
A feature that CAiCE offers (one that I feel will be needed more and more by surveyors) is the ability to view the DTM in 3-D. At the click of a button, I was able to view the area of DTM and then pan along it in 3-D using the shading techniques and the freehand drive-through viewing contours. The shots can be edited by simply clicking on the line of the triangle of the DTM. All the elements of the DTM can be edited in 2-D or 3-D views.
A by-product of the DTM is the cross section feature, which is similar to Trimble's Roadlink (Trimble Navigation Ltd., Sunnyvale, Calif.). The main difference is that CAiCE's cross section feature is also a functional design tool. It has libraries from departments of transportation across the country available with various curb and median types, side lopes, etc. It also has a "drivethrough along chain feature" that allows the user to travel along as if driving the road. Stations are plotted to the status bar and interactive editing can be performed on-the-fly.