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Solo Notes: The Thrill of the Ride

September 28, 2011
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In today’s rapidly changing world, using the right technology can give surveyors a competitive edge. Jerry Rinnert, owner of JMR Surveying Group, shares how the use of 3D laser scanning has led him to success in theme park construction and other applications.

POB: Why did you decide to open your own business?

Rinnert: I worked on the Universal Studios Islands of Adventure project in Orlando, Fla., in the late ‘90s. I was on that project every day for almost four years straight, and when a few contractors told me I should start my own business, I said to myself ‘If I can handle this project, then I should be able to handle my own business.’ So in the spring of 1999, I went out on my own with a truck, surveying equipment and an instrument man. My first job was a hotel project at the Orlando International Airport. By the end of the year, I had three crews and was laying out runways, bridges and other construction projects.

POB: How has the profession evolved since you started?

Rinnert: When I first started surveying in the coal mines in southern Indiana back in 1985, the surveying instruments we had to use were either a theodolite with a top-mounted EDM or the “new” Leitz (Sokkia now) semi-total station. I had a HP41CV calculator with our company’s programs to do our mining calculations and had to hand plot our mine surveys and use a handheld polar planimeter to measure our areas.

JMR Surveying Group provided topographic layout and construction surveying for the Powder Keg Roller Coaster at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. and scanning services for the Hulk Roller Coaster at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla. (below)

Now we have 3D laser scanners, GPS, robotic total stations, CAD programs and handheld computers to do our field data collection and produce our drawings.

POB: How and why did you get involved in laser scanning?

Rinnert: Around the end of 2002 and beginning of 2003, Leica had just come out with its new HDS3000, and I attended a “road show” in Orlando. At the time, we were working on a large repowering project of a power plant in Debary, Fla., which we were surveying to tie into an existing power plant. We had to collect as-built points on piping by utilizing high reaches and had to climb up onto catwalks just to get in position to collect a single point. When I saw how the new scanning and software system could safely and easily collect as-built data on the piping, I was sold. The scanner could collect thousands of points per second and with that 3D system, we could now deliver piping as-builts in the same type of 3D file as the plans they had.

My son Jerrod is our 3D laser scanning specialist, along with Shawn Morissette. They team together to work on our 3D modeling/CAD projects. They are the meat and potatoes of the scanning and modeling portion of our business.

POB: How did you get into theme park construction?

Rinnert: I was working with a local surveying company, Atlantic Surveying, located in Winter Garden, Fla., and they had a project with a local contractor who was doing muck removal for the Universal Studios Islands of Adventure project. Our task was to collect survey data for the quantities of muck removed. Next thing you know, we were doing construction layout and as-builts for other contractors on infrastructure, roads, hardscape, roller coasters and other rides. Since I started my own surveying business, JMR Surveying Group has provided construction and 3D laser scanning services for 12 roller coasters and numerous other types of rides for Universal Studios (Orlando, California and Japan), Disney World, SeaWorld (Orlando and San Diego), Busch Gardens, Legoland of Florida and Silver Dollar City. With our 3D laser scanning, we have also performed topographic design and as-built surveys at most of those parks.

POB: What software development over the last few years has most benefited your business? What developments do you hope to see in the near future?

Rinnert: We have most benefited from the development of CAD programs gearing toward 3D engines and the ability to use point clouds. When it first came out, laser scanning was so far ahead of anything the architects and engineers were currently using, they couldn’t afford to completely change their workflow. Now that software is more affordable and readily available for architecture, engineering and construction, the 3D modeling world is coming right toward us scanner users. More companies are using 3D modeling for their plans and renovation projects. And now the owners are starting to request BIM for their projects.

I would like to see scanning software and especially scanning equipment become more survey-usable by using surveying techniques and language. It would also be nice to see the costs of the equipment and software come down in price, just like GPS did a few years after it came out.

POB: What most excites you about the future of the surveying profession?

Rinnert: I think the surveying profession is really going to change how it is used and seen in the engineering world. A “surveyor” is not just going to be the person who cuts lines through the woods and stands out in the middle of the street; surveyors will be more technology-driven in the office and the field. I can’t wait to see what comes next with technology and the application for the surveying profession.


Jerry Rinnert, PSM, owns JMR Surveying Group, located in Orlando, Fla. Rinnert has more than 25 years of experience in 3D laser scanning, construction surveying, airport construction, theme park and rollercoaster construction and design surveying, high rise building, and heavy construction projects. He has also worked on projects internationally in Japan, Puerto Rico and India. For more information, visit www.jmrss.com.

Solo Notes is a regular feature in POB and highlights the experiences and strategies of solo surveyors and small business owners. To share your story for a future issue, e-mail pobeditor@bnpmedia.com.

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