Searching for new ways to apply existing geospatial technology is an important component in the continued growth of mature companies. By considering the universal benefits sought by every business, such as reducing operating costs while improving production, performance and profitability, applications in many new markets can be identified. Although international company Maptek has made a name for itself in the mining industry developing laser scanning systems and software such as I-Site and Vulcan, the opportunity to use the knowledge and expertise gained over 30 years is taking the company in new directions.

“Maptek is continually looking for new applications of our laser scanning systems. In fact, our initial point cloud processing software development was conducted on non-mining applications,” said Athy Kalatzis, Manager Laser Imaging Systems at Maptek. “As we became more confident in our product it made sense to focus on a system that could provide accurate data to help our customers operate more productively and profitably, regardless of the specific vertical market.”

Challenges faced by survey providers in the mining community include the need for safety, portability and ease of use, requirements also found in the civil, industrial and bulk handling sectors. Calculating stockpile volumes at mines and holding points forms a natural segue for Maptek to apply I-Site methods to silo and ship hold monitoring, while built-in survey workflows are a major time-saver in many settings. This is critical when site activities must be interrupted to follow safety procedures.

“Accurate data collection and volume calculations are essential for managing civil and infrastructure projects,” Kalatzis said. “Capturing high resolution digital images at the same time as point cloud data creates a permanent record of a scene for archiving, 3D modelling and analysis. Applications include bridge/tunnel surveys, road surveys, power line corridor surveys, cut and fill applications for road infrastructure, surface stockpiles, BIM and indoor asset surveys.”

Major public works projects often involve lengthy discussions to get buy-in from all groups that might be impacted. Better data can save time and avoid costly delays during this phase. “Visualization is vital for projects involving community engagement,” Kalatzis said. “If a new highway overpass is being considered, surveying the scene with a laser scanner acquires point cloud data that covers the existing infrastructure as well as surrounding topography in a wide field of view. Models allow interaction with the scene from different perspectives: What does a motorist see? What is the optimum offset for screening vegetation? What are the safety margins for any intersections? Line (2D) data is inadequate for conveying these ‘what if’ scenarios.”

Mining equipment is designed to be rugged and reliable for use outdoors, with adaptable accessories and mounting options, so extending the usage of laser scanning to various markets with similar requirements is a logical step. For example, safe and accurate capture of information has become an essential part of managing large natural disasters. Scanning has become an integral part of reconstructing the scene for critical incidents and guiding restoration. Built-in features such as registration and backsight protocols in I-Site laser scanning systems streamline the set-up and data capture phases, allowing experts to spend more time analyzing and extracting information.

Maptek’s existing hardware and software products need little to no rework to be used successfully in non-mining situations. The I-Site Studio software is based on 15 years of development. Featuring Windows-style look and feel for easy handling of data and file management, it is adaptable to a variety of applications. Core functionality is built around the major elements of registration, filtering, processing and modeling. In some applications, such as transport corridor survey the terminology is very similar, so the I-Site Topo module is immediately relevant for capturing topography and calculating volumes. I-Site Forensic software contains dedicated tools to analyze laser scan data and deliver objective, reliable data for presentation in legal proceedings. Users can visualize and work with data in the 3D environment for analyzing crime scenes or crash sites. System accessories are also developed by Maptek. An extendable boom allows the laser scanner to be projected into difficult-to-access spaces. I-Site laser scanners can also be mounted upside down and sideways to survey through hatches and narrow openings.

The I-Site laser scanning technology has already proven itself in non-mining settings. In 2013 Maptek worked with Scottish Ten to help scan the Sydney Opera house. The I-Site laser scanner was mounted on a vehicle for quick set up, scanning and moving between locations. Accurate data of vertical structures and the complex engineering of the underside of the Sydney Harbour Bridge were captured, which would not have been possible with aerial methods. Complicated access to built and natural environs, combined with tight deadlines, meant efficiency was the key. In all, 144 laser scans were captured over three days, with more than 100 different set-ups. Simultaneous capture of high-resolution color imagery with I-Site systems allowed for animations and realistic models that provide a comprehensive representation of the Opera House and preserve it for posterity.
Maptek’s Vulcan 3D design and modeling tools are already being applied to industrial and environmental modeling problems, and PerfectDig is a field reporting tool which helps guide conformance of as-builts against design. The benefits are easily translated to civil and construction projects where the required data accuracy approximates that for mining scenarios. To use PerfectDig, the input data can be laser scans, existing surfaces, airborne LiDAR point clouds or UAV data. Outputs are intuitive, useful and rapidly generated with minimal user effort. Users can annotate reports, save as pdf or publish online to share with stakeholders.

Maptek’s latest venture includes partnering with Redstack, a provider of technology-based engineering and architecture solutions, to offer its geospatial technology in the broader marketplace for design, engineering and BIM projects.

“Redstack and Maptek complement each other because laser scanning is an ideal solution for surveying and modeling complex infrastructure of all kinds. It creates a detailed permanent digital record, and accurate digital models and photographs provide the basis for analysis and decision making in many different industries,” Kalatzis said. “Maptek is well-positioned to contribute to the partnership immediately because we have always developed our laser scan hardware and software systems in a collaborative research and development facility. We consider the surveyor’s environment and the project deliverables right from the start, building in the workflow wherever possible for efficiency and ease of use. This approach is adaptable to engineering, BIM, architecture and many other applications.”

The need for businesses to react to changes in conditions, stay on target and quickly understand the impacts of plan deviations crosses all industry boundaries, and geospatial technology is an integral part of capturing and managing the volumes of data necessary to stay flexible and operate successfully.

“The future of scanning is immense,” Kalatzis said. “Different data capture equipment and software will evolve to meet specific industry challenges. Soon we will see the lines between planning and design, and execution and construction, blur or even disappear. This will happen as the level of integration and online data analysis and communication increases. Then the overall objectives of a project plan are targeted by sensing systems which provide a closed feedback loop that ensures accurate data guides every process. This is not too far off in the future.”