Laser scanning and imaging is hardly new to land surveying, and so many of the tools and methods are known and well entrenched. But, as new tools have been developed and technologies have improved, the existing and more mature tools are often being combined to drive results to new levels. With a reasonably strong installed base, some segments of the laser scanning category demonstrate only small movement year to year. Some of this is the result of replacements and upgrades, yet some of the movement is new acquisitions.
Each year, POB looks at this market segment to examine what changes are taking place. The current 2015-2016 Laser Scanning Surveying Trends study completed in December 2016 by POB and BNP Market Research describes what we found.
Some of the results raise questions, which the study alone cannot answer. For instance, respondents indicated less use of photogrammetric cameras and also lower expectations of acquiring photogrammetric cameras. As a mature segment of the market, it might be expected that a large installed base already exists and movement in this segment would be the result of replacement purchases. But, when asked which tools they currently use in their survey workflow, responses for photogrammetric cameras showed a significant decline. Some small variation can result when different individuals or companies respond in one year versus another, or if there is a significant difference in the demographic profile of respondents. A comparison of the demographic profile of the 2016 respondents versus the 2015 respondents is very consistent. This suggests we can be confident in saying that where the study shows movement, it is significant. While something is happening in photogrammetry, there are also some sharp peaks that bear consideration, such as unmanned aerial systems and unmanned aerial vehicles — UAS and UAV.
In this latter category, one of the barriers to entry has been lowered. In August 2016, new rules established by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) governing remote pilot certification went into effect. Flying a small UAV for commercial purposes no longer required a sport pilot license, which could cost thousands of dollars between ground school and flying. Now, the exam fee is $150 and, without the need to demonstrate flying proficiency, the preparation could be as simple as self study using the guide to study materials published by the FAA. The result is that this category, which has shown some slow but steady interest, is picking up momentum.
Ease of entry alone is not a reason to jump into UAS. Looking at responses on the perceived changes in demand for various services may provide an additional clue. Demand for laser scanning services is increasing or greatly increasing, according to 69 percent of respondents. While a few see demand remaining the same, almost no one is seeing demand for laser scanning services decrease. This is consistent in both the 2016 and 2015 results. That observation has implications in other areas where changes may appear a little less dramatic.
When the whole story is told, laser scanning is not only on the rise relative to market demand, it is on the rise within land surveying and geospatial companies.
Above are some of the highlights of the 2015-2016 Laser Scanning Surveying Trends study.