At its winter meeting, MAPPS presented awards for excellence in a number of categories. Here is a brief summary of the projects and technologies recognized, including the Overall Project Award.

Surveying and Field Data Collection and Overall Project Award

Michael Baker International
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport Asset Data Collection

Airports are always a challenging environment, but performing asset data collection at the second largest U.S. airport by land mass and third busiest in the world requires top project management skills. With more than 3 million unique visitors each month and approximately 1,850 flights daily, there is very little downtime to perform data collection around the bustling terminals and active runway surfaces.

The request Michael Baker International received included condition assessment of the Central Terminal Area roadway network on five terminals and 120 lane miles of roadway, using mobile LiDAR, a mapping solution that incorporates advanced mobile laser scanning sensors, cameras, and position and navigation to collect survey-quality data quickly and accurately; Laser Crack Measurement Systems (LCMS), a single-pass, 3D sensor for pavement inspections that uses laser-line projectors, high-speed cameras and advanced optics; and PCI visual inspections of two 13,401 foot long runways, 17C/35C and 17R/35L.

A second contract extension involved expanding the scope of PCI, mobile LiDAR and LCMS to the entire airfield to include the majority of the taxiways, high-speed exits and the hold pads. This extension also included a subsurface condition investigation that was conducted on runway 17C/35C, utilizing ground penetrating radar (GPR), a nondestructive imaging method that uses radar pulses to image below the pavement surface, and soil testing of the runway subgrade.

Michael Baker International’s innovative one-vehicle solution collected data along all roadways comprising DFW’s landside area, and 95 percent of all airfield surfaces including: runways, taxiways, airfield roads and aprons. In total, they collected data on more than 1,300 linear miles on DFW grounds – sometimes requiring around-the-clock collection and multiple crews to maintain schedule without impacting airfield operations.

The collection system included sensors that blanket a 235-meter-wide collection swath with up to 1.2 million laser shots per second – each to survey-grade accuracy. The system also includes four five-megapixel digital cameras and a 360° spherical camera for capture of high-resolution digital images suitable for attributing features and QA validations. While nighttime operations limited the use of cameras on airfield surfaces and some terminal areas, minimal re-collections during daylight hours along a single path provided an effective means of gathering photography and minimally impacting operations.

Using the newly acquired mobile LiDAR, ground-based photography, traditional surveying, static scanning and legacy GIS data, Michael Baker’s LiDAR technicians performed feature extraction and populated the GIS database with required features and attributes. The landside features included: road pavement markings, symbols and text, road signs, guardrails, attenuators, curbing, edge of pavement, edge of shoulder, curb inlets and catch basins. Each feature contained attributes defined by the data model.

Technology Innovation Award

Mini is Mighty: The Riegl miniVUX-1UAV

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards for the commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sector are specific to ensure the safety for both the entity flying and for those in the flight path of the UAV. FAA weight guidelines for small UAVs are set at 55 pounds or under for maximum take-off weight. This creates an increasing need for both lighter aircraft and payloads. 

For businesses, scientific groups, and educational groups that need or desire LiDAR in addition to other sensors and cameras (such as RGB, hyperspectral, thermal, etc.), the need for high quality LiDAR data collection with smaller units and payloads for their platform has grown increasingly vital.

miniVUX-1UAVThe RIEGL miniVUX-1UAV is an extremely lightweight UAV laser sensor. At 3.4 lbs/1.55 kg stand-alone and 3.5 lbs/1.6 kg with a cooling fan for sensor enclosed configurations, the unit was specifically designed for integration with professional UAS/AV/RPAS.

The miniVUX-1UAV can acquire survey-grade measurement data when integrated onto a multitude of remotely piloted multi-rotor, rotary-wing, or fixed-wing UAVs for a variety of applications.

The sensor provides 360° field-of-view high-speed data acquisition with a scan speed of up to 100 scans per second and a laser pulse measurement rate of 100,000 measurements per second. It provides 15 mm accuracy and 10 mm precision survey-grade laser scans.

The data acquisition is made possible through Riegl’s Waveform-LiDAR technology utilizing the echo signal digitization and online waveform processing technique. Multi-target resolution, multiple target capability where up to five target echoes are acquired per laser shot, and a narrow measurement beam with low divergence for high spatial resolution are the basis for penetrating even dense vegetation and foliage.

Typical operating flight altitude above ground level (AGL) of the sensor is 80 meters or 260 feet. This operating flight altitude is of key importance as it offers higher point density per laser scan acquired, yet also meets the FAA regulation of keeping the unmanned aircraft under 400 feet AGL and within visual line-of-sight.

As with all kinematic LiDAR sensors, airborne LiDAR must be integrated with an INS/GNSS system to complete the configuration for 3D data acquisition. The Riegl miniVUX-SYS can be configured with the Applanix APX-15 UAV, the new Applanix APX-20, or the Applanix AP20 with control unit. The sensor integration with the APX-15 weighs approximately 4.4 lbs/2 kg, allows for interfacing with up to two cameras, and is suited for integration into fixed-wing UAVs.

GIS/IT Award

ESP Associates
Building North Carolina’s Real-Time Flood Warning System

In September 1999, Hurricane Floyd made landfall in North Carolina bringing high winds, torrential rains, and extensive flooding. Floyd stands as the most destructive storm in the state’s history. In recognizing the need for more reliable flood hazard information, the governor and general assembly established the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program (NCFMP) and tasked the program to update, disseminate, and maintain current and accurate flood hazard and risk information statewide.

An important initiative in meeting the goal of the NCFMP was establishing the Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network (FIMAN) to provide real-time flood information throughout the state.

Traditional floodplain maps are based on model simulations of probable storm events, such as a 1 percent annual chance storm, commonly referred to as the 100-year event. FIMAN provides storm-specific flood inundation and impacts based on measurement stations (i.e., stream gages) located throughout the state.

Long sections of stream that may be vulnerable to flooding have no available information. The state of North Carolina overcame this challenge using an innovative approach that automates the generation of seamless flood inundation boundaries and its impact analysis between gages and along multiple streams in one process. Collectively, this set of tools used to analyze and map real-time gage readings are referred to as NexFIM.

NexFIM uses a specialized GIS dataset to produce real-time flood inundation layers within minutes of receiving the gage telemetry. The seamless flood inundation boundary is regenerated with every gage reading. With this, the system has the ability to track the “wave” of a storm event as it moves through a river system. In addition, the tools timestamp and archive each inundation boundary so that an overall “maximum” flood extent associated with a given storm event can be mapped. 

On Oct. 8, 2016, Hurricane, Matthew made landfall in North Carolina, dumping eight to 15 inches of rain across much of eastern and central North Carolina and causing severe flooding. ESP’s staff worked seven days a week in the state’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) providing on-site engineering and GIS support before and during this historic flood event. In addition, ESP provided services to support post-storm assessment, recovery, and mitigation efforts.

During the flooding from Hurricane Matthew, the state of North Carolina had many opportunities to test (ground-truth) the results of the FIMAN inundation libraries compared to the actual flooding. In every case evaluated, the FIMAN’s boundaries closely aligned to the actual flooding conditions in the field. 

New releases are planned for the FIMAN application including additional functionality and reporting tools, such as:

  • Improved trend analysis
  • Interactive building impacts
  • Reports
  • Additional nexfim river basins
  • More gage sites.

Remote Sensing Award

Mapping the Yukon Delta Coastline

Approximately 25,000 residents of Alaska’s Yukon-Kuskokwim River Delta have faced repeated flooding that threatens to overtake their community. The residents, primarily from native Alaskan tribes, live a traditional subsistence lifestyle of hunting, fishing and gathering in this subarctic region. For decades, residents have watched helplessly as the Bering Sea has reclaimed the coastline, forcing them to relocate entire towns to avoid being submerged by the icy waters.

The Alaskan government had collected aerial imagery and mapping data for years. Most recently, the state employed interferometric synthetic aperture radar (IfSAR) technology to capture 5-meter elevation data across Alaska’s interior. Much of the existing elevation data, however, is insufficient for analysis in an area where a 6-inch elevation change is significant.

Small pockets of high-resolution LiDAR had already been flown in the region, proving LiDAR to be a very effective tool for analysis. Continued flooding has increased the demand for LiDAR to assist with infrastructure and relocation planning, as well as wildlife habitat monitoring.

In 2016, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) tasked Woolpert with acquiring quality level 2 (QL2, 2ppsm) LiDAR data over some of the most populated and imperiled territory located within the delta.

The flight crews established an operational base camp at Bethel, Alaska. Secondary base stations were established in communities throughout the area of interest. The Woolpert team used a LMS-Q780 LiDAR sensor mounted on a C-182 Katmai aircraft. Optimized for a 60-degree field of vision, the sensor’s rotating polygon mirror produced evenly spaced points and an equally dense laser footprint pattern on the ground. Flying at a height of 2,100 meters above ground level at a speed of 110 knots, the LiDAR employed a pulse repetition frequency of 400 kHz. The team also used an 80-megapixel RCD30 digital camera to collect red, green, blue and near-infrared data simultaneously.

After completing the aerial mapping acquisition, the project team embarked on a ground survey to support the LiDAR acquisition.

The Woolpert team performed quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) on all incoming data to ensure thorough coverage and adherence to all USGS specifications on density and distribution. The team used Riegl’s RiProcess for raw LiDAR extraction and TerraSolid for geometric calibration, automated classification and manual edits.

Agencies at the local, state and federal levels are using the LiDAR data to better evaluate the locations of communities at the greatest risk of flooding/inundation.

The state of Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys (DGGS), the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative, and a variety of other agencies are reviewing the LiDAR data to better support coastal flooding and storm surge mapping.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with Hooper Bay and other communities to design and implement more sustainable trails, less-susceptible infrastructure and more resilient public works systems.

Photogrammetry Award

Surdex Corporation
Missouri Meramec River Flooding 2017

In late April 2017, the St. Louis region experienced exceptionally heavy rains. In Sullivan, Mo., nearly 7 inches of rain fell from April 29 through May 1, swelling rivers beyond capacity. Surdex Corporation (an aerial mapping company in Chesterfield, Mo., incorporated in 1954) was located near the area and monitored the flood projections. Surdex was able to conduct aerial imagery acquisition, despite the exceptionally cloudy and rainy conditions. 

Orthoimagery production of 30-centimeter-resolution, four-band imagery (red, green, blue, near infrared) was conducted under an emergency response activity, and data was released to the responders and media via the Internet within 24 hours of acquisition.

The initial planning and response included:

  • Use of the Missouri GIS Advisory Council (MGISAC) listserv network to reach out and inform government entities and responders that valuable data was coming. The same listserv was used to distribute links to the orthoimagery.
  • Mitigation of the cloud cover that plagues standard acquisition missions during stormy seasons by conducting multiple acquisition missions.
  • Putting internal production staff on alert for an emergency response effort, targeting data production within 24 hours of acquisition.
  • Distributing imagery online, avoiding “tennis shoe” delivery of data to the users.
  • Partnering with local media to provide the public with before-and-after imagery to establish a context for the severity of the event.

Success hinged on acquiring imagery at the optimal time (near peak crest) and at the highest practical quality. Media and flood monitoring centers defined the peak crest. Surdex then designed multiple flight missions to ensure reduced cloud cover as well as potentially acquiring imagery in early morning and/or late afternoon timeframes should cloud cover necessitate it.

Online data hosting ensured both a quick means of distribution as well as reaching as many potential users as possible, both geospatial professionals and the general public.

  • Professional geospatial users could attach the image service to any common GIS software suite since the service met Open GIS Consortium (OGC) requirements for web mapping services.
  • For general users, the imagery could be viewed in a simple Java context, allowing not only desktop workstation viewing, but also via smartphones and tablets.
  • A Surdex application as well as the ESRI ArcGIS Online service provided “swipe” functions using the flood data and previous imagery for a before-and-after context.

In addition to the immediate use of the data, the projecct will serve to improve upon existing flood projection models as well as highlighting the frequent Meramec River flooding that may institute proactive planning or actions to mitigate future issues.

This project also helped redefine the public perspective. Surex established an emergency response approach that will stimulate similar actions in future natural disasters. Enlisting the help of local media helped to provide information to the public that communicated the extent of the damage. This also advanced the perceptions of the geospatial profession.