Addressing the need for more geospatial data by businesses, organizations and government entities across the globe, coupled with the need for accurate terrestrial information, Trimble launched its new spatial imaging solution at the end of January: the VX Spatial Station. A product demonstration was provided for the media at a movie theatre near the company’s Westminster, Colo., office in early February. The message delivered during the demonstration was not only about a single product, but a new focused group of solutions for the surveying community as well.

The Trimble VX Spatial Station offers a survey-grade solution and a visual tool for various data recipients by combining total station technology (including reflectorless EDM), scanning and video functions in one sensor package. While total stations, scanners and GPS units on the market today can provide focused technology to address particular applications for a variety of industries, the Trimble VX Spatial Station offers a flexible tool to allow users to produce deliverables with one multi-purpose tool, where approaching the project with an array of separate technologies would be expensive, cumbersome or time-consuming. Trimble asserts the unit will serve as a tool for surveyors, mappers and other geospatial professionals to expand their business opportunities when these conditions exist.

With Trimble’s announced acquisition of photogrammetry and digital surface modeling provider INPHO GmbH of Stuttgart, Germany, a couple of weeks prior to the VX Spatial Station launch, a new portfolio of technology solutions is ramping up. Trimble’s survey solutions are now placed into two portfolios or groups: Integrated Surveying (IS) and Spatial Imaging (SI). The Integrated Surveying portfolio includes the solutions for single points, maps, 2D drawings and high-accuracy positioning (its total stations and GPS units). Spatial Imaging encompasses tools for shapes, images, 3D models and visualization (including the Trimble GX 3D laser scanner). The Trimble VX Spatial Station is housed in the SI group, although it bridges both portfolios. The product’s strength lies in combining some of its notable new technologies with reliable and familiar solutions from previous products.

Built on Earlier Technologies

The Trimble VX Spatial Station is built on Trimble’s patented MagDrive servos found on its Trimble S6 total station. MagDrive servos spin the instrument 100 degrees per second with smooth movement for precision pointing. The optical component of the VX Spatial Station includes all of the S6 capabilities minus the tracklight and delivers millimeter positioning accuracy.

Technology derived from the Trimble GX 3D scanner serves as the scanning foundation of the VX Spatial Station to capture sub-centimeter level data. Some of the advantages of a scanner--speed, range, visuals and capturing a multitude of points--support the VX Spatial Station’s capability to measure objects in 3D to produce 2D and 3D data sets for spatial imaging projects. The new instrument can scan at an average speed of 5 points/second with speeds peaking up to 15 points per second at a range up to 150 m. The extraction software used with the Trimble GX 3D Scanner--RealWorks--acts as the features interpretation tool of the VX Spatial Station as well, extracting attributes from the point cloud data representing the scene. The standard resolution scans can provide operators with richer data sets of information and generate more detailed deliverables for clients. The addition of scanned data with point data provides surveyors with the added information they need to help them work in the 3D data world. As more surveyors are added to the pool of 3D data users, this option may be appealing.

Bluetooth wireless connectivity allows users to operate the unit without cables. USB communication can also be used and may be more viable for use of the new VISION video streaming technology, as radio connections slow down the streaming.

Guided by New Technology

Trimble’s new VISION technology serves as the visual tool of the VX Spatial Station. Users can stream digital images of a job at five frames per second through Trimble Survey Controller, Survey Pro or Trimble Survey Manager software that runs on either Trimble’s CU or TSU2 data controller. Operators can select target points for measuring using scanning or total station measurements by tapping the points defining the areas to be measured on the controller’s touch screen. By using the video imagery to identify target points for total station measurements and defining the areas to be scanned, the VX Spatial Station automatically associates the image with horizontal and vertical angle measurements. Data points are overlaid on the video display. These live video streams and color static image captures provide front-office players and clients with a visual context of jobsite data, and aid field workers to improve data collection tasks. With VISION, decision makers have detailed information about jobs, shared directly or exported to CAD. This functionality allows for increased speed in managing and reviewing project status.

The video functions especially aid project decision-makers who, because of their relative distance from the site, may lack needed information from the data they receive that allows them to interpret or manage the data properly.

The distance range for scanning is nominally 150 meters, but like any other optical measurement device, depends on the color and texture of the surface being scanned. If operators desire to capture a mosaic of still pictures of a project to monitor the progress, they can be set up at specific intervals: by distance (minimum 1 cm between shots), by preset time intervals and by setting the data collection software to capture an image for every conventional point measured. Images are saved as .JPEG files.

Joining Optical and Scanning

The Trimble VX Spatial Station data is particularly aimed for the production of classic and enhanced 2D drawings, 3D as-builts, inspection monitoring, clash detection and volume/surface calculations.

Trimble says it isn’t attempting to draw customers away from full optical or full scanning solutions, and that if projects call for these tools, they should be utilized. The Trimble VX Spatial Station is a platform that combines these two technology solutions, supported with VISION technology, to provide a fuller solution. All of the solutions rolled out, Trimble says, are done so in the name of reducing rework and increasing productivity.

The price of the Trimble VX Spatial Station is around $70,000. Web-based training is available.