The Leica Geosystems HDS Worldwide User Conference in October highlighted the successes and challenges of firms that are pushing the envelope with laser scanning technology. ...

Dr. Juergen Dold, president of Leica Geosystems’ Geospatial Solutions Division, presented the welcome address.

More than 250 Leica Geosystems HDS users from 20 countries gathered in San Ramon, Calif., Oct. 26-28, 2009 for the 2009 Leica HDS Worldwide User Conference. While attendance was down about 15 percent compared to the HDS portion of the 2008 conference, ideas were in abundant supply. In his welcome address, Dr. Juergen Dold, president of Leica Geosystems’ Geospatial Solutions Division, noted that in times of change, successful firms figure out how to do things better and develop new solutions that allow them to become more productive. They learn from the experience of others and identify the best practices that allow them to stay on the cutting edge.

The conference presentations captured a number of examples. Todd Beers fromNoltein Denver said that scanning projects have helped sustain the company during the recession. The company purchased its first scanner (a Leica ScanStation 2) in October 2008 and later purchased a second scanner. “Because we had the scanning technology, about five to six new clients have come onboard that the company wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise,” Beers said. The technology has also allowed the firm to expand services to existing clients as it has integrated scanning into its survey work. The additional business has allowed the firm to pay for one system already, and it expects the second system to pay for itself within a year.

Seth Goucher, chief field engineer for Cianbro Constructorsin Brewer, Maine, said that the firm’s ScanStation 2, which it purchased in January 2008, has allowed the company to use much smaller crews and to help solve problems for its clients offsite. As a result, it has increased survey productivity by 70 percent, thereby substantially reducing labor costs. The technology also allows the company to collect data in the safest way possible and gives the team a visual analysis instead of just a quantitative analysis.

Doug Brown, managing director ofStar Net Geomaticsin Livingston, Scotland, discussed how his firm is using two laser scanners (a ScanStation and a ScanStation 2) to survey cell structures. He noted that vertical real estate is valuable, but costly mistakes are being made. In some cases, customers aren’t paying for space allocated to them. Traditional methods of surveying in these applications are very labor intensive and risky, and a large majority of traditional surveys are incorrect. By combining scanning with traditional methods, the firm has been able to increase the safety of its crews while providing clients with precise data in the form of 360-degree animated panoramas around cell towers along with CAD drawings and other deliverables. One of the company’s clients noted that laser scanning is “an excellent and necessary investment that will continue to offer new solutions.”

A presentation by Richard Lasater, president ofSmart MultiMedia Inc., Houston, highlighted several innovative applications of scanning technology. In one case, the firm developed a 3D video game-based presentation of an MRI for pediatric patients at Children’s Cancer Hospital at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. In another case, the firm scanned the 2009 American Institute of Architects Sandcastle Competition and posted the top five sandcastles online to generate additional interest in scanning. They then pulled the linework off the winning sand castles to show architects how to use HDS. “Most of what we do is teach people about the capabilities of the technology,” Lasater said. The company, which relies on outside engineering and surveying expertise, is gaining new business in heritage scanning and building information modeling (BIM) using HDS technology.

Pierre Gouvin, president ofGEO-Instruments LLCin Providence, R.I., discussed the automation of geotechnical monitoring in a project for Seattle’s Sound Transit-reportedly the first automated geotechnical scanning application in the world. The project required data to be sent to a Web database in real time, which the company achieved through the use of its WiSe (wireless sensor) tiltmeter system. Two ScanStation 2 instruments and two automated motorized total stations (AMTS) were used to collect more than 1GB of data per day. The resulting data are housed offsite on FTP servers for future use by the client.

Carlos Velasquez, project manager atEpic Scan Ltd., Medford, Ore., has spent the last decade exploring scanning technology. He noted that he spends a substantial amount of time educating clients about the possibilities. “Ninety to ninety-five percent of clients still haven’t heard about laser scanning,” he said. He noted that education will drive the technology’s use to unprecedented levels but that firms need to keep it simple and focus on the client’s needs rather than on the technology itself. Velasquez said that Epic Scan incorporates scanning into every project and embeds the costs so that it generates additional revenue for the firm.

Attendees gather around the new Leica ScanStation C10 during a break.

Other presentations addressed the use of HDS technology for topographic mapping, plant scanning, forensics and scanning building facades. A highlight of the event was Leica’s new ScanStation C10, which was on display outside the conference room. A presentation by Gregory Walsh, Ph.D., vice president of Systems Engineering at Leica Geosystems, summarized the benefits of the technology-most notably its compact, lightweight, integrated design that includes a scanner, tilt sensor, battery, controller, data storage, auto-adjusting video camera and laser plummet.

Although laser scanning technology has been available for quite some time, firms are still finding new ways to push the envelope and stay on the bleeding edge. While such innovation carries certain risks, the payoff can be substantial.

A Webcast of the event is available. Contact your local Leica Geosystems HDS representative, Leica Geosystems HDS Customer Support or Geoff Jacobs at to find out how to purchase online access to the audio/video coverage of more than 30 presentations from the conference. For more information about HDS technology, including the new ScanStation C10, visit Leica Geosystems online.