March 14 is Pi Day, a sacred celebration in which radius and circumference lovers rejoice over circular snacks and decimal-reciting contests. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159. In 2011, a Japanese mathematician broke his own world record for determining the value of pi, calculating the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter to 10 trillion digits on a homemade computer. Then there is the written pi-ku, combining language arts, graphic arts and mathematics. Create one, two or three haiku stanzas, as well as a graphic depicting the poem.
Have I lost you yet? Did all of the details mind numb you? If all this is mumbo jumbo jargon speak to you, this is what most clients hear when speaking to a 3D laser company. I am often amazed when I hear in a first pitch how many points per second. A client really doesn’t care how many points per second any more than he cares how many points a traditional surveyor can shoot in an hour. The client is interested in an accurate deliverable and that is the power of static LiDAR for architecture and terrestrial mobile LiDAR scanning (TMLS) for transportation/civil. That’s all. When I take my car in to get the oil changed, I don’t ask the repairman what type of wrench he will be using or the size of the lug nuts. Likewise, what a client needs to hear is that he can get cross sections at the required station interval, the tin or DTM will be what he has planned from before and that accuracy is survey grade. To avoid overload, the key points are safety, accuracy, schedule and deliverable.
The client isn’t the only one turned off by a too much in-depth sales pitch. I travel to survey conferences speaking throughout the U.S. My goal as a surveyor is to mentor the entry level user of LiDAR data — sort of fill them in on what they can expect and what type of projects lend themselves to TMLS technology. The specifics of scanners with pulse repetition rates of 300 to 1,000 kHZ and gyro resolutions in the thousands of a degree really don’t entice a land surveyor or engineer to become involved in the technology. All they really need to know about LiDAR scanning, whether it is static or terrestrial mobile LiDAR scanning (TMLS), is that the proven benefits and accuracies of TMLS, as an innovative mapping solution, are widely becoming the mainstream for industry data acquisition supplemented by traditional survey methods. TMLS data can be used to create a conventional topographic survey quicker, more efficiently, and more importantly safer than boots on the ground, especially in the so-called red zone such as on the driving surfaces of roadways or on the railroad tracks. It is a way to expand a company’s offerings using TMLS as a tool in their tool box tackling large route topographic projects that otherwise might be overlooked as a potential income stream. It’s a way to get a piece of the pi.