One of the first promises Donald Trump made after his inauguration was to invest in infrastructure. This can be great news for geospatial professionals because those infrastructure projects will require plenty of survey work, imaging, as-built, and other services they provide.

Within the scope of the impact of increased infrastructure construction is a bump for technology. The level of work and the volume will require efficient workflows. Collecting, storing, and processing the vast amounts of data from each project will mean that many surveyors and geospatial professionals will have to up their game in project management and data management.

In both respects, workflow and data management, newer technologies can help. But, as Pete Kelsey, strategic projects manager for AutoDesk pointed out in a recent webinar, the first stop is to look at what existing data is available. Kelsey highlighted a three-year, three-phase project in his webinar, Virtualizing National Critical Infrastructure. The project involved the Glen Canyon Dam, a structure nearly as large as the Hoover Dam. And, as expected, for a piece of infrastructure as old as the dam, most of the data was limited to survey data from the last 20 years. That meant collecting pretty much all new data using monuments set by the earlier surveys as controls.

In the course of the project, the team used just about every tool available to geospatial professionals. They were not only capturing the face of the dam, the Department of Reclamation wanted interior data and upstream images. Exterior and interior data collection included terrestrial laser scanning. Some of the exterior and upstream data also involved unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and a helicopter to capture photogrammetric imagery. And, for the upstream or back side of the dam, the team used a robotic vessel with a sonar scanning head.

It’s no stretch to say this was a big project. The face of the dam is 700 feet high. From those heights to the dark, wet interiors where the team had to work, safety was always a top priority. Safety is nothing new, and sometimes the project itself is not only designed to employ safe practices, it is intended to improve public safety.

That was the case in Surveyors Bring Safety to “Boulevard of Death,” where the goal of the infrastructure project was to make one of New York City’s most dangerous streets safety for residents and visitors. Collecting the data on such an obviously dangerous stretch of road posed challenges for surveyors. Technology offered some answers. Once control points were established, much of the work could be done with robotic or UAS collection tools. This kept surveyors as much out of the harm’s way as was feasibly possible.

Not all hazards are as obvious as traffic. Workers at the Tennessee Valley Authority had to remove and replace a large component in the power generating plant with little or no disruption to the operation. That meant generators would continue to operate while the move was taking place. An invisible hazard in power plants is the electric arc around some of the equipment and power lines. Physical clearances may seem obvious based on the structural components present, but the deadly arc was not. Technology allowed the addition of a safe zone in the virtual model and danger zones could be geofenced off to avoid any deadly contact with the unseen hazard.

When it comes to speed and safety in infrastructure projects, technology continues to play a major role.