Student Essay Contest: Is Lidar on Your Radar?

Student Essay Contest Finalist

The future of surveying has arrived. New technologies have been introduced and old ones have advanced. With the advent of mobile internet access, public interest in mapping has increased. The last decade has not only transformed our capabilities, but also our expectations.

As a geomatics student preparing to graduate from The University of Florida, I have been privileged to study the evolving landscape in the surveying and mapping world. Our curriculum has accordingly introduced us to a plethora of disciplines. My current internship with Biscayne Engineering Company in Miami has also offered me insight into the future of surveying and mapping. I intend to build from this experience in determining my own future in this profession.

In recent years, the most influential development in surveying may be remote sensing technology, particularly lidar. As GPS changed our industry, this will easily redefine the entire data collection process currently undertaken by traditional field crews.

The cost of a laser scanner continues to decrease while the capabilities significantly increase. I have had the opportunity to work with a new scanner, for example, and the results are undeniable. Some are capable of hundreds of thousands of points per second; modern scanners are often 10 times to 100 times faster than predecessors from only a few years past. The future will surely provide even more impressive specifications at lower costs. Logic would suggest that the benefits available through scanning will not be overlooked.

Surveying with lidar technology enables a typical job to be performed more efficiently than with a total station setup. Laser scanning generally requires less time, provides better accuracy, and enables greater redundancy for post-processing. Fewer personnel are also required, further minimizing costs.

While my experiences are limited to static terrestrial setups, the opportunity presented by mobile lidar must also be considered. Transportation corridors, for example, can be mapped safely and quickly by using vehicles equipped with GPS, INS, and mounted lidar. Though data collection is still dominated by field crews, I see a major transition beginning to take place.

I intend to begin my professional career with Biscayne Engineering Company because I believe they share my views about the future of surveying. Having invested in the latest lidar technology, they have demonstrated this conviction. While expenses may currently limit the immediate growth of our lidar arsenal, its expansion is inevitable. As clients become accustomed to the impressive deliverables possible through this technology, their expectations will follow.

As a future surveyor, I must prepare for the future market. Changes in the educational requirements to become a professional surveyor and mapper already reflect the increasing demands expected of us. The exponential increase of mapping software use by the general population will also affect our industry. As the demand for more accurate mapping increases, new competition will arise in the form of companies like C3 Technologies that produces three dimensional city models for Apple Maps. I see this as an opportunity; however, and I am extremely motivated to take advantage of it. A new world with new expectations will require a new kind of surveyor.

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