We're living in very exciting times! LiDAR data is growing in popularity with the advent of handheld SLAM systems.
Notably, the Leica BLK2GO and inexpensive aerial units like the ROCK Robotic R2A and the DJI Zenmuse L1 LiDARs. But with this growth comes the challenge to take raw point clouds and derive meaningful deliverables. Results have been mixed and it’s hard to know what process to trust. I struggled for a long time to find a workflow that balanced ease of use, accessibility and accuracy. Until now. The ROCK Cloud LiDAR Processing Software Suite is rising to the occasion. Read on to learn how I use the ROCK Cloud and how it will become one of the most important tools you use to get your job done — confidently and efficiently.
1. Data Storage
Operating a LiDAR business has its share of headaches — among the largest is managing your project storage. I would spend untold hours clicking through hard drives to locate a particular file I needed from an old job. With the ROCK Cloud, there is no more sifting through hard drives or server files looking for that one project you flew last year and need to revisit. You’ll easily locate all of your projects in one place which is a breeze to organize and search. One click displays your project data in the visualizer so you can get on with your work. No more worrying about losing your data when a hard drive crashes. No more monopolizing that one office machine that has the desktop license software.
2. Sharing Capabilities
Want to show off your beautiful 3D data and deliverables to a client? In my experience, this has been one of the most frustrating aspects of delivering a project. It seemed that each client struggled to open the 3D data or was unable to get it to render with their standard working computers. This is now a thing of the past! The ROCK Cloud allows you to share deliverables and data with your customers directly in the Cloud. It even gives you the freedom to limit access to the project to certain people you designate or to anyone with a link. There is no limit to sharing with external users, all they need is a computer and an internet connection.
3. Custom Branding
What a game-changer! In the spirit of making ROCK Cloud a true business solution, we built custom branding capabilities into all ROCK Cloud Business Plans. Custom branding puts your logo and business information on your data and deliverables so you can share your work directly with your customers and get the credit you deserve for a job well done. We also built the RockStars program, which allows you to share your business information and captured datasets with the ROCK Community. This can be a huge benefit because we direct all customers to this resource when they are looking for local service providers.
4. Compare and Merge Datasets
Comparing or merging datasets is technically doable with desktop software, but it’s a huge pain. As the datasets get larger (say you have a few 10 GB scans), the process starts to take FOREVER. I once had a 2,000-acre project that had 9 flights of scans that I needed to merge. It took me 4 hours on my old desktop for each operation, ultimately taking nearly a week to process the whole 2,000 acres!
There is no contest when you use the ROCK Cloud to merge your datasets. Bring in as many datasets as you need and visualize them in real-time. Make your adjustments and one click merges them into one big dataset! Or choose not to merge them and you can keep all your scans in a folder and use the compare view to measure changes over time between the datasets. This super helpful functionality makes your life a ton easier.
5. Manage Projections
This can be a scary task for many LiDAR newcomers. Using the wrong projection in your project can make a bad impression on your client. And sometimes even if you are confident you have the right projection, some desktop software won’t display them correctly (you can ask me about geoid models later 🥴)!
Projecting your data in the ROCK Cloud couldn’t be easier with a user-friendly interface that makes projection recommendations for your project based on the location of your data. The most popular projections and geoid models for vertical datums are built right into the ROCK Cloud. For advanced needs, you also have the ability to enter a combined scale factor for Grid to Ground conversions.
You can double-check your projection by viewing your project on the map view where you can zoom out and see the boundaries of your selected projection. It’s really cool to note that the map will also be in your desired projection! This will really be handy when uploading your Orthomosaics to the ROCK Cloud (more on that later!).
6. Calculate Stockpile Volumetrics
Volumetrics are some of the most important measurements used in mining and earthworks projects. Contractors moving large amounts of earth to grade a new construction site will often be paid by the amount of earth they move. Being able to accurately measure these Volumetrics will help determine how the project is priced and becomes a super simple process with the ROCK Cloud. Use the Stockpile Tool to click and draw a polygon around any object in your point cloud and calculate the volume and cut/fill.
7. Produce Linework & Planimetrics
Planimetrics, sometimes referred to as linework, is the process of taking aerial imagery Orthomosaics or 3D point cloud data and drawing up all the vectors of the objects in that area. For example, you might be tasked with adding onto a shopping complex so you go out and capture the existing buildings, parking lot, parking spaces, manholes, trees, sidewalks, curbs, etc. The process to digitize all of this so you can bring it into CAD software for smooth integration of the old and new is time-consuming and tedious (not to mention expensive). Before, I could spend all night sitting behind a computer annotating hundreds of parking spaces. Now I use the ROCK Cloud, which takes the point cloud data, photogrammetric data and surveyed points and then draws in all the linework for me. Order Planimetrics from the LiDAR data and get 3D vectors! Or use the ROCK Cloud with your Orthomosaic photogrammetric data and order 2D Planimetrics! In short, get your nights back.
8. Generate Topographic Surfaces
The most common deliverable ordered in the ROCK Cloud is ROCK Surveyor. It takes the data from your LiDAR point cloud and builds a topographic surface with contours. It also provides an accuracy report from your uploaded ground control points so you can deliver your data with confidence. A typical workflow has a surveyor going out and capturing the property boundaries while drone LiDAR is used to capture everything in between. Processing that data with the ROCK Surveyor provides the topographic deliverables for everything in between the boundaries. What’s more is the ability to add breaklines and advanced classifications when you make your ROCK Surveyor order.
9. Establish Ground Control Points & Accuracy Reports
When you deliver a survey product, it’s critical to verify its accuracy. Effortlessly upload a CSV of ground control points to your project or add them one by one. Then use the Quick Alignment Tool to align your dataset. When you order the ROCK Surveyor deliverable, these GCPs are used to create an accuracy report that gives you an RMS of your dataset. You can also use this information to reduce the error by making X, Y, Z corrections to your dataset. Click a button to reprocess and reproduce an updated Accuracy Report!
10. Enjoy ROCK Solid Customer Support
Supporting our customers is one of the pillars of ROCK and we take it very seriously. Have you ever been working on a project and something went wrong or have you just found yourself profoundly stuck? I’m betting so because I’ve been there, too! I would reach out for support and receive a reply… 3 weeks later! Being on the receiving end of those experiences is why we strive to provide the best support in the industry.
The ROCK Cloud offers multiple tiers of support. We are proud of our ROCK Community page where you can post questions and receive answers from colleagues and have the ROCK Support Team chime in. ROCK Community Support is always free.
Purchasing an R2A or ROCK Cloud Business plan subscription brings with it the benefit of Live Chat Support during business hours. I’m partial but I think this is absolutely the best. Chat from any ROCK Robotic webpage or chat directly from your ROCK Cloud project! Connect with the ROCK Support Team to ask your questions and get real-time, real human support! I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true! Chat in for help and the ROCK Support Team is always happy to point you in the right direction or work to find the answer that moves you forward.
We also offer email support at firstname.lastname@example.org anytime. Email with your questions and expect to hear back from a ROCK Support Team member with solutions! Visit our ROCK Solid Support page to learn more.
Please, please chat in or email with requests and suggestions for features or improvements you want to see the ROCK Development Team tackle. We love to hear from you and your feedback goes directly into our development queue!
One To Grow On: Orthomosaic Support
ROCK Cloud isn’t only about that LiDAR data - you can also upload orthomosaics, view DEMs from the Rock Surveyor deliverable and see your contours and planimetrics overlaid on the ortho. One awesome feature here is that the visualization is in the correct projection! Yep, we built a whole GIS system in the cloud!
This is just the beginning for Orthos and ROCK Cloud. Soon you will be able to draw on your ortho and order 2D Planimetrics from any ortho! And on the topic of Orthos, any geotagged photo you upload will be displayed right on your project. This is key to sharing your LiDAR data along with the high-resolution inspection photos of your job site. These are just two big features that we are developing. Leave a comment down below if you want us to also compute Orthomosaics from uploaded imagery in the ROCK Cloud!
And we won’t stop there! In the coming weeks ROCK will be introducing the alignment of terrestrial LiDAR and SLAM LiDAR systems using ROCK A.I. You can count on ROCK to keep pushing the envelope on helping you get the most out of your LiDAR data.