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- Top 3 Drone LiDAR Project Pitfalls (and How to Avoid Them)
Do you want to make sure your LiDAR project goes well? Of course you do! Over the course of consulting with drone LiDAR clients, we've noticed three major project pitfalls DSPs make. In this article, we'll explore these mistakes that are commonly made in drone LiDAR surveying and provide guidance on how to avoid them. Mistake #1: Not Properly Calibrating the LiDAR Sensor One of the most common mistakes in LiDAR surveying is needing to calibrate the LiDAR sensor properly. The LiDAR sensor on a drone is a complex piece of equipment that requires proper calibration. The sensor must be calibrated for the drone's position and attitude (i.e., orientation) to ensure that the data it collects is accurate. If the sensor is not calibrated correctly, it can lead to inaccuracies in the data collected, which can compromise the entire survey. Inaccuracies can occur if the sensor is not aligned correctly, if the settings are not adjusted properly, or if the sensor is not functioning correctly. To avoid this mistake, it is crucial to calibrate the LiDAR sensor before each flight. This includes checking the sensor's alignment, adjusting its settings, and performing a test flight to ensure that the data it collects is accurate. Additionally, it is essential to regularly maintain and update the sensor to ensure it is working correctly. This can include cleaning the sensor, checking for damage, and updating the firmware. Related: What are the components of a LiDAR sensor? Mistake #2: Not Using the Correct Flight Plan Another common mistake we see in LiDAR surveying is not using the proper flight plan. The flight plan for a drone LiDAR survey is crucial for data quality, as it determines how the drone will collect data and cover the survey area. If the flight plan is not designed correctly, the data can be incomplete or inaccurate, which can compromise the entire survey. To avoid this, it is important to use a flight plan designed explicitly for LiDAR surveying. This usually means flying in a grid pattern, keeping the drone at a consistent altitude and speed, and taking multiple passes over the survey area. This allows the LiDAR sensor to collect data from different angles and ensure complete coverage of the survey area. It is also a good idea to use flight planning software to monitor the drone's position and status. This allows you to make adjustments to the flight plan as needed to ensure that the data collected is accurate. Related: LiDAR Mission Planning Fundamentals Mistake #3: Not Post-Processing the Data Properly Another common mistake in LiDAR surveying is not correctly post-processing the LiDAR data. The LiDAR data collected by the drone must be processed and analyzed to help create maps and models. If the data is not post-processed correctly, it can lead to inaccuracies in the final results and compromise the entire survey. We can't stress this enough — surveyors have to use software that is specifically designed for post-processing LiDAR data. This software will typically include tools for filtering, classifying, and analyzing the data. It is also important to have a team of experienced professionals trained in LiDAR data post-processing to ensure that the data is processed correctly. ROCK Cloud post-processing software does almost all the work for you, producing high-accuracy, survey-grade deliverables. Our support team provides live support during U.S. business hours, and we quality-check every project before sending you results. ROCK Cloud produces deliverables from any LiDAR file, including orthomosaics and images. If you haven't tried ROCK Cloud, sign up for a free 14-day trial here. By avoiding these three common drone LiDAR pitfalls, your projects will be more successful, your data will be more accurate, and your clients will be happy. Meet with the ROCK Robotic sales team to explore ROCK LiDAR hardware and software today. Visit rockrobotic.com to learn more about our survey-grade LiDAR hardware and processing software.
- What is LiDAR?
LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, is a technology that uses laser pulses to measure distance and create high-resolution 3D models of terrain. LiDAR is a powerful tool for aerial surveying and mapping, making the lives of surveyors a whole lot easier. In this article, we'll be discussing how LiDAR is especially useful in the arena of aerial drone surveying. What is Drone LiDAR? The process of drone LiDAR begins with flying a drone equipped with a LiDAR sensor over the area of interest. The sensor emits laser pulses, which bounce off the terrain and return to the sensor. The sensor then measures the time it takes for the pulses to return and calculates the distance to the terrain. This process is repeated thousands of times per second, creating a large number of distance measurements known as point clouds. Point Clouds Point clouds are a collection of 3D points that represent the terrain. Each point in the cloud has an x, y, and z coordinate, which represents its position in space. The point clouds are then processed using specialized software to create a 3D model of the terrain. This model can be used to create detailed maps, digital elevation models, and 3D visualizations of the terrain. Advantages of LiDAR The main benefit of LiDAR in surveying projects is its ability to measure the elevation of the terrain accurately. Traditional surveying methods like ground-based surveys can be slow and labor-intensive. But with drone LiDAR, surveyors can cover a larger area in a shorter amount of time while also gathering more detailed and accurate data. LiDAR is not affected by lighting conditions, which makes it useful for surveying at night or in low-light conditions. Another advantage of drone LiDAR is its ability to accurately measure the distance of the object even in challenging environments such as dense forests, where it's hard to get a clear line of sight. Also, LiDAR is not affected by lighting conditions, which makes it useful for surveying at night or in low-light conditions. Applications A variety of applications have been identified for LiDAR, such as: Topographic Surveying: LiDAR can be used to generate highly accurate digital elevation models (DEMs) and contour maps of the terrain, which are essential for land-use planning, engineering design, and construction. Volumetric Measurements: LiDAR can be used to measure the volume of stockpiles, such as coal or aggregate, and monitor changes over time. Heritage and Archaeological Surveying: LiDAR can be used to create highly detailed 3D models of heritage sites and archaeological excavations, which can be used for research and conservation purposes. Infrastructure Inspection: LiDAR can be used to inspect and survey large structures such as bridges, buildings and power lines. This data can be used to identify potential safety hazards and plan for maintenance and repairs. In short, LiDAR is a powerful tool that allows surveyors to quickly and accurately gather data and create detailed 3D models of the terrain. It's useful for a wide range of industries, making the lives of surveyors a whole lot easier. Visit rockrobotic.com to learn more about our survey-grade LiDAR hardware and processing software.
- GCP Best Practices for Aerial Surveying Projects
Ground Control Points (GCPs) are a crucial part of aerial surveying. They help make sure the data collected is as precise as possible. If you're in the surveying industry, it's important to know the best ways to place GCPs to get the best results from your aerial surveying projects. In this article, we'll go over some important points to consider when placing GCPs and some best practices for getting the most out of them. Key Considerations Marking Aerial Targets We advise against using reflective tape, also known as retro-reflective materials, for your targets as it can cause a heavy reflection around the target which can negatively impact the accuracy of your results. To create an effective aerial target, use a large object with high color contrast (e.g., black and white) that is visible from the air. Here are a few examples to consider for purchase: 4x4 Checkerboard Pattern 4x4 Chevron Pattern Visibility One of the main things to keep in mind when placing GCPs is visibility. You want to make sure the points are easy to see and access, so use durable markers or flags to mark them. This way, it's easy to find and identify the points when collecting data from the air. Location It's also important to consider the location of the GCPs relative to the area being surveyed. You want to place them in a way that allows for accurate and precise measurement of the collected data points. For example, if you're collecting data from a large area, consider placing GCPs at regular intervals to ensure the whole area is accurately mapped. Placement Accuracy Accuracy of location and elevation is another important factor to consider when placing GCPs. You need to ensure you accurately record each GCP's location and elevation as this information is used to calculate the coordinates of the data points being collected. To ensure accuracy, you might need to use precise surveying equipment like GPS or total stations to measure the location and elevation of the GCPs. Related: Use ROCK Cloud's Auto Align GCP tool to dial in your GCPs quickly. GCP Best Practices Here are some best practices you can follow when placing GCPs to get the best results from your aerial surveying projects: Use a sufficient number of GCPs. The number you need will depend on the size and complexity of the area being surveyed, as well as the accuracy requirements of the project. As a general rule, it's best to use as many GCPs as possible to ensure the data collected is accurate and precise. Distribute GCPs evenly. It's important to distribute GCPs evenly throughout the surveyed area to ensure all areas are accurately mapped. Placing Your Targets To ensure accurate results, place aerial targets in a flat, open area where they can remain stable and be easily seen by the sky. Avoid placing targets on small features like fire hydrants or water meters, as they can cause inaccuracies in your DEM and accuracy report. Additionally, it is not recommended to place targets on the back of curbs or in tall grass, as these areas can cause the targets to wobble or shift during flight. Related: How to add GCPs to your point cloud in ROCK Cloud Flying Your Targets For optimal point cloud alignment with your GCPs, it is recommended to make a manual flight pass over your GCPs at a lower altitude. This can be done at a recommended height of 30 meters (100 ft) and a speed of 2 m/s (4.5 mph) for the highest point density. To achieve the best results, it is recommended to do this before or after a battery swap, and to use a target that is close to your landing zone. A successful aerial mapping project begins with well-placed, highly visible GCPs. We hope you can get your next job off to a great start by keeping these tips in mind. Visit rockrobotic.com to learn more about our survey-grade hardware and processing software.
- Case Study: Construction Company Saves $300k by Updating Contours with ROCK Cloud
How can a construction company save $300,000 in materials and man-hours alone over the course of seven projects? By using ROCK Cloud to compare contours. For Leonard S. Fiore Inc., it was as simple as that. PROJECT SNAPSHOT ROCK Client: Leonard S. Fiore Inc. (LSF) LSF Client: Claysburg-Kimmel High School in Claysburg, Pennsylvania Assignment: Claysburg-Kimmel High School contracted LSF to remodel its entire sports field complex. Using LiDAR, LSF measured accurate contours prior to pouring concrete for new football stadium bleacher footers. Result: Prior to pouring concrete footings for football bleachers, accurate LiDAR contours saved the company $8,200 in materials and man hours alone for this portion of the project. Here's the top-level takeaway: Companies and contractors can save a significant amount of money in Construction and Earthworks projects by comparing existing contours with updated LiDAR data. LSF used its ROCK R2A LiDAR to capture point cloud data and ordered contours through ROCK Surveyor. Existing contours on project sites are often old and outdated, and many surveying and construction companies don’t bother to re-survey the ground. For this case study, we talked to Nino Efendic, Construction Technologies Integrator for LSF, about a recent LSF project. Although the $8,200 is a small portion of the $300,000 LSF saved using LiDAR for seven projects, it illustrates the point that Construction and Earthworks companies need to be using LiDAR to create accurate contours. The more lucrative savings projects haven’t been discussed here because they are ongoing and/or private. ROCK CLIENT: Leonard S. Fiore Inc. in Altoona, Pennsylvania Leonard S. Fiore Inc. (LSF) is a third-generation, family-owned commercial construction builder with offices in Altoona and State College, Pennsylvania. LSF has been completing projects since 1954 and has completed more than $1 billion in construction projects across eight Mid-Atlantic states. LSF employs more than 150 skilled trades professionals to self-perform work across 15 specialties, including earthwork, utilities, foundations, and cast-in-place concrete. EQUIPMENT USED Nino used a DJI M300 RTK drone with ROCK R2A LiDAR. His team used the Emlid Reach RS2 for additional data collection and a Topcon Hiper VR base and rover to capture GCPs. Efendic processed the point cloud data in ROCK Cloud. PROJECT BACKGROUND LSF was contracted to complete athletic field improvements to a local high school. Improvements included new baseball and football fields, upgraded light towers and bleachers. The proposed bleachers were on the slope adjacent to the main football field. The footers of the bleachers were required to be set three feet below the existing grade. While beginning the excavation of the footers, LSF discovered discrepancies in the elevations shown on the plans. If crews were to follow the top-of-footer elevations listed on the plans, nearly half of the footers would be sitting on grade rather than three feet below. SOLUTION Efendic captured contour data with the ROCK R2A and used ROCK Surveyor to get a ground-only classification. From there, they overlaid the CAD files for the footers to find the elevations on each row. This meant the LSF team would have a net zero cut fill, meaning they didn’t need to remove any dirt from the site. Using the LiDAR data originally collected for the Earthworks operation, Efendic was able to reestablish the proper top-of-footer elevations per the true contours of the slope in question. After further analysis, it was found that across the footprint of the bleachers, the contours listed on the approved prints were one-to-two feet higher than the true elevations found onsite. RESULTS By getting accurate contour measurements, the LSF team saved an estimated $8,200 just in concrete costs and man hours. This doesn’t even account for fuel costs for the equipment to remove potential concrete already poured. LSF continues to incorporate LiDAR into the early phases of its construction projects. According to Efendic, “What we've been doing with ROCK LiDAR is comparing existing contours that were given as prints to actual true LiDAR contours. We find that, more often than not, the existing contours found on the prints are incorrect. And because of that, we've been able to identify either savings or profits for our company.” When working with a client on Earthworks or Construction projects, LiDAR helps to accurately measure contours and quantify the exact amount of dirt to move or concrete to pour. LSF’s example with the bleacher footers has only been the tip of the iceberg for them, as they have used LiDAR with similar projects seven times over the past four months alone. “The fact that we're showing this big of an improvement is a testament to the other guys who aren't doing much [LiDAR capturing]. They should probably get on board.” –Nino Efendic, Construction Technologies Integrator Efendic continues to calculate growing savings for LSF, as the accurate contour measurements have more than paid for the equipment and software. He summarized by saying, “Just looking at the gains and the ROI that we're getting should be very, very alarming to the people that do a lot of Earthwork projects.” Efendic recommends to Construction and Earthworks surveyors: “The fact that we're showing this big of an improvement is a testament to the other guys who aren't doing much [LiDAR capturing]. They should probably get on board." Visit rockrobotic.com to learn more about our survey-grade hardware and processing software.
- Understanding FAA Regulations for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Drone Operations
In recent years, drones have become increasingly popular for both personal and commercial use. However, one area where their use has been limited is in beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations, where the drone is not within the operator's direct line of sight. This type of operation poses unique safety and technical hurdles, and as a result, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has strict regulations in place for it. The FAA requires that all drone operators maintain a visual line of sight with their drones at all times. This means that the operator must be able to see the drone with their own eyes, use binoculars or use a first-person view (FPV) device to maintain visual contact. This limits pilot ability to fly jobs with features like long-distance line inspection or inaccessible terrain. However, these jobs that are difficult or near-impossible to fly while maintaining line of sight would become easily achievable if the drone could safely operate beyond the operator's line of sight. In order to operate a drone beyond the line of visual sight, the FAA requires operators to obtain a Part 107 BVLOS Waiver. The process for obtaining a waiver can be complex and time-consuming, and it involves demonstrating that the proposed BVLOS operation can be conducted safely. This requires drone service providers to submit detailed plans and procedures, as well as data on their drones. The FAA then reviews the application and determines whether to grant the waiver. Easy, right? Not so fast — obtaining a Part 107 BVLOS Waiver isn't a guarantee that the operation will be approved. The FAA will carefully consider the safety of the proposed operation and may impose additional restrictions or conditions on the waiver. For example, the FAA may require the operator to have a visual observer on hand to assist with maintaining situational awareness or to use certain technologies such as automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) to track the drone's location. Robert Wilhite, sUAS Director at Alpharetta, Georga-based Alliance Engineering + Planning, wanted to legally reach undeveloped terrain and larger job sites with his LiDAR drone beyond visual line of sight to perform a job easier and more efficiently. "Trying to keep the drone within line of sight is a constant challenge," Wilhite reported. "The amount of time it takes in the field to adhere to that is an uphill battle. I was motivated from a legal standpoint to make sure we were doing things correctly according to Part 107." The Part 107 BVLOS Waiver application process is fairly intricate, but Wilhite and Alliance were able to obtain approval successfully. You can find the application and more information on the FAA's website here. "The BVLOS process takes months and — depending on the complexity of the project — can take up to a year," offered Wilhite. "We partnered with a firm that has obtained a vast majority of the BVLOS applications that are currently approved," said Wilhite. "If I can create a partnership with those who have already done it, then that will dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to write the waiver and get it submitted." Go deeper: The ROCK Robotic team discusses the Part 107 BVLOS Waiver in depth with Robert Wilhite in this video interview. At this point, the waivers that have been approved are all bound to a specific geographical area. Wilhite believes the BVLOS waiver will soon not be limited to a geographical area, except as it relates to controlled airspace. Alliance's second BVLOS waiver isn't based on specific geography, and Wilhite hopes the FAA will approve new BVLOS waivers by these new "non-geo" parameters. The FAA has strict regulations in place for BVLOS drone operations, and operators must obtain a waiver from the agency in order to conduct such operations. The process for obtaining a waiver can be complex and time-consuming, but the payoff of obtaining the BVLOS waiver to engineering and surveying firms is potentially massive. Visit rockrobotic.com to learn more about our survey-grade hardware and processing software.
- Case Study: 25 Acres of LiDAR Data Captured (and Delivered) in Under 48 Hours
Do you ever find yourself in a time crunch? When it comes to last-second client projects, it's easy for panic to begin to settle in. But, with a game plan, the right equipment and some quick data processing, you can get the job done! PROJECT SNAPSHOT ROCK's Client: Earth Tek LLC Earth Tek's Client: Civil Sitework Contractor Assignment: The client needed new accurate contours of a 25-acre planned residential neighborhood project to determine how much dirt was left to get the site to final design elevations. The client asked Earth Tek to capture data over the weekend and needed the contours by Monday morning. Result: After capturing the LiDAR data on a Saturday, Earth Tek ordered expedited contours through ROCK Surveyor. Earth Tek’s client received the contour files, which allowed them to stay on track with the project. CLIENT: EARTH TEK LLC IN MACCLENNY, FLORIDA With years of both practical field experience and estimating and project management experience, the Earth Tek team uses their expertise to translate civil construction plans into accurate quantities and ultra-precise GPS machine control files. EQUIPMENT USED Bill Cheatham, founder and owner of Earth Tek LLC, used a DJI M300 mounted with ROCK R2A LiDAR. He utilized an Emlid Reach RS2+ as his LiDAR base station. Cheatham used ROCK Cloud to process his data. PROJECT BACKGROUND A civil sitework contractor needed an as-built analysis with an accurate cut/fill map to allow Earth Tek’s client to compare contour data between the existing-to-current and current-to-final data. This would confirm the amount of earth the client needed to move to level the 25-acre property. The problem was that the contractor fell behind on the project. In fact, the project had come to a complete standstill, and the contractor needed new contours over the weekend. They priced out bringing in a crew of two surveyors, which was both time and cost-prohibitive. The client turned to Cheatham at Earth Tek to see if his LiDAR setup could get the job done accurately and on time. SOLUTION Using his ROCK R2A mounted to a DJI M300, Cheatham completed the full data capture process in 2.5 hours. According to Bill, the part that took the longest was locating benchmarks placed by the client. When he got back to his office, Cheatham loaded the LAS files onto his computer and uploaded them into ROCK Cloud. He ordered expedited contours through ROCK Surveyor, which delivers in zero to one day. Cheatham sent his client CAD files of the contours Monday morning. “They were definitely pleased that I really could pull it off that quickly,” he reported. CONCLUSION The civil sitework contractor was able to meet their deadline, which allowed them to continue work on the 20-acre neighborhood development. “I don't think they realized the precision of the data that could be returned in that short period of time,” Cheatham said. Bill and the Earth Tek team continue to work as subcontractors for earthworks projects, which allows their clients to work more efficiently and within budget. By measuring accurate LiDAR contours, companies can create accurate bids and land more projects. When it comes down to using the ROCK R2A along with ROCK Cloud’s accuracy and quick turnaround, Cheatham summed it up by saying, “Speed and accuracy. I mean, this is all about how quickly you can set up and how quickly you can fly. Not only that, but how quickly you can capture data. It just comes down to speed and accuracy.” "It just comes down to speed and accuracy.” -Bill Cheatham, Owner, Earth Tek LLC Cheatham solved an existing problem faster and better than a traditional surveyor would otherwise do. By capturing accurate contours in a short amount of time on no notice, Cheatham and Earth Tek saved the day for their client. Not all heroes wear capes, but some (like Cheatham) capture accurate LiDAR data with drones. Visit rockrobotic.com to learn more about our survey-grade hardware and processing software.
- 3 Types of Contours — Which Option is Best for your Surveying Project?
Nearly every land surveying project needs updated, accurate contours. Whether you’re moving dirt, pouring concrete or measuring terrain, contours are king in the world of LiDAR and land surveying. Contours are crucial to surveying and construction projects because they provide a way to represent the shape and elevation of the land's surface on a map. Contours are by far the most-ordered deliverable through ROCK Cloud. At ROCK Robotic, the contours we deliver just got better. Don’t get us wrong — we already produce accurate contours down to as little as 1 cm or less. But now, with every set of contours ROCK Cloud users order, we deliver 3 contour files. Think of our new approach as the “3 Bears” of contours. Smooth Contours ROCK Cloud power users have asked for smoother contours which many clients like to see. Sure, they’re not as accurate, but they’re easy on the eyes. These are like the Mama Bear of contours. Most surveyors like the smooth contours because it looks similar and familiar to them from the products they've been getting in the past. Smooth contours are similar to the results surveyors get from a traditional cut line. Rough Contours For some, the smooth curves are too soft. Many of you want the most accurate contours possible. We’re happy to provide that. Our roughest — but most accurate — contours out there. These are great for ultra-precise engineering projects or earthwork jobs. This is your Papa Bear contour, more commonly known as engineering contours or mathematical contours. Rough contours are great for earthworks projects, as they calculate precise amounts of dirt to either remove or add to level a grade for a site. ROCK users have saved thousands of dollars by using LiDAR to measure precise contours in earthworks projects. Balanced Contours Jagged, ultra-precise contours are too rough for some clients. If you want the best of both worlds, you can average the smooth contours with the rough, accurate ones, resulting in balanced contours (a.k.a. Baby Bear). For some ROCK Cloud users, this is the “just right” combination of visually appealing and still very accurate. Side-by-Side Comparison So now, when you order contours through ROCK Surveyor, you’ll get all three types of contours as separate files. You don’t have to pay more for these three types of contours — it’s the standard contour deliverable you’ve always ordered through ROCK Surveyor. We're doing this because we want you to be able to optimize the deliverable for your needs. We want to empower you to work with your data efficiently and professionally. Get the "just right" version of contours you need by processing your data in ROCK Cloud. Start your 14-day free trial of ROCK Cloud today at cloud.rockrobotic.com.
- 7 Drone Surveying & 3D Mapping Industry Predictions & Trends for 2023
As the use of drones continues to increase in the fields of surveying and 3D mapping, there are a few key trends that we expect to see in 2023. Our team of LiDAR experts expects to see advances in not only drone and LiDAR hardware, but in software to support them as well. Here are seven trends to be on the lookout for in the next year. 1. More widespread adoption As drone and LiDAR technology becomes more accessible and cost-effective, we expect to see more professionals in a variety of industries turning to drones for their surveying and mapping needs. There is no shortage of money to be made and saved by using LiDAR for surveying and construction projects, and traditional firms are increasingly adopting the new technology and software. 2. Improved accuracy and precision Advances in UAV technology, sensors, and data processing are making it possible to generate highly accurate and precise 3D maps. This is particularly important for industries such as construction, where even small errors can have significant consequences. In 2022, ROCK released the R360 LiDAR system, and we plan to continue to iterate and innovate our technology in 2023. 3. Enhanced collaboration As the use of drones becomes more common, we expect to see increased collaboration between different professionals, such as surveyors, engineers, municipalities, departments of transportation (DOTs) and architects. This will allow for more efficient and effective data collection and analysis. For freelance and contract DSPs (Drone Service Providers), expect to find more surveying and construction firms who are open to testing the LiDAR waters. 4. The rise of drone-based inspections in the energy sector Drones are being used to inspect wind turbines, solar panels, power lines and other energy infrastructure, reducing the need for human workers to climb and access dangerous, difficult-to-reach areas. LiDAR sensors combined with powerful cameras can create a hyper-accurate snapshot of the status of these infrastructure components. 5. More sophisticated data analysis As the amount of data generated by drones continues to grow, we expect to see the development of more sophisticated tools and techniques for analyzing and interpreting that data. This will help professionals gain valuable insights and make better-informed decisions. At ROCK Robotic, we are constantly adding features and improvements to our ROCK Cloud processing software, and aim to make it easy to use for people just starting out as well as seasoned surveying professionals. 6. Greater focus on automation To make the most of the data generated by drones, we expect to see more emphasis on automation and machine learning. This will allow for more efficient and accurate data processing, as well as the ability to handle larger volumes of data. We expect to see more AI-driven flight planning technology emerge to aid in precision point cloud data capturing. 7. Ongoing innovation The field of drone surveying and 3D mapping is constantly evolving, and we expect to see many exciting developments in 2023. This could include everything from new drone designs and capabilities to the introduction of entirely new applications for the technology. Overall, we expect to see many exciting developments in the field of drone surveying and 3D mapping in 2023. As the technology continues to improve and become more widely adopted, it will have a profound impact on a variety of industries, helping professionals to collect, analyze, and interpret data more effectively than ever before. Visit rockrobotic.com to learn more about our survey-grade hardware and processing software.
- Case Study: Creating Planimetrics from an Orthomosaic Map Using ROCK Cloud
PROJECT SNAPSHOT ROCK's Client: SmartDrone SmartDrone's Client: Commercial Real Estate Broker in Tyler, TX Assignment: The client needed a planimetric map (linework) from an orthophoto of a 4.58-acre commercial property without using LiDAR data. Result: After the drone flight, the SmartDrone team created an orthophoto and ordered linework through ROCK Cloud. The resulting deliverable was delivered in three business days. CLIENT: SMARTDRONE SmartDrone is a leader in drone surveying innovation and technology for accurate land surveying, utilizing U.S.-manufactured drone hardware to collect feasible aerial LiDAR data, combined with streamlined processing software. EQUIPMENT USED The SmartDrone team used its Discovery 2 mapping drone which utilizes a 12.3-megapixel RGB camera to capture images for orthomosaic generation alongside a LiDAR sensor for topographic mapping. Alongside the hardware, they used ROCK Cloud Processing Software to generate a planimetric/linework map from stitched-together orthophotos. BACKGROUND The SmartDrone team wanted to demonstrate how they use drone capabilities to aid commercial real estate listings, as SmartDrone has had potential clients show interest in generating linework deliverables. The real estate firm had purchased the property from a current car dealership that is relocating. "Using the ROCK Cloud was an easy experience, turnaround met the suggested timeline, and the results they said they would deliver were delivered. Not to mention their team reached out quickly to share questions and had great communication!" –Al Thead, Vice President Operations, SmartDrone SOLUTION The SmartDrone team captured aerial images with their Discovery 2, created an orthomosaic file in Pix4DMapper and uploaded the resulting files into ROCK Cloud in their desired projection. After selecting the pertinent site area, SmartDrone ordered ROCK Planimetrics in ROCK Cloud. The ROCK Team delivered the quality-checked linework three business days later (see the final project deliverables in the ROCK Cloud). The data from ROCK Planimetrics can easily be added to GIS or CAD software, or just viewed in ROCK Cloud with a simple share link! Related: Reasons ROCK Cloud is the Best LiDAR Data Processing Software ROCK Cloud enables users of both LiDAR and Photogrammetry drones to reduce the burden of collecting data in the field efficiently. ROCK Planimetrics allows SmartDrone and other companies to offload significant labor time and cost and focus on what they do best: producing awesome drone solutions for clients! As not every aerial surveying project gets flown with LiDAR, many DSPs (drone service providers) have drones that can be used with photogrammetry without capturing 3D point clouds. Tutorial: How to order ROCK Planimetrics from Orthomosaic Maps CONCLUSION ROCK Cloud enables users to obtain planimetric data with either LiDAR point clouds or orthomosaic maps, as the SmartDrone team did in this project. The survey-grade deliverable map features were color-coded and easy to distinguish from each other. By using ROCK Planimetrics, both SmartDrone and its client were able to quickly and easily make better business decisions than with traditional methods. When time is of the essence, ROCK Planimetrics helps ease the stress of data collection and due diligence. SmartDrone's client, a Commercial Real Estate Broker, can use the map and data to provide a window into the full level of assets of the property to potential buyers. Bottom Line: Everyone wins using the ROCK Cloud! Visit ROCK Planimetrics to learn more about how you can utilize the ROCK Cloud on your next big project.
- Here's a Better Alternative for Processing DJI Zenmuse L1 LiDAR Data
As of January 1, 2023, Terrasolid point cloud and image processing software will no longer be free. Terrasolid will cost surveying and mapping professionals at least $1,500 for an annual license. This cost is looming on the horizon for DJI Zenmuse L1 users. ROCK Cloud software is a turnkey solution for turning LiDAR data into professional deliverables — and does everything Terrasolid can plus more. ROCK Cloud vs. Terrasolid Software ROCK Cloud and Terrasolid LiDAR processing software certainly have some similarities: both give users high-quality deliverables. Both Terrasolid and ROCK Cloud create accurate maps from point clouds. However, while Terrasolid and ROCK Cloud do offer some similar features, there are some major differences. In addition to offering more features, ROCK Cloud does everything Terrasolid does — but faster, easier and more accurately. The True Cost of Terrasolid Moving forward, Terrasolid will cost $1,500 (or more). This is based on the cost of an annual subscription to TerraScan UAV and TerraModeler UAV. In addition, DJI Terra Pro software will offer an annual subscription of $1,540 for one user (it has also been free up until this point). On top of that, using Terrasolid essentially requires a dedicated workstation with at least 16 GB RAM and at least 8 GB GPU memory. To process your own deliverables on bigger jobs, your computer can be out-of-use for multiple days (or weeks). It adds up quickly — not just your money, but your time. With ROCK Cloud, you order your deliverables and everything processes in the background. This way you're able to continue using your computer to tackle other tasks. ROCK Cloud Saves You Time & Money First, ROCK Cloud does the LiDAR processing work for you. ROCK Cloud is like the smart kid in the group project who does all the work so you get an easy “A.” When you order deliverables through ROCK Cloud, you save time so you can service more clients and complete more projects. When you process your data through ROCK Cloud, you can get L1 contours the day after you fly. “Overall, the time to process is pretty good. I love when I submit a dataset in the morning and already see the contours being generated in the afternoon,” offered L1 user Beau Cagle, founder of Texas-based Aerial Reconnaissance, LLC. According to Nick Iversen, L1 pilot and founder of Drone Survey Costa Rica, “I've mainly used ROCK Surveyor to create contours. I’m very happy with the turnaround time; it's usually anywhere from one to three days depending on the size and complexity of the project.” In addition to time savings, ROCK Cloud offers quality assurance. Each project goes through the A.I. engine and is then verified by a ROCK Robotic GIS Specialist before it's approved. ROCK Makes Your Data More Accurate: Strip Alignment Feature ROCK Cloud offers Strip Alignment for your L1 data. Strip Alignment corrects errors in the trajectory used to produce a 3D point cloud from a LiDAR mapping system. ROCK Strip Alignment takes your uploaded LAS file, along with the trajectory (produced by DJI Terra) and analyzes the point cloud to produce a new optimized (Strip Aligned) point cloud. Because of this, your data deliverables are more accurate and less noisy, making your clients happier. Terrasolid offers strip alignment as an add-on product called TerraMatch, which is an additional $950 per year. Related: How to Improve DJI Zenmuse L1 Accuracy w/ Strip Alignment in ROCK Cloud LiDAR Processing Software Responsive Support from Actual Humans Additionally, and maybe most importantly, ROCK Cloud’s onboarding, training and support are second to none. With other LiDAR processing software, you send an email and hope to hear back in a few days (internally screaming). ROCK offers real-time live support on your dataset. ROCK provides quality assurance from a living, breathing human versed in LiDAR processing and deliverables! Someone on our team looks at every deliverable before sending it along to our customers. If there are issues with your project, we’ll work with you to fix them. Insanely Practical Deliverables The ROCK team knows what your clients want. As a result, we can help direct you to order the deliverables you need for your project. After you get your deliverables, you can easily share them with your clients, an option that isn’t available with Terrasolid software (boom roasted). “Our favorite part is the hosted view of the LiDAR that you can share with clients easily — they love to see it,” reported Nick Iversen of Drone Survey Costa Rica. Total Game Changer for L1 Users The bottom line? ROCK Cloud offers unique deliverables, better accuracy, saves time and provides top-notch support for DJI Zenmuse L1 pilots. Beau Cagle summed his experience with ROCK Cloud this way: “All in all, ROCK Cloud has helped tremendously with just taking the processing load off of us and that makes us satisfied.” Nick Iversen’s conclusions are even more to the point, as he noted, “ROCK Cloud just makes it easy.” Exclusive Trial Offer As the cost of Terrasolid is increasing from “free” to (at least) $1,500 per year in January, we invite you to sign up for a free 14-day trial of ROCK Cloud. Now is the time to switch to ROCK Cloud so you can experience the difference for yourself. Don't wait. Visit rockrobotic.com to learn more about our products and services.
- Top 10 LiDAR Support Questions: Answered by the ROCK Support Team
Our mission at ROCK is to support customer success through content development that empowers our users to know where to get the answers they need. Let's take a look at ROCK's most asked questions and the Knowledge Base articles we wrote to answer them. 1. When will my deliverables be ready? In the ROCK Cloud, you can view the estimated delivery date of your desired deliverables in three ways. 2. How do I tell what version of PCMaster/Painter I have installed? This article reveals the two-step process to determine which version is on your computer. 3. How do I use my PCMaster pre-processing license on multiple devices? You can transfer your PCMaster license from one machine to another to allow multiple users to pre-process their LiDAR data (although the license can't be used by multiple users at the same time). This article offers a step-by-step process to transfer and activate your license. 4. What do I do if PCMaster isn’t processing correctly? Over 90% of PCMaster processing issues are resolved by answering the questions we outline in this article. Taking the time to answer these questions helps point you in the right direction for solving your pre-processing problem. 5. Do we have to use two-factor authentication to log into the ROCK Cloud? Yes, two-factor authentication (2FA) enhances the security of the ROCK Cloud. 6. How do I put my deliverables into CAD software? In this article, we offer the simple three-step process to get your data from ROCK Cloud into AutoCAD and QGIS. 7. Why are my GCPs in the ocean?! Sometimes ground control points (GCPs) show up in the wrong spot! Learn how to debug Ground Control Point placement in this article. 8. How do I move my dataset to my GCPs? This article offers two options to use the ROCK Cloud Auto Align GCP tool to save your dataset. 9. How do I calculate my known point for my dataset? You can use a known point in PCMaster as your base correction coordinates. This article outlines how to set up your base and align your data to a surveyor's control point. See also: Options for Establishing a Known Point and Obtaining Ground Control Points (GCPs) 10. How do I get strip alignment for my L1 data? Want to import your DJI L1 point cloud data into your ROCK Cloud project? This article will walk you through exactly how to do it. See also: ROCK Cloud Strip Alignment Visit learn.rockrobotic.com to search our database of articles addressing all hardware, pre-processing and ROCK Cloud questions.
- Breaking Down 20 Common LiDAR and Surveying Terms
If you’re just getting started using LiDAR to create 3D models and maps, there is a ton of terminology to learn. Here's a glossary of the most helpful LiDAR and surveying terms you need to know. Accuracy Report A report detailing the accuracy of any LiDAR points in relation to known coordinates. Bare Earth Model A model of the area you are surveying that removes buildings, trees and any other surface objects. Bare earth models are generated in digital elevation models (DEMs), one of the key deliverables in ROCK Surveyor. Breaklines Lines that are marked to indicate a sharp break in elevation. This can include a curb, wall, ridge or stream. These lines improve the accuracy of contours. (Related: What are breaklines?) Contour Lines Contour lines illustrate the difference in elevation at a set interval on a topographic map. Learn how to order contours through the ROCK Cloud here. Digital Elevation Model (DEM) A digital elevation model (DEM) is a visual depiction of the bare ground (bare earth) topographic surface of the Earth that removes trees, buildings or any other surface objects. Digital Surface Model (DSM) or Digital Terrain Model (DTM A digital surface model (DSM) or digital terrain model (DTM) captures the natural and built features on the Earth’s surface. Flightline (or Trajectory) A preprogrammed or manual drone flight and altitude path when capturing data. Ground Control Points (GCPs) Marked points on the ground with known coordinates. GCPs are normally marked with an aerial target. These points serve as baselines to align physical points to the digital data produced by your LiDAR system. Learn about GCP best practices here. LAS The industry-standard file format that is designed for storing LiDAR point cloud data. LiDAR software, like ROCK Cloud, allows you to view and interact with LAS files. LiDAR LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It is a remote sensing method of measuring ranges to the Earth using light in the form of a pulsed laser. Orthomosaic Mapping An orthomosaic map is an aerial map made from many stitched-together still images. This map looks similar to what you would see in Google Maps. Planimetrics / Line Work A planimetric map shows manmade and natural objects from an aerial view outlined with 2D or 3D features. This often includes parking lots, buildings, utilities, sidewalks, fences, roads, water features, vegetation and building footprints. To learn about planimetric maps in ROCK Cloud, click here. Point Cloud In LiDAR, a point cloud is a collection of individual points plotted in 3D space with X, Y and Z coordinates. Normally, point clouds are in LAS or LAZ file formats. Point Density A ROCK R360 or R2A unit mounted to a drone can capture a high number of points per square foot or square meter on the ground through the canopy of trees and plants. Capturing high-density data is incredibly difficult to capture using traditional surveying methods. Pulse Rate The number of laser pulses per second. For example, the ROCK R360 emits up to 640,000 pulses per second. Return Number The total number of point returns from any given pulse. RMSE Believe it or not, LiDAR data isn’t perfect (although ours is pretty darn close). RMSE stands for root mean square error, which is the margin of error for accuracy in a LiDAR dataset. The ROCK R360 system has a range accuracy of 0.5 cm. ROCK SLAM ROCK SLAM (Simultaneous Localization Mapping) upgrades your existing ROCK hardware to allow you to walk around indoors, underneath trees, or anywhere you won't get good GPS in order to capture point cloud data. Learn more about ROCK SLAM here. Topographic (Topo) Map A map that uses contour lines to show elevation on the Earth’s surface. Volumetrics Volumetric surveys indicate how much material is being moved from a construction site. Learn how to measure volumetrics and stockpile data in the ROCK Cloud here. Vegetation Management Using drone LiDAR data to help specify danger zones across a transmission or distribution network. For example, ROCK Cloud provides you with a report that identifies problem areas across a transmission line at your set interval. Now that you’re well-versed in the lingo, dive into the world of efficient and easy-to-use LiDAR hardware and software with ROCK Robotic. We are reimagining the way 3D data is captured and used. Visit rockrobotic.com to learn more about us.