Seeing is Believing
In the petrochemical industry, the status of key infrastructure such as oil and gas pipelines, often in far-flung and inhospitable places, is absolutely crucial. To deliver quick and comprehensive visual information on the state, location and positioning of these and other physical assets, SmartGeoMetrics uses the p3d system. ProScan is a mobile laser-scanning rig that includes NovAtel's IMU-FSAS inertial measurement unit, FlexPak6 receivers and antennas.
Sam Billingsley is Vice President, Business & Product Development, at SmartGeoMetrics. He says adaptability is the hallmark of the ProScan. With the terrestrial laser scanner (LiDAR) and all other components on a single spindle, the unit is completely self-contained and very easy to use with all types of mobile platforms.
“We have used it on a trolley, on a golf cart, and with a glide-arm vest,” he says. “However, our incorporation of the unit on our ATProfiler seems to have gained the most attention.” The ATProfiler is an eye-catching all-terrain vehicle with treads, as opposed to wheels. “It allows us to quickly visually capture pipelines just before they are buried, in exceptionally rugged environments,” Billingsley explains. “The vehicle uses a boom to hold the laser scanner, in an inverted position, over the trench so that the pipe location as well as welds and flanges can be scanned while all of the right-of-way topography is being captured.”
Like no other system
“There is no other system in the market with the capabilities of our ProScan and accompanying software,” says p3d systems CEO Erwin Frei. “We can capture 3D data with high productivity, accuracy, unparalleled versatility-including indoors, ease of use, minimal 'time-to-results' and at a huge cost reduction.”
Capturing reality accurately in three dimensions requires an incredible amount of skill and precision. p3d systems combines components, including the LiDAR, Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) elements, into a single integrated system. The resulting portable platform enables the capture of both exterior and interior spaces with more flexibility than ever before.
Frei says p3d systems started using Novatel components some years ago, specifically the ProPak-V3 GNSS receiver, as the principal positioning sensor to aid the IMU in trajectory determination in outdoor applications. “Later we switched to the FlexPak6 GNSS Rx GNSS receiver, he says, “because of its additional capabilities, which are now paramount to the performance of the ProScan system.”
The NovAtel FlexPak6™ is a triple-frequency GNSS receiver based on the OEM628™ receiver card. It can track GPS and GLONASS. Frequencies include L1, L2, L2C, L5, E1, E5a/b, AltBOC, B1, B2 and L-Band.
“We do need a state-of-the-art, dual-frequency receiver with GPS as well as GLONASS tracking capabilities,” says Frei, “because we want to deliver the best accuracy possible. The data throughput as well as the communication capabilities- Ethernet instead of serial communication-are critical elements as well.
“In addition, we use the GNSS time-synchronization device for all involved measuring sensors in our ProScan system, so it really plays a central role in the entire system morphology. This capability is not just used in outdoor environments, when satellites are being tracked, but also in indoor environments, when no satellites can be tracked.”
The use of the FlexPak6 as a time-synchronization device for outdoor and especially indoor applications is unique and represents a totally new approach to capturing objects in 3D with high precision. Frei says collaboration with R&D specialists continues: “Currently, there is a daily exchange of test data, test results and new firmware releases to optimize the capabilities of the FlexPak6 for different measuring scenarios.”
The entire ProScan system is controlled and operated via p3dsystems software, which also performs the calculations and computations to transform the measurements, creating a fully geo-referenced point cloud.
Billingsley says the relationship between SmartGeoMetrics and p3dsystems actually predates p3dsystems: “It began, as most things do, with a problem that we were trying to solve. We had a video game developer who was trying to find a new way to capture auto-racing circuits. They had several criteria that needed to be met: 6-8-cm accuracy, the ability to capture an entire circuit in 1-2 days, and to mobilize and be onsite in 4-5 days, worldwide.
“We started with Christian Hesse on what became the ProScan system and, along the way, Hesse, Harald Vennegeerts and Erwin Frei launched p3d systems.”
“Contacts intensified,” Frei adds, “and eventually led to the purchase of a demo system by SmartGeoMetrics. They then became the first reseller of p3d system products in the USA.”
Pack it up
Billingsley says p3d systems built the only solution that met their client's criteria. “As time has passed, they have been very supportive as we at SmartGeoMetrics have continued to push the envelope by mounting the ProScan on everything from ATVs to canoes.”
Indeed, Billingsley says, it was the need for fast mobilization that tipped everything in favor of the ProScan: “The entire unit breaks down into 3-4 Pelican cases so that you can fly anywhere with the ProScan as your checked luggage.
“It's almost like having a half-a-million-dollar mobile LiDAR rig that fits in a couple of suitcases. That adaptability extends to the laser scanner as well, because the unit will work with any of several profiling terrestrial laser scanners.”
“The versatility is almost limitless,” says Frei. “Whenever a task demands precision, low cost and high speed, the ProScan system is a solution to be considered. It is the only system that can be used in indoor environments for high-precision, high-productivity applications, including the capturing of 3D data for architecture, engineering, civil engineering, gaming, virtual reality, progress monitoring, security, forensics, petrochemicals of course, and more.”