Today 3D reality capture of buildings is important for creating virtual models. The technology helps large contractors with quality control and project management.
At the moment, smaller contractors don’t have as many uses for 3D capture, but could it eventually be used for almost every project?
Drones have been used for monitoring and surveying construction sites for a while now, but the newest drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) have much greater capability. In this article, we’ll look at one solution for 3D capture. Will something like it be in your future?
Leica Geosystems (part of Hexagon) specializes in solutions for surveying, construction, infrastructure, mining and mapping.
Their drone system Leica BLKF2FLY is an autonomous flying laser scanner. It is capable of sophisticated outdoor and indoor scanning.
Where this system excels is its ability to navigate and scan indoor environments safely and effectively using lidar (Light Detection and Ranging.) Lidar is the same technology that your phone uses when you use an app to measure distances.
If you’ve ever used a drone, you may have lost control of it when it lost its link to GPS, or a GNSS (Global navigation satellite system). In remote regions where trees or rock formations can block signals, a drone can behave erratically or set itself to an automatic hover mode until it reestablishes a solid connection. This problem is especially common inside a building or when surrounded by other tall buildings.
Leica BLKF2FLY however, uses “…its visual Simultaneous Location And Mapping (SLAM) system to give the UAV real-time spherical imaging for enhanced spatial awareness.”
“We can fly without GNSS because the BLK2FLY uses lidar not just for scanning, but for navigation,” Business Director for Autonomous Reality Capture Pascal Strupler, of Hexagon’s Geosystems division, said. The UAV has a complement of five cameras, and only two had previously been used for navigation. Now, data from four of the cameras can inform navigation systems. As scanning commences, the BLK2FLY builds up an internal map of its environment.*
In real-world tests, beta users found even more uses for the system than anticipated. In some cases, users’ ground-based reality capture units did not get a complete picture of the structure, and the UAV was perfect for enhancing areas that were incomplete.
Immediately getting data via the SLAM system is a real advantage. Mapping is instantaneous so you don’t have to wait for the UAV to come down and be downloaded. With other devices, you may have to wait till after the flight to find out whether you missed a section or if there was some kind of interference.
Deviation detection and capturing as-builts are the most often use cases, but the system can also do stockpile measurements.
“This works the same as outdoor drones used to measure stockpiles, but in this case, you can often not walk around stockpile,” Strupler said.
The BLK2FLY has also seen interest from industrial engineering and construction companies performing refits or rebuilds.
“People are saying they would like to scan their machinery hall to get the current state,” Strupler said.
The company has a cloud-based system that can create photorealistic digital twins. These models can be used to interact with clients, monitor progress and avoid cost overruns from unexpected surprises found in existing structures.
Watch What Happens
This technology may seem unrelated to most general contractors at the moment. Like other kinds of technology, it will evolve and users will find different applications for it.
As these types of systems progress and prices come down, they may become a must-have for every contractor who builds or renovates houses or buildings.