Embracing New Technology: WGI Adds Mobile Mapping Capabilities
BY DAVID WANTMAN, PE, SAM HALL, PSM
The learning curve associated with adopting new technology can be a significant hurdle for many firms. Will the time and effort be worth it in the long term? If everything is going well, why introduce potential problems? These are fair questions to ask before purchasing a mobile mapping system. However, the alternative is continuing to do things the way they’ve always been done, and missing the chance to gain a competitive advantage by delivering more accurate, better quality data, faster than ever before.
Wantman Group Inc. (WGI), one of the top three bid/design engineering firms in Florida with around 300 professionals on staff, started thinking about adding mobile mapping capabilities back in 2014. WGI has contributed to most of the major infrastructure and transportation projects in Florida in recent years. Founded in 1972 by Joel Wantman, the multi-generational organization continues to grow by emphasizing innovative solutions and excellent client service. Contributing to its success is a willingness to adopt new technology as it becomes available. Tools that enhance data quality and timeliness, such as a mobile mapping system, are integrated into existing processes to achieve the best results possible for clients.
Technology Drives the Business
When the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) started to require deliverables that would support 3D design and 3D corridor modeling, the writing was on the wall. Terrestrial and mobile LiDAR are the best methods to collect data delivered in MicroStation for corridor modeling, 3D polylines, and 3D points. This motivated WGI to move forward with an investment in mobile mapping.
“Mobile mapping has only been around a few years, so we are just at the beginning of a significant transformation,” said David Wantman, President, WGI. “Owners and end users of a mobile LiDAR product haven’t yet completely realized the speed, accuracy, and totality of the deliverable. As they become educated, anything less than mobile mapping as the path to a final survey deliverable will not exist.”
“Our mobile mapping capability has attracted new clients and improved profitability,” continued Wantman. “The system has paid for itself in the nine months we’ve owned it. Mobile mapping has greatly reduced the field effort, while somewhat increasing the processing time in the office. However, the overall delivery time is still significantly reduced and the deliverable is far superior. Mobile mapping makes WGI more competitive in a bidding situation by delivering things other companies cannot.”
The landscape and climate of Florida both contribute to unique challenges for surveying and mapping. Being flat doesn’t make it easy! Quite the opposite is true. The combination of flat land and heavy rains during the wet season can result in major drainage issues and dangerous driving conditions if water pools on roadways. To ensure the correct slope of roadways, 3D models used by FDOT are required to meet +/- ¼ inch accuracy specifications. Since FDOT is an important WGI client, consistent and reliable accuracy was a non-negotiable factor at the start of WGI’s search for a mobile mapping system.
WGI evaluated a number of different systems on the basis of very stringent performance criteria and specifications required for infrastructure and transportation projects. WGI first started talking to Leica about its mobile mapping system, the Pegasus: Two, in February 2015. In addition to a LiDAR scanner, the Pegasus: Two has seven cameras, including a sky camera which gives a 360 x 270-degree view for city modeling and an additional eighth camera pointing to the pavement behind the vehicle for pavement assessment. In the end, WGI received assurances from Leica that the Pegasus: Two could meet all of the requirements…at half the price of the closest competitor. WGI completed the purchase of its first mobile mapping system in May 2015.
“The Pegasus: Two does everything we require, and we are completing projects in a fraction of the time as compared to more traditional methods,” said Sam Hall, Vice President, WGI. “However, we quickly realized that the complexity of the process and the highly technical nature of the workflow cannot be compared to any other surveying or mapping process. Speed, time, orientation, project planning, and proper equipment calibration are all essential to achieving the accuracy and precision our roadway design projects require.”
“We experienced a slightly steeper learning curve in some areas than expected, due to our special requirements; it’s not as simple as turning on the equipment and collecting positions,” Hall explained. “We worked closely with Leica to make the unit and software suite perform to our requirements, including developing a custom software approach and processing workflow with best practices for the entire process, from raw data to the final product.”