A utility client on the east coast of the United States asked Continental Mapping to perform a proof on concept to assess the value of mobile lidar and high resolution imagery to inventory assets in the field. The client needed to update its GIS database for asset inventory and regulatory reasons.
The client estimated that more than 300,000 poles were unaccounted for in their database. This is of concern for a number of reasons – one being that each pole generates significant revenue when third parties make use of the utility poles (i.e., cable companies, ISPs, etc.). A great deal of revenue is lost when the utility company cannot police the use of its poles.
Continental Mapping worked with the client to design a solution that would assess the feasibility of updating the GIS database efficiently using mobile lidar. With this data development, the utility could look beyond the database and concern itself with a number of other issues such as mitigating complicated regulatory concerns.
360 degree lidar coverage provided sufficient density to easily detect the power lines as well as the poles being inventoried. The unit also integrates an inertial measurement unit and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) equipment.
The unit’s sophisticated camera array served as a great or greater role in the project. Typically, the camera array on mobile lidar units come in at 5-10 megapixels (MP). While this keeps file sizes low, easing the cost of data management, it often fails to give the level of detail needed to serve its purpose. Continental Mapping has a great deal of expertise managing data. As such, a well informed decision could be made – determining the costs vs. benefits of using a much higher resolution camera array (and resulting in far higher file sizes). Continental Mapping opted for two state of the art 36 MP Nikon DSLRs to be mounted in the vehicle. The imagery database provided to the client allows them to see the poles and to read the text of any signs placed upon them.
The lidar and imagery were taken at highway speed on routes carefully planned and laid out. The acquisition was successful – effective and cost efficient. The subsequent data was easy to work with and could be leveraged for a wide array of uses, including those for which the project meant to assess.
Example of a high-resolution image showing assets on the top of the pole