Original article seen here: LiDAR News

No targets – 100+ scans per day – 0.75 linear miles per hour – Tenth of a foot accuracy



If you have been searching for a 3D laser scanning system that would justify the required six figure investment, then this article is for you.

With over 35 years of experience serving the oil and gas industry in eastern Ohio, David Bodo and Associates, Inc. has built a strong reputation as a traditional, full service 16 – person surveying firm. During that time, they have platted over 5,000 oil and gas wells, but David Bodo Jr., Vice President is the first to admit that the firm is new to 3D laser scanning.

David explained, “We had attended multiple classes and seminars on the benefits of 3D laser scanning, but could not find a system that we felt confident in making the required investment. We do a lot of linear infrastructure projects that have a unique set of requirements. All of the other systems that we looked at required targets in order to meet the required accuracy, and that was not something we thought would be cost effective.”

“Then we heard about Certainty 3D and things began to look more promising. Two of my draftsman and I attended the TopoDOT user conference (TUC) this past June where we came away with the belief that we would get the gains in productivity that we had been searching for, not to mention a much safer work environment for our field crews,” David commented.

The Technology

At TUC 2016, David was introduced to a uniquely integrated highly productive system. At the heart of data acquisition was the RIEGL VZ-400i laser scanner integrated with an external Nikon D700 camera and RTK GPS receiver. RIEGL’s VZ-400i software employs GPS position and point clouds to automatically align the data without requiring additional targets or survey control!

David chose Certainty 3D’s TopoLift truck-mounted laser scanning platform as a way to increase field productivity by at least 300% over traditional tripod operation. Finally, David employed Certainty 3D’s TopoDOT® software to seamlessly manage his data, assess quality and extract high quality topographics, assets and 3D models.

This industry leading system does not require targets in order to achieve a minimum accuracy of 0.1’, both horizontally and vertically when used with a RTK network. This is sufficient for most of their projects.

The Certainty 3D TopoLift is the world’s only automated truck-mounted tripod designed to support laser scanning operations. Each individual equipment setup and transport time is decreased from 15-20 minutes to a minute or two. Operating at a height of 11 feet also decreases the required number of setups by about 30%. TopoLift’s typically results in a 300%+ increase in field productivity, increased operator safety and higher quality data.

The RIEGL VZ-400i is an extremely fast laser scanner that can collect a complete 360-degree scan in just 4 minutes including photos. The external camera speed is a major plus to productivity as a complete set of images are acquired in just 45 seconds.

David was also very impressed by how easy it was to integrate the GPS location information into the data processing workflow. The GPS connects directly to the scanner which then provides real time corrected coordinates.

TopoDOT is one of the leading feature extraction software for highway, site and infrastructure related projects. It does not just extract features. Instead it looks at the entire process to insure that the data meets the complete needs of the customer.


After careful consideration the firm made the decision to invest in a TopoLift, a RIEGL VZ-400i scanner, a Spectra Precision Epoch 50 GPS unit and TopoDot feature extraction software. This high performance system allowed them to rapidly collect feature data and topography without the use of targets, while at the same time reducing the crew from two to one.  Most importantly the operator could spend most of his/her time protected inside the cab of the pickup.

David explained, “We are using these sensors with Certainty 3D’s TopoLift to scan our roadway projects and any projects accessible to vehicles. We are averaging about 5 minutes at each scan position and 300’ between setups. In the office we are using the Riegl RiScan Pro to register our data and apply color to the scans, we then export the data to Bentley Microstation PowerDraft with TopoDOT for feature extraction. Once we have the data extracted, we import the extracted data into Carlson Survey, a survey software built on the AutoCAD OEM platform. On average it takes us about 10 minutes to go from the raw scan to a file that we can work with in TopoDOT.“

David emphasized, “One important aspect of us moving into the 3D scanning environment was customer support.  With Certainty 3D we get to speak with the people that are actually developing the software and people who truly want us to succeed.“

Increased safety was one of the most important driving factors in moving to 3D Scanning. “Typically, we would have our crews located in busy intersections and found that many drivers are distracted.  Safety issues were always a concern.  Now, we can capture the required data from the safety of our vehicle, or from an adjacent safer location,” David explained.

Project Examples

With any project that requires Bodo to locate existing features, they are finding it quicker and safer to use their RIEGL Scanner and TopoLift.  Often when needing to capture data within a railroad right of way, they would have to wait for the railroad to provide them with flaggers and a specific time to locate the data.  Dave noted, “Now, from a safe distance outside of the railroad right of way, we can collect the needed data, saving us time, and keeping our crews safer.”


Bodo would need to capture data for accurate mapping of roads in urban settings.  Typically, this is very labor intensive and can on occasion involve locating over 10,000 points in the field.  The chance of missing a point or mis-labeling was always a concern.  Now, they have a 3D scan of the roadway, giving the office team the ability to verify that they are capturing the needed information with far fewer man hours.

Creating detailed contour maps of construction sites are much simpler now as well.  David explained, “We can show in much higher detail where any depressions are in a surface and accurately depict the spillway of impoundment and containment areas. We can collect in less than an hour with one person what typically would have taken a two-person crew all day to collect.”

“Our railroad projects are much simpler and safer using our 3D scanner.  Using the scanner with a tripod, we can maneuver it to nearly any location along the railroad outside of the right of way, capturing the rails and slopes, giving us the needed information to create cross-sections in any area, even when the area of interest is changed,” David noted.

Return on Investment

When asked about return on investment David explained, “For us at this point, our ROI is just starting to be realized.  We have been learning as much as we can and evaluating different methods to get a better idea of where we can go with this technology.  We have not started promoting our equipment yet and already we are getting requests to scan projects. In some cases it is from companies that have a scanner, but it cannot match our performance. If this is any indication on what is to come, we will be able to move more into 3D capabilities much more aggressively.

The Future

“Honestly moving forward, we can see using our scanner for almost all of our survey projects.  Being able to collect the entire site with high detail is invaluable.  Not having to go back and capture a missed feature, being able to capture preexisting sight conditions, and the ability to show our clients their location in 3D is necessary for all future projects.”

 Original article seen here: LiDAR News

Leave a Reply