Geospatial services

Drones: Cost Effective and Ideal for the Mining Industry

World over mining companies are leveraging drones for various key processes such as: site scoping, mapping, mineral exploration and investigating stockpiles to name a few. Here are some key points related to how drones are cost effective and an ideal partner for the mining industry:

Drone based data collection boosts productivity with better decision making, as surveying projects that used to take months earlier now gets completed in a matter of days. This reduction of man hours and spend on resources and infrastructure is a significant cost saver.

Using drones particularly for underground mining is a big help, as human beings do not have to be exposed to such life endangering mining operations. Additionally, drones enable real-time monitoring and surveillance which arrests illegal intrusion of mine fields.

Drones equipped with sophisticated cameras provide real time aerial footage and 3D maps of mine sites assuring accurate assessments. In fact with the help of drones, mining companies are able to collect more information of their sites than in the past.

Drones have replaced manned aircrafts which are pretty expensive and not suitable when narrow segments of the mines need to be surveyed. And drones are extremely adept at repeating any mining activity several times over with clinical precision.

Especially in the mining industry new ways of using drones are being discovered every day, and usage is bound to increase. In the years to come, we will see drones growing nurtured amply by helpful laws, evolving technologies and patronized by large mining conglomerates.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV): Impact on Small Area Surveying

Would you spend your effort in analysis of actionable data readily available? Or would you devote time and effort in the actual collection of data? Obviously the former, right?

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), referred as Drone is the Man Friday in this process of collecting crucial information that organizations rely on. Drone is the next big thing in surveying technology.

Especially in small area surveys such as mining, agriculture and military operations, UAVs are huge time savers, cost effective and have largely reduced the risk element involved in these fields. Organizations are saving money spent on resources and infrastructure while simultaneously garnering unique and powerful insights with the help of drones. UAVs are commonly used these days in communication, agriculture, remote sensing and transportation.

Some of the benefits of deploying drones in different industries are:

  • It reduces manual effort as it does not require a qualified operator
  • It is safe, easy to use and ideal for being on the move
  • It provides accurate results with little investment
  • It discharges high quality pictures through high end cameras and laser scanners
  • It assures safety as it does away with the human component
  • It can stay up in the air for long duration performing repetitive but precise tasks
  • It can function in fog, darkness and autonomously as well

From informing the farmer on where to spray fertilizers to assessing the extent of damage after a natural disaster, drones can be very handy. Still a nascent development, drones are certainly going to fly higher!

Virtual reality applications scoping new dimensions for Geospatial Information System

I can talk for hours on the importance of Virtual Reality for GIS but then you might have known the facts through industry experts. Just imagine how easy it becomes when you can physically inspect the elements of an area virtually through the advancements in VR. Elements can now be inspected from a First Person perspective and this enables adding head attitude tracking support, and stereo rendering. Thus the user can now explore a 3D virtual earth in first person with his mobile device.

Fresh avenues are opening up in personal, public and environmental health sectors. Be it urban planning and building smart cities, or virtual tourism and 360 degree views, or emergency preparedness of a city/county; GIS applications are trending.

Recently in the newspaper, there were two interesting news items which demonstrates how virtual reality applications in the GIS space are a boon to users.

Firstly, a mix of Virtual Reality(VR), Augmented Reality(AR) and Mixed Reality(MR) was used to facilitate the corporate real estate owners and facilities management by using Microsoft holo lens for the visualisation of maintenance workflows, the overlay of data relevant to physical objects and Building Information Modelling(BIM). This also enables the teams to work virtually without the limitations of the physical space.

Secondly, layering a proposed layer over an actual layer in real time was implemented for urban planners by integrating custom made engines with the VR headsets. This also aids for a transition from virtual reality to augmented reality, exploring even higher dimensions in the space.

As we peek into the future, the possibilities in the VRGIS space are limitless. As it enters other arenas it can afford further useful benefits. If matched well with the industries, VRGIS applications can be leveraged for healthier and safer living.

Modelling of waste water pipe network by using Hand held Lidar scanner point cloud data

SBL was recently awarded a waste water pipe modelling project from a handheld scanner point cloud data by a global firm of 3D scanner manufacturers and retailers from the UK.


Figure 1- Input point cloud data (Isometric View)

A section of sewer pipe network and its connections (refer Figure 1 above) was modelled with the help of point cloud data from a hand-held scanner. A major challenge in the project was that the input point cloud data was provided without RGB values since the LiDAR survey was carried inside a pipe where there is no light.
SBL carried out the detailed mapping from the LiDAR point cloud data using “as is”, rule without generalizing or offsetting any feature. Cross section views were used to capture the data to the highest possible accuracy wherever changes occur in terms of shape and size.
Check out the images below which depict graphically the level of expertise and care that was taken by the team at SBL to execute the project.


Figure 2- Input point cloud and extracted pipes (Isometric View)


Figure 3 -Waste water Pipe network Surface model view


Figure 4 – Inside view of the waste water pipe


Figure 5 – Aspect angle view

This project marks another achievement by SBL in the LiDAR modelling domain. We are expecting to showcase few more such projects in our upcoming blogs.

BIM and LiDAR Team – SBL Knowledge Services Ltd.

Modelling of Road Assets using mobile point cloud data

Another feather in SBL’s cap. SBL was recently awarded a road asset mapping project from mobile point cloud data by a reputed firm of chartered land surveyors in the UK. The project area was mapping a stretch of the A937 highway passing through the town of Laurencekirk, Scotland, UK (see image below).

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Figure 1 – Project extents shown by highlighted blue and green lines

The length of road that was mapped was 2.3 kms and all road furniture (top and bottom of curbs, road edges, hedges and gates and walls etc.) markings (parking marks, bus stop marks etc) was captured to a high degree of accuracy. A major challenge in the project was that the input point cloud data was provided without RGB values since the mobile LiDAR survey was carried out at night.
SBL carried out the detailed mapping from the mobile point cloud data using “as is”, rule without generalizing or offsetting any feature. Cross section views at distances of less than 7m were used to capture the data to the highest possible accuracy. Check out the images below which depict graphically the level of expertise and care that was taken by the team at SBL to execute the project.

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Figure 2- Input point cloud data (Isometric View)

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Figure 3 – Profile view of the curb drawn with vertexes

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Figure 4 – Digitized top and bottom of curbs

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Figure 5 – Modelling of street markings

A significant achievement on this project was that SBL provided a “first time right” work with high levels of accuracy in a very short turnaround time of 4 working days. This was possible only because of the dedication and expertise of the LiDAR modelling team of SBL. We hope to come up with more such success stories in the coming days, so stay tuned.

Creating a 3D Model of a warehouse using point cloud data

SBL has been making steady and sustained progress in developing its BIM services portfolio over the last couple of years. Our last blog post on our BIM services was nearly 4 months back (October 2016) when we showcased our capabilities to model railway assets using point cloud data acquired from mobile and terrestrial scanners. Since then our BIM and LiDAR teams have been quite busy in working on a variety of BIM and LiDAR projects and pilot samples. One such interesting work was from the UK where our BIM team was given a 3D point cloud data acquired using ZEB-REVO handheld scanner. The ZEB-REVO handheld scanner was used to acquire the internal details of a warehouse at nearly 37000 ppm². The acquired point cloud data had only elevation values and no RGB values. No reference photographs were provided.

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Figure 1 – Input point cloud data thematically represented by elevation data

The lack of RGB values in the input point cloud data and the absence of reference photographs poses a challenge to anyone desiring to model the individual features present in the data. SBL overcame this challenge due to the availability of highly skilled and experienced modellers who were fully conversant of the features expected to be found in a warehouse. The internal features of the warehouse was modelled with high accuracy using Aecosim Building designer software from Bentley. The 3D model of the warehouse was rendered to create realistic looking and highly accurate photo images of the warehouse. Multiple views of the rendered model are included below.

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Figure 2- Rendered output of the warehouse (view 1)

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Figure 3 – Rendered output of the warehouse (view 2)

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Figure 4 – Rendered output of the warehouse (view 3)

This 3D models was used by the architects of the warehouse to notice design issues or weaknesses in the structural integrity of the site and to predict failures such that preventive maintenance can be done to minimize damage. Architects and engineers can also manipulate 3D models in a way they often can’t with 2D CAD drawings. Professionals are able to test what-if scenarios with their designs in 3D, helping to validate their plans and identify any problems with design quality. In addition, these types of models can also give architects and engineers an accurate picture of how they can change their designs if they need to. Because of the accuracy and flexibility of 3D models, architects and engineers are able to spend less time on the design stage of their projects and more time on the actual completion of each task. Professionals are able to identify any issues ahead of time by using 3D modeling, saving them from having to rework schedules and increase budgets. 

With this project completed successfully, the SBL BIM – LiDAR team once more proves that it has the technical acumen and skills to overcome the toughest of challenges in completing projects in their domain of expertise.

GIS 3D feature extraction and modelling for railways using LIDAR technology

With the global drive towards Building Information Modelling (BIM) compliance gathering pace, we have seen an increased requirement for highly accurate and detailed geospatial data within utilities and engineering projects. This has resulted in a corresponding increase in the application of LIDAR technology within these sectors.

In particular, railways have a wide range of complex and critical assets that extend across the rail network. LiDAR survey point cloud data and feature extraction has become an accurate and effective means of modelling, sharing, managing and storing large asset information databases of this sort.

The primary benefit of LIDAR technology lies in its ability to capture assets in 3D. For rail networks, train mounted LIDAR equipment is on the increase because it allows accurate, dense point clouds to be acquired along with the RGB images from the in-cabin video. Having worked on a number of such high-profile projects, SBL has built up a large team of LIDAR modellers and analysts who can process and extract the full range of railway features and assets.

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Fig 1 A wire frame model of a sample gantry derived from LIDAR point clouds

Railway assets include electrical network and equipment, telecommunication network and equipment, tracks and related features, signal systems and station assets. The advantage of deriving 3 dimensional data from LIDAR point clouds is that it will be accurate to a millimetre level. All the peripheral equipment can be modelled in a 3D environment as well. Along the tunnel sections of the network LiDAR is the only technology that can provide comprehensive, highly accurate information on assets.

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Fig 2 station and its component assets as captured from LIDAR point clouds

Mapping to high detail and then rendering in various model platforms is the key to usage of LIDAR based capturing of railway assets. All features within the corridor width of the tracks can be captured to the same very high detail. Stations have innumerable assets components but all these components can be captured effectively using LIDAR point clouds. The creation of a real world situation using 3D models has attracted the attention and approval of many of SBL’s stakeholders and partners. Our LIDAR analysts have achieved these impressive results through 3D wire frame and surface modelling. These models were created and delivered in global GIS formats such as .dgn or .dwg or gml.

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Fig.3 A tunnel section captured from point clouds

This kind of LIDAR technology based railway mapping will benefit different disciplines in different ways. This database will act a pre indicator for drivers and is of great help in their training. For construction engineers it is a monitoring mechanism. For design engineers it the only information provide kinematics of the entire system. For maintenance and operation teams it is a database where they can pinpoint hot spots where repairs are required allowing ground staff to be sent directly to those locations. Using this database a virtual railway stations and tracks can be created for various applications. Overall asset and facilities management will be greatly improved with such a 3-dimensional database.