An Austin company has developed a powerful new mapping technology, which makes surveying projects much simpler; taking less time and without stopping traffic, according to The Austin Statesman:
The images that Surveying and Mapping Inc. captured on East Sixth Street in Austin last July are eerie and amazing.
Every architectural façade of every building is captured in accurate detail and so is every traffic barrier, every streetlight and every cable supporting traffic lights at the intersections.
The most remarkable thing: The images aren’t photographs.
They are the product of LiDAR — shorthand for light detection and ranging — a surveying and scanning technology that captures laser light pulses that reflect off streets, buildings and other surfaces. SAM Inc. has used LiDAR technology since 1998, but it bought a mobile unit in 2009 that has two LiDAR sensors mounted on top of a truck. The technology is similar to radar, but it uses laser pulses rather than radio waves. The advantages of LiDAR are speed, cost and the amount of data that can be collected and converted to highly accurate maps and images.
The Austin company has been willing to invest in cutting-edge technology as a way to do very accurate work in a limited amount of time. CEO Samir “Sam” Hanna said his company has grown in recent years to become one of the largest surveying and mapping companies in this part of the country. It has 430 workers, and many of them are on surveying teams that do field work in more than a dozen states. The company took in $71 million in revenue last year, up 97 percent from the year before, and it expects to see growth of about 20 percent this year.
Hanna said the company has invested millions of dollars in advanced technology as a way to do better work for clients quickly and efficiently.
Few other companies in the industry use a mobile LiDAR truck, which Hanna’s company bought for about a half million dollars.
Since then, the company has acquired an even more expensive aerial LiDAR unit that can be mounted on a helicopter to survey cross-country projects, such as power lines, that go where there are no roads.
Hanna’s company did the LiDAR survey of East Sixth Street last year for the City of Austin, which wanted an accurate street survey as the baseline for expected streetscape improvements that will be funded by a bond package passed by voters several years ago.
Doing the survey with traditional methods would have been long and laborious, involving shutting down parts of the street’s traffic for extended periods of time.