MFBI Technologies: Processing Large Point Clouds Using Global Mapper & the LiDAR Module

The final map of a project area using the combination of general topo information, precise ortho photography, infrastructures, a height grid, and manually generated vector information.

This case study explains how MFBI Technologies, a provider of UAV and 3D modeling for project development, used Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module to efficiently and affordably process large point clouds and other data to create final maps for the planning of truck rest areas.

Data for Safe Truck Stop Locations

MFBI has a long established history in system and information technology. They have a keen understanding of their customers’ needs, and they saw that the UAV industry would bring a new level of excellence to their services. Michael Frings, MFBI general manager, invested considerable time and effort into developing this service offered by the company. His work won MFBI a contract with ARC Truck Centers, an investment firm from Hamburg, to tackle a significant transit issue in Germany: the need for adequate rest areas for the truck traffic that flows through the country.

Topo map
Topo map of the project area with added data, including property boundaries, sewer lines, gas pipes, and communication infrastructure

Because of its central location on the European continent, Germany has an extensive network of truck routes crisscrossing the country. The large volume of traffic overburdens the current truck stops, which are situated close to autobahns and major highways. MFBI, in conjunction with a local land survey company, is working to provide precise geographical information to assist with the siting of modern truck stops that will provide drivers with much needed safe, secure places to stop and rest.

A combination of a Path Profile analysis and an automatic algorithm shows breaklines in point cloud data.

Need for Efficient Data Management

After winning the ARC contract to conduct UAV surveys of thirty new truck stop locations, MFBI faced several obstacles: coordinating with the other contractors on the project, understanding what GIS products are of the most value to the project investors; and obtaining all the necessary approvals for UAV flight operations.

MFBI used a Multi- rotor Trimble ZX5 hexacopter to conduct the survey. However, special permission was needed to fly the drone within 100 meters of the highway. Even after permission was granted, the two-person teams sent to complete the project had to be accompanied by police to ensure the safety of vehicles on the highway.

Flight planning was critical to the venture; the teams needed to make sure their time in field was productive and efficient. The project required the point cloud to be embedded with vector data gathered from local municipalities to aid in planning and data processing. After the flights were completed the challenge of data processing and management arose. The demand for survey data increased, as well as the need for efficient and accurate software that could easily manage the data. Furthermore, a large dense point cloud needed to be processed in a short time frame. For this project the point cloud would ultimately contain over 110 million points.

The final step in the process would require the delivery of data, including point clouds and accurate 3D models, to the architect and the developer working to design the projects for the client.

Terrain analysis that compares manually set points with automatically calculated ridge line profiles

Maximizing Productivity at Low Cost

MFBI quickly recognized that Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module were ideal for their workflow. The versatility of the software allowed them to maximize their productivity and minimize their costs. However, according to Michael Frings, processing power was the most important factor in choosing Global Mapper and the LiDAR module software. In a recent conversation with Blue Marble’s President Patrick Cunningham, he said, “Simply, the fact that the LiDAR module is so powerful gives us the possibility to handle these large point clouds. That was the killer argument to go with Global Mapper.”

“The fact that the LiDAR Module is so powerful, giving us the ability to handle these large point clouds, was the killer argument for us to go with Global Mapper.”
Michael Frings | General Manager

Global Mapper at Work

Global Mapper and the LiDAR Module were essential to MFBI’s workflow. Michael Frings and his team took advantage of the streamable data services available through Global Mapper’s Online Data function. The team imported topographic and municipal boundary maps to plan for the flights of their drone. They were able to calculate how many flights were needed and make notes of any potential areas of difficulty.

Once the collection process was completed, and the photogrammetric analysis had been performed, Global Mapper was used to classify the point cloud, automatically identifying ground points and other surface types. After filtering the non-ground points, a precise terrain model was generated. The processing power of the LiDAR module was critical, as it easily handled the large files that MBFI created. They then used Global Mapper’s Ridgeline and Path Profile tools to identify and delineate breaklines in the terrain.The team generated elevation layers at five to ten meter resolution but also received requests for grid resolutions as fine as one meter. Finally, the team created 3D PDFs providing a simple and effective way for the customer to visualize the project.

 

About Global Mapper

Global Mapper is an affordable and easy-to-use GIS application that offers access to an unparalleled variety of spatial datasets and provides just the right level of functionality to satisfy both experienced GIS professionals and beginning users. Equally well suited as a standalone spatial data management tool and as an integral component of an enterprise-wide GIS, Global Mapper is a must-have for anyone who deals with maps or spatial data. The supplementary LiDAR Module provides a powerful set of tools for managing point cloud datasets, including automatic point classification and feature extraction.

About Blue Marble Geographics

Trusted by thousands of GIS professionals around the world, Blue Marble Geographics is a leading developer of software products and services for geospatial data conversion and GIS. Pioneering work in geomatics and spatial data conversion quickly established this Maine-based company as a key player in the GIS software field. Today’s professionals turn to Blue Marble for Global Mapper, a low-cost, easy-to-use yet powerful GIS software tool. Blue Marble is known for coordinate conversion and file format expertise and is the developer of The Geographic Calculator, GeoCalc SDK, Global Mapper, LiDAR Module for Global Mapper, and the Global Mapper SDK.

Blue Marble Monthly – Global Mapper vs ArcGIS

Product News, User Stories, Events, and a Chance to Win a Copy of Global Mapper Every Month

If there is one question that we are asked more than any other it is this: “How does Global Mapper compare to ArcGIS?” Coinciding with the annual gathering of Esri devotees in San Diego, we shed some light on how Global Mapper stacks up. The bottom line: you get a lot more for a lot less! Also in this edition of Blue Marble Monthly, we introduce Blue Marble’s official reseller in France, we offer some suggestions for enhancing your summer wardrobe, and as always, we give you a chance to win a copy of Global Mapper in the Where in the World Geo-Challenge.

LiDAR Data in Global Mapper

GLOBAL MAPPER | No Extensions Required

Using ArcGIS and need to create a terrain model? You’ll need an extension for that. What about calculating volumes or generating contours? Ditto. Global Mapper gives you all this and much, much more right out of the box. Check out the latest blog post from Chelsea Ellis to find out more.

 

PROJECTIONS | Blue Marble Summer Fashion

Someone once said, “You are what you wear”. Or maybe it was, “You are what you eat”. Whatever! In any case, in today’s world of high fashion, we present you with smart, low key alternatives. For summer fun, laughs, and t-shirts check out the latest from the Blue Marble Emporium.

 

DID YOU KNOW? | Global Mapper Mobile is Free

Considering ArcGIS for field data collection? Did you know that Global Mapper Mobile is available free of charge and offers disconnected access to critical data layers, field data collection capability, and mobile digitizing? This easy-to-use app is available for iOS and Android devices.

 

RESELLER SPOTLIGHT | Geom@tique – Our French Partner

Based in the spectacular French Alps, Geom@tique recently celebrated 20 years in business (Bon Anniversaire de Blue Marble). In this month’s Reseller Spotlight, we ask company owner Alain Olivier to share some insight on the business and the importance of its partnership with Blue Marble.

 

VIDEOS | Rendering Vector Data in Global Mapper

Data visualization is one of the fundamental functions of a GIS. In the latest Global Mapper webcast, we explore a variety of workflows for customizing the display of vector layers to reveal spatial patterns in the data.

This and previous Blue Marble Webinars and Webcasts can be viewed at the Blue Marble YouTube Channel and on the Webinars page on the Blue Marble web site.

 

Where in the World Geo-Challenge

Contrary to the suggestion of at least two Geo-Challenge entrants in June, the county to be identified was not, in fact, Wakanda. Tom Hughes from HuGIS GeoSpatial Ltd. was not one of these people and he will be receiving a copy of Global Mapper as the first randomly selected entrant with all five correct responses. Check what Wakanda should have been along with the answers for the other four locations here and test you geographic knowledge in the latest Geo-Challenge.

 

See complete terms and conditions here.

EVENTS | BMUC in Maine & Training in Germany

Since we turned 25 this year, our Blue Marble User Conference in Portland, Maine  on September 21 is gearing up to be a special one. We’re also looking forward to our German partner “screen & paper GmbH” conducting Global Mapper Training in Freising, Bavaria this November.

Be sure to register for BMUC Maine, while seats are still available!

 

Rendering Vector Data in Global Mapper

Data visualization is one of the fundamental functions of a GIS. The display characteristics of features on the map can convey a wealth of relevant information about the data, its relationship with other geographic information, and its inherent spatial patterns. In the latest Global Mapper webcast, we explore the various options that are available for visualizing or customizing the display of vector data.

The specific topics covered in this presentation include:

  • Manually adjusting the display of a layer or of a select group of features (06:57)
  • Using Feature Types to automatically assign colors to frequently mapped objects (19:58)
  • Assigning random colors to features in a layer (29:52)
  • Applying colors to reflect instances of a recurring attribute (31:47)
  • Applying colors to reflect numeric values (42:41)
  • Visualizing data using a Density Map (54:21)
  • Visualizing numeric attribute data in a graph (59:56)
  • A quick look at labeling (1:04:26)

If you have questions about any of the workflows or topics covered in this presentation, email: geohelp@bluemarblegeo.com.

For licensing or sales questions, email orders@bluemarblegeo.com.

To download an evaluation copy of Global Mapper, visit: www.bluemarblegeo.com/products/global-mapper.php

The Value of Global Mapper: No Extensions Required

The 3D Viewer in Global Mapper displays a digital terrain model with a custom shader applied to the surface. Global Mapper is a powerful GIS application right out of the box, with no extensions required.

Say that you are about to invest in your first GIS software license.
You need software that can do it all; from basic thematic mapping to terrain analysis, and GPS tracking to 2D/3D digitizing and visualization. But when you take a look at big-name products, you find that single-user licenses cost about $1,500. You also discover that you’ll have to purchase extensions to get all the functionality you need. You’ll probably be spending thousands of dollars. Whether you have the money or not, you might be asking yourself if there’s an alternative software that provides more value.

There is.

In this blog entry, we highlight some of the out-of-the-box functionality of Global Mapper— a robust, easy-to-use, and genuinely affordable alternative. Priced at about $500, Global Mapper doesn’t need expensive extensions to deliver what you’re looking for.

Here are just a few of the powerful functions and tools Global Mapper has to offer with no extensions required.


Creating an elevation grid from LiDAR data in Global Mapper
Creating an elevation grid from LiDAR data in Global Mapper.

Terrain Creation – Generate Elevation Grids from 3D Vector Data

Even though Global Mapper’s online service provides access to data resources, such as the USGS National Elevation Dataset and the ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model, sometimes the appropriate digital terrain data isn’t readily available. In such instances, generating a DTM from 3D vector data can be a solid alternative. With a few clicks, Global Mapper can generate an elevation grid from XYZ files or LiDAR data, allowing for the immediate examination and visualization of the surface model in the 3D Viewer.

Global Mapper also provides a number of terrain analysis tools, such as the ability to display a vertical profile along a path, creating a view shed or watershed analysis, combining terrain layers, and volume calculation.


The cut and fill volumes calculated for a road project in Global Mapper.

Volume Calculation – Measure and Visualize Cut and Fill Values

Modifying terrain is a necessary preliminary step in many construction projects. It requires determining how much of a surface needs to be cut and filled, which helps estimate the cost of materials and labor before beginning a project.

Global Mapper offers the ability to quickly calculate volumes of piles, depressions, and between two surfaces. Along with providing cut and fill measurements, the software uses these calculations and other specified parameters to generate 3D visualizations. For example, Global Mapper can simulate the leveling of terrain to make way for something like a new road. This calculation and 3D visualization is a powerful way to illustrate the preliminary plans of an engineering project.


Contours generated in Global Mapper, showing elevation with vector lines.

Contour Generation – Create Vector Lines from an Elevation Grid

Contours are the fundamental feature of a topographic map. Generating contours is also a simple task that requires only an elevation grid and a few clicks of the mouse. Global Mapper has the ability to analyze terrain and generate vector layers of contour lines that can be edited for a map, or exported to a CAD system or other software.


NDVI grid created in the Raster Calculator in Global Mapper.

Raster Calculation – Pull Information from Color Values

Satellite images can offer a lot of visual information, from patterns in terrain to geological changes over time. With the right tools, imagery can offer even more data that is not immediately apparent. RGB (red, green, blue), as well as multispectral values of pixels, can be plugged into formulae that calculate characteristics such as the “greenness” of vegetation, snow cover, or how much land was burned in a forest fire.

Global Mapper has a raster calculator that comes with predefined formulae for producing and highlighting this information. The health of vegetation on a farm, for example, could be calculated and visualized by using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). If the available predefined equations in the raster calculator aren’t tailored to a user’s needs, the calculator also allows for the use of custom formulae.


Global Mapper supports more than 300 file formats.

Format Support – Support for 300+ Formats

File support might not sound like the most exciting feature, but it’s absolutely an invaluable one when a mapping project deals with older or uncommon files.

Global Mapper’s support for more than 300 formats provides users the ability to open and convert virtually any geospatial file. And, it’s list of formats is constantly growing, adding more value to Global Mapper as the software continues to mature.

Global Mapper – An Easy and Affordable Choice

Global Mapper not only disproves the idea that GIS has to be a complex discipline, but also that it has to be an expensive one. Blue Marble Geographics’ mission for Global Mapper is to provide GIS novices and professionals alike with the ability to create high-quality maps at a genuinely affordable price.

It’s powerful right out of the box, with no extensions required.

See the value for yourself by downloading a free trial today.


Chelsea Ellis


Chelsea Ellis is a graphic designer and social media manager at Blue Marble Geographics. Her responsibilities range from creating the new button graphics for the redesigned interface of Global Mapper 18 to editing promotional videos; from designing print marketing material to scheduling social media posts. Prior to joining the Blue Marble team, Ellis worked in page layout and graphic design at Maine newspapers, and as a freelance designer and photographer.

Where in the World June 2018 Answers

How Well Did You Do?

Name the island – Hispaniola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the capital city – Stockholm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the body of water – San Francisco Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the country – Botswana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name the stadium – Luzhniki Stadium

 

Where in the World Geo-Challenge – July 2018

View the form at Google Forms >

Reseller Spotlight: Our French Distributor Géom@tique

A screenshot of a flythrough video that follows the potential path of a ski lift, showing the visible areas of a famous peak in the Maurienne Valley (Aiguilles d’Arves), France.

The translation of Global Mapper into French in 2016 significantly expanded the potential market for the software, not only in the country of France itself, but also throughout the French-speaking world. This monumental task was undertaken by Blue Marble partner and reseller, Géom@tique. In the latest Reseller Spotlight, we hear from company founder, Alain Olivier about how this partnership has helped his company grow over its 20-year history.

Tell us a little bit about Géom@tique?

Géom@tique has been a GIS software reseller just over two decades. Our twentieth anniversary was on April 7th, 2018! The company is based in one of the most beautiful mountain regions of France: Savoy. We provide a combination of geomatics expertise and a high level of service, which has proven itself to many French-speaking customers around the world, particularly in technical support and training. Our business involves the distribution of software as well as related consulting, support, and training services in the use of both vector data and raster data (satellite, aerial, LiDAR, etc.). Géom@tique is the exclusive distributor of Global Mapper in France and for the French language version throughout the world.

How many people currently work for the company?

Three people currently work at Géom@tique in well-defined roles: sales, technical support and training, communication. The company relies on partnerships whenever necessary and plans to continue recruiting in the near future.

How did Géom@tique get started?

Alain Olivier

As a young agricultural engineer who had just become a Doctor of Geography (PhD), for me, it was an easy transition from university life to the business of distributing innovative tools for geomatics and cartography. Spotted by the software company, Avenza, via a professional forum (a relatively new online gathering place for like-minded individuals at end of the 1990s!), a simple mail exchange accompanied by a brochure from the SVM MAC magazine (number 91, “MAPublisher: entre cartographe et dessinateur”) was enough for the MAPublisher adventure in France to begin. This was a risky venture as there were only a handful of customers at the time! The company timeline illustrates the expansion of the company’s business with new products being added and, most importantly, the establishment of close links with their creators in order to always meet the needs of customers as efficiently as possible.

The history of Géom@tique.

Tell us a little about your background in GIS?

The company benefits so from my experience and expertise as a doctor in geography who is also passionate about computer science. My PhD thesis focused on the implementation of an innovative raster mapping methodology for the study of agricultural spaces. My taste for cartographic tools goes back a very long time with an extremely diversified use of geomatic tools at the beginning, and then a specialization on the tools that Géom@tique would eventually resell, notably Global Mapper! The company has also recruited a PhD student geographer who has good experience with GIS tools, including Global Mapper and MAPublisher.

What are your target markets?

Our target markets are extremely varied and include cartographic publishing, spatial planning, defense, energy, environment, archaeology, transport, risk prevention, meteorology, communication, and spatial analysis.

What geographic area do you cover?

Historically the company has sold products to organizations of very diverse geographical origins that extend from Madagascar to Tromsø, but generally in metropolitan France or in French-speaking countries.

Distribution of Géom@tique customers in France and around the world.

How long has Géom@tique been reselling Global Mapper?

Géom@tique was officially appointed as a reseller (Certified Reseller) in the early 2000s with the distribution of Geographic Calculator and Global Mapper. We are very proud to have translated Global Mapper into French in 2016 (version 17) following a request from the French Ministère des Armées. In the same year, one of our employees became a certified trainer for Global Mapper. As an ongoing project, we are also working on the major task of translating all of the Global Mapper documentation.

Why were you originally interested in reselling Blue Marble products?

 We were interested in reselling Blue Marble products for the originality and the quality of its products as well as for the very good reputation of the company.

What is your favorite feature of Global Mapper?

 Choosing just one tool is difficult. Here are my three favorites:

  • The 3D Viewer allows visualizing terrain data in an extremely simple and powerful way. We have seen its usefulness in many situations especially when they work with the LiDAR Module.
  • About the LiDAR Module, the new Pixels-to-Points tool is a “little gem” since it allows integrating real photogrammetry treatments in Global Mapper. We know that many of our customers use UAV images and this tool is perfect for them.
  • Finally, the Viewshed tool is very important to many French users. It is used in a wide variety of fields (energy, defense, research, etc.).

The video below was produced by one of our employees as part of a Master’s research project. It follows the potential path of a ski lift and also shows the visibility areas of a famous peak in the Maurienne Valley (Aiguilles d’Arves). In a research context, this video clearly demonstrated how a particular visualization method could help decision makers communicate with their citizens.

 

What has been your most interesting or challenging sales or support experience?

Our most challenging sale was with the Ministère des Armées and especially with the implementation of a multi-year contract for Global Mapper. It was a big challenge that took a long time to negotiate but resulted in a very favorable outcome for both parties. As a result of this contract, Global Mapper gained its spurs in the military field and with the continued development of the LiDAR Module and the SDK, we are confident it will have relevance for years to come.

Other than reselling Blue Marble software, what other services do you provide?

We are a reseller of other software complementary to Global Mapper like MAPublisher for example – and we provide training (online or on-site), technical support, and some research or consultation services.

How has your partnership with Blue Marble benefited your business?

Our partnership with Blue Marble Geographics has allowed us to increase our level of professionalism and to significantly expand the scope of our business. Geom@tique brings its in-depth knowledge of the French and Francophone market, including cultural considerations. This mutually beneficial relationship will, of course, be continued and strengthened, in particular by reciprocal visits.

How do you see your business growing with Global Mapper? New markets?

We believe that there is a huge opportunity to spread the word about Global Mapper to universities and to introduce students to an alternative GIS software. The more they can be trained at the university on Global Mapper, the more it is great for the promotion of the software in many markets.

Any final words?

The diversity of software tools and the wide variety of users that the company works with every day is a real strength that helps the company to provide better services. In October 2017, Geom@tique embarked on a research project under an Industrial Research Training Agreement which will allow it to deepen its knowledge on the use of the tools, with the goal to better meet the current and future needs of the customers.

Géom@tique was present at the beginning of July at the GeoDataDays 2018, the first digital geography show in Le Havre, France.

Our 25th Summer: Blue Marble Clothing Tips

Welcome to summer! The heat is here and so is the Blue Marble Emporium. We are celebrating our 25th summer as a company and we have some merchandise for our fans! From hitting the beach to hitting the streets we have the t- shirts for you. Our new top five shirts will provide you with fashion tips that will Hundo P* improve your summer!

Are you off to the lake? Well we have the look for you!

Mind the Gap Between World and Map T-Shirt

Simply add a fedora, dark glasses, and compass to complete the look!

Compass tattoo, shades, and fedora

 

Did you forget the sunscreen? Cover up in style!

Notorious BMG T-shirt

A scarf and your phone or tablet put a twist on this classic look.

Tablet with Global Mapper Mobile installed, and a scarf

Hitting the links this summer?

Later Mercator polo

I have no suggestions for this, but this handy golf style article does!

Are you basically 30? So are we! Here is the perfect outfit to stay home in!

We’re Mappy and We Know It (25th Anniversary) T-shirt

Just pair it with:

Netflix and cozy sweats

Need a little California style?

GIS is Not a Four Letter Word shirt

Make this look your own, but be on the lookout for these two sporting similar t-shirts on the streets of San Diego!

Blue Marble employees Kat and Danielle at the EsriUC in San Diego in 2017.

Disclaimer: Wearing a shirt from the Blue Marble Emporium may not actually make you look like the models in this article.

*Hundo P – One hundred percent sure of something

*This article was written by a millennial.


Rachael Landry

Rachael Landry is one of Blue Marble’s license gurus on the official Sales Support team. She is one of the people you are most likely to work with when you call or email our office, and she is always ready to answer your questions.
Please send all your fan mail to orders@bluemarblegeo.com.