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.

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