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Geomatics: Measuring Reality

The portability of the FARO Focus3D Laser Scanner system allows the rapid capture of geometrically correct point clouds.

While the definition of geomatics is the scientific practice of three-dimensional (3-D) measurement, mapping, and visualization, you might also say it’s surveying on technological and scientific steroids. Combining the disciplines of geodesy and geoinformatics, geomatics maps the earth in four dimensions: height, width, depth, and through time. In essence, it measures physical reality. The results from geomatics are painstakingly accurate, down to millimeters instead of feet, and changes to the environment can be recorded in real time.

Although geomatics does include the traditional surveying techniques of measuring areas in person and with notes, today’s surveying also includes the use of remote sensing technology, including high-definition laser scanners, satellites, infrared cameras, Bluetooth connectivity, and even airborne drones. Faster, more accurate, and greater number of measurements can be taken in a short amount of time. While 200 measurements of an individual’s office might be taken by hand in the space of a couple of hours, a 3-D laser scanner—not much larger than the size of a hand-held video camera—can take over 40 million measurements in one scan in about 10 minutes with an accuracy within a millimeter. That scan can instantly be relayed to a computer, and a 3-D image can be built in real time as the scanner “views” its surroundings in spherical, 360-degree shots. From there, a model with the exact dimensions and visual details can be analyzed in very high-resolution images.

The advantage of this area of science is clear when applied to engineering projects. When geomaticians can obtain highly accurate measurements within millimeters, create an exact 3-D image of a structure or site before any engineering design begins, and do it in less time than ever before, geomatics reduces the chance of error in design and construction. Design customization in real time can be accomplished with the client during meetings. Geomatics also provides the ability to determine early in the design process the best and most cost-effective materials for the particular construction. As a result, a project can save considerable time and expense if these high-tech tools are used to make highly accurate, high-resolution measurements and images.

To learn more about geomatics, click here to download the “Geomatics – What is it?” presentation by Matt Kumpula, BergerABAM geomatics group director. Examples of BergerABAM projects using geomatics scanning can be viewed here.