International LiDAR Mapping Forum: cutting edge technology and how LIDAR can benefit rail

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Dec/Jan 2013

Versha Carter, director of the European and International LiDAR Mapping Forums (ELMF and ILMF), talks about how LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) presents an exciting and rapidly evolving technology to the rail industry and how the upcoming conference, ILMF, is the perfect place to learn about the benefits.

The LiDAR Mapping Forum is a series of international technical conferences held each year in the USA and Europe focussed on laser scanning, 3D and mobile mapping technologies. World LIDAR experts come together and share information about new technologies, equipment, data processing techniques and real-world projects during a three-day conference, exhibition and learning workshops. It is here that step changes in the market are often first announced to an unsuspecting world. The International LiDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF), which takes place in Denver from 11-13 February 2013 will feature several talks specifically about the use of LIDAR in the rail industry.

LIDAR is an optical technology that uses lasers to measure the distance and properties of objects by analysing the backscattered light. It can map physical features with very high accuracy and whether operated in the air, or on the ground, provides a unique method of capturing very detailed map data extremely quickly, in great volume and safely. Developed originally from military techniques, recent advances have taken place in the commercial world in the development of new, smaller and faster laser sensor technologies.

These combined with the launch of software processing suites and improvements in complementary techniques such as hyperspectral and infrared sensors have revolutionised the way maps can now be made. In a nutshell, mapping is now faster, cheaper and safer than ever before. It has opened up a rapidly growing range of applications for the rail sector such as railway and civil engineering surveys, safety assessments, asset management, mapping and infrastructure planning.

Airborne LIDAR has been used successfully in many rail projects and more recently mobile mapping has emerged as a valuable technology for the rail sector. Mobile mapping was fi rst promoted at ILMF in 2010 as an effective way of gathering data in cities. Now rail survey professionals are using mobile laser scanners mounted on vehicles to capture high resolution data for 3D images.

Andrew Fuller of 3D Laser Mapping will be presenting an innovative paper at ILMF in February which discusses how benefi cial mobile mapping can be in areas where airborne data capture is not possible. He will be focussing on a project for the Southeastern Pennsylvanian Transportation Authority in which an 8,800ft tunnel and a portion of the Airport Line under a canopy needed to be mapped. His presentation will discuss the benefi ts of using mobile mapping systems for rail projects such as these, including how a highly accurate virtual reconstruction of the environment can be created.

In a similar vein, John Laurent and Jean- Francois Hebert will be reporting on how a 28km long high speed train tunnel near Madrid was scanned using high performance 3D laser profi lers in just three hours with 1mm accuracy and resolution.

These are just two of over 40 papers to be presented at ILMF. Another highlight of the programme will be new developments in laser scanning sensors for airborne and terrestrial data capture, which have led to game-changing new applications. There will also be an exhibition running alongside the conference, with 55 leading technology, software and service providers.

Exhibitors include the LIDAR and complementary sensor manufacturers, survey service companies, data processing, GIS and management specialists and the latest mobile mapping vehicles. In addition, there will be a series of learning workshops and live mobile mapping demonstrations to enable delegates to witness data capture methods in real time, and to learn about the latest advances in mobile and 3D capture applications, including integration with LIDAR and photogrammetry.

ILMF offers a unique opportunity for those interested in learning more about how LIDAR can benefi t the rail sector. The event caters for all; from student beginners to seasoned professionals and provides a chance to meet with industry peers to learn best practices and share ideas across the industry. ILMF will be taking place in Denver, USA from 11-13 February 2013.

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