Mobile infrastructure mapping is the process of collecting geospatial data of structures and topography from a moving vehicle. Originally it was performed with low-flying aircraft carrying downward looking cameras or radar to map the topography of inaccessible areas. For many applications however, mapping from aircraft proved prohibitively expensive or lacked the accuracy required.
The development of three-dimensional laser scanning systems brought a new capability to infrastructure mapping. The accuracy of the data collected using laser scanners enables detailed comparisons of the position of structures – or the slope of river or road banks, allowing detection of shifts or movement over time.
State-of-the-art laser scanners have become less costly and more accurate. Reductions in size and power have provided a portable capability that allows them to be mounted on automobiles. The combination allows rapid collection of accurate data for assessment of the surface and structures surrounding roads – which is their only limitation.
Where there are no roads – for example in river basins or unimproved worksites, the Aero-X can accommodate two mobile laser scanners and their support electronics. One scanner is oriented for detailed mapping of the surface, while a second scanner mounted atop maps elevated structures such as guardrails, poles, and bridges. The top mounted unit has a video camera and both sensors share the same GPS system.
In a single pass, data gathered after a catastrophe such as a flood or earthquake can be compared to that collected previously to rapidly assess which structures are affected and which can be put back into use.