LiDAR Today: Measuring Using The Most Advanced LiDAR Technology Wasn’t Always The Case

Measure for Measure: A Brief History of Mankind’s need to know the length of things.

When did the first human try to decide the size of a thing?  Was it cave people arguing over who killed the biggest Wooly mammoth?  Maybe, while his kill was laying stretched out, he walked by it with one foot in front of the other, and used his fingers to count how many.   There were no numbers after all.

a group of woolly mammoths roaming the frigid tundra of northern Asia.

An illustration shows a group of woolly mammoths roaming the frigid tundra of northern Asia. Courtesy of Giant Screen Films/Reuters

According to the American National Standards Institute, (ANSI), it was the Egyptians who first made a standard length due to that age old,  mother-of-invention — necessity. Nefertiti’s minions needed measurement to build all of the enormous things they built. So they came up with the cubit, the length from the tip of your longest finger to your elbow.  Knowing the variation in human forearm, hand and finger lengths, it’s amazing that they got anything to come together right.  

It was the Roman’s who standardized the foot, yard and inch, starting with the foot, which was determined by measuring a bunch of Roman feet, and averaging the length.  That was a foot, which they multiplied by 3 to make a yard, and divided by 12 to make an inch. (ANSI).

The furlongs, (per Wikipedia) “equivalent to 660 feet, 220 yards, 40 rods, (?) or 10 chains (huh?)”

Rods and chains.  How did they get in there?  Who came up with rods and chains?  

The answer comes from the University of Nottingham manuscripts and special collections:  

The standard linear measure in the Imperial system was the mile, which was divided into furlongs, chains, yards, feet and inches.  The mile was based on a Roman measurement of 1,000 paces. The word ‘furlong’ comes from ‘a furrow long’, or the distance that could be ploughed by an ox without a rest. 

And then, metrics, the newcomer to the measurement game, millimeter, centimeter, Meter etc.  How was that length determined? Here’s what the National Institute of Standards and Technology has to say about this.  

Thus, the meter was intended to equal 10-7 or one ten-millionth of the length of the meridian through Paris from pole to the equator. However, the first prototype was short by 0.2 millimeters because researchers miscalculated the flattening of the earth due to its rotation.

Well, that is certainly more accurate than the length of a random human forearm.  

If we try to think of the ways we use length measurement in everyday life, the list is long: sports, crafts, home decorating, landscaping, planning of all sorts, school projects, etc.  And most of this kind of length determination is still done analogue, like with a tape measure. And while the literal physical process of using a metrestick, or ruler is fine for household stuff, industry needed more accuracy and more speed. 

Because of course, time is money.  

Speeding past leaps in measurement techniques,  like that device used by appraisers, that looks like they are chalking a ball field, and a variety of surveyor centric advances, the 1st giant step forward came with photogrammetry,  Through a variety of ever advancing methods of triangulation and other plane geometric means of calculation, then moving to the use of uniformly sized pixels, photogrammetry reigned in the world of industrial measurement— briefly,

It was the Roman’s who standardized the foot, yard and inch... Starting with the foot.

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Just as digital photography was unleashing the full potential for photogrammetry, the next giant step, LIDAR technology/laser scanners, beat the pants off of the technology, in speed and accuracy.  

The tripod remained, but the camera was replaced by a laser scanner.  And these light bouncing behemoths quickly found their way into industry, because laser scanners are very accurate, and compared to what came before, fast.  Ease of use on stationary “terrestrial” scanners, not so much. The learning curve for proper use, and for post processing of laser scanner is not for the casually interested.

Then, the need for the tri-pod disappeared, with the introduction of handheld 3D laser scanning technology, and pretty much all of the downsides of tri-pod based scanners, were eliminated.  No no need for setting up for every angle and space. With a laser scanner like the ZEB-REVO RT. A structure that would take 10 setups and a 20 minute (? is this right) scan time for each, plus post processing to combine all of the clouds, you’re looking two long days, with probably a two man crew on the capture day.   

The ZEB-REVO RT can do the same job in about an hour with one operator.  That includes the post processing, because it happens in real time. You watch the point cloud as it’s being collected.  2 cc accuracy. Indoors or out. That is accuracy enough for most industrial applications, the speed puts this technology years ahead of stationary 3D technology.  

The newly introduced, GeoSLAM, ZEB Horizon does it even faster and better.  And the Robin, blows everything out of the water — but at what price?  

I will be going to great lengths to explore this subject in the coming weeks and months.  Look for Measure for Measure.

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About the Author

Larry Peters is the CMO and Chief Contributor to the Panoscan Blog. Connect with Larry on Instagram @Panoscan_Inc