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The Headaches of LiDAR

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For my last article, I got a chance to learn a bit more about LiDAR and how our team collected time-of-flight data in the early 2000s.

After writing down some pros and cons of LiDAR collection for distribution pole surveys, I got a chance to talk with my boss, Andrew, about the pain points of using a LiDAR rig for make ready engineering and pole loading analysis.

It’s only a matter of time until LiDAR becomes the silver bullet we all want data collection to be. Until then, here are some headaches you should prepare for before utilizing a LiDAR rig:

     1. Not all LiDAR is created equal, and it’s not dummy-proof.

LiDAR rigs come in many shapes and sizes, and each is appropriate for its own set of applications. Just like with every other technology, sloppy collection with LiDAR will result in poor data. Make sure your team knows the right applications for your rig and how to make sure they are getting the best data possible.

     2. Many pole owners are used to crews “hugging” a pole.

Pole owners have no way to verify the superior data brought back by a LiDAR rig, such as elevation changes, cable sag, horizontal clearances, and transmission under-crossings. They will, however, be able to spot the deficiencies in a workflow that doesn’t require a human to be at each pole. This conundrum can easily lead to a breakdown of trust, so your team will need to clearly communicate your process and the strengths of your data set.

     3. You won’t be able to get every pole. 

The poles that remain uncollected will be the most difficult and expensive. Your team will have to pay a premium to collect this data no matter how good your LiDAR rig is.

 4. The following data is typically weak in a LiDAR dataset:

  • Lead length of down guys

  • Anchor details

  • Down guy strand sizes

  • Pole class

  • True measurement heights from ground

  • Pole tags

  • Cable ownership

  • Details of power attachments

  • Poles that don’t have a clear line of sight from the rig

a height shot of a telephone pole where the base of the pole is covered by bushes

Because of these weaknesses, LiDAR is better equipped for transmission pole surveys, while other methods excel for distribution when comprehensive make ready engineering and pole loading analysis are required.

Most of our clients require make ready and pole loading, so we utilize the Katapult method--the most accurate and efficient workflow to capture and document defensible pole data.

There’s no denying that LiDAR is the future, and here at Katapult, we’ve got our finger on its pulse. We've done some cursory integration with LiDAR datasets in our software, but we think that the technology needs some time to mature and develop before it becomes the best solution for analyzing distribution poles.

Until then, we’ll continue to do what we do best--helping utilities and attachers communicate clearly with one another and helping our clients grow and succeed with highly accurate, defensible data.

Adam SchmehlData Collection