Autonomous reality capture is still a vague concept for many – the possibilities, advantages, and digital advances cannot even be imagined. Yet, at Hexagon, the vision is clear: it is working towards a future where accurate real-time data is fully and autonomously leveraged to sustainably advantage businesses, industries, and individuals. And that future is not too far away. We’ll look at how Hexagon is fusing technologies and strategically using its groundbreaking Leica BLK Series to pave the way for this vision to become a reality and discover what the future might hold.
BLK goes autonomous: How Hexagon is turning its vision into a reality
In today’s environment, where budgets are being squeezed and many industries are facing skilled labour shortages, the emphasis is on managers to ensure their resources (people, equipment, and budget) go further. Access to reliable, accurate, up-to-date data is crucial for any organisation and industry. It enables managers to better plan and make informed decisions. It can streamline workflows to increase safety, sustainability, profitability, and efficiency.
In short, data can help organisations face the challenges of the future, today. Hexagon is no stranger to data capture; it has been designing and implementing sensor systems for many years. However, Hexagon has differentiated itself from its competitors by combining data capture with data intelligence software solutions (such as Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Computer-Aided Manufacturing, Digital Twin, and Building Information Modelling) to create autonomous solutions.
Hexagon’s reality capture solutions leveraging this data include the Leica BLK2GO Handheld Imaging Laser Scanner, the Leica BLK ARC Autonomous Laser Scanning Module, and the Leica BLK2FLY Autonomous Flying Laser Scanner, which utilise cloud-based software to transform data and put it to work. Allow us to explain a little more about BLK autonomy…
BLK2GO: Reality capture on the move
In the past, reality capture technology was heavy, static, expensive, and hard to use. But in three short years, the BLK2GO has revolutionised how data is captured. This lightweight handheld device quickly recreates spaces in 3D while the user walks with it. While this self-orientating agile device scans its surroundings, the data is already being uploaded for users. BLK2GO has inspired a new way of thinking and paved the way for other autonomous technologies. But that’s not all…
BLK ARC: Reality capture for robots
The BLK ARC is an autonomous laser scanning module designed for robotic platforms. It can be mounted and used to undertake missions in inaccessible or dangerous areas. It removes the need for human intervention without compromising on data capture.
Behind both solutions is Hexagon’s proprietary technology, GrandSLAM (Simultaneous Localization & Mapping). It combines three sensors (to track movement, scan the terrain, and visualise) so users get the full picture of the site or area. The quality of the data reflects the demand for realism in smart digital reality capture.
Wait, autonomous reality capture is already being used?
Yes, many industries are already adopting Hexagon’s technologies to transform their workflows. Whether they operate within heavy construction, transportation, engineering, utilities, or natural resources (to name a few), the aim is to increase their efficiency. Here are two examples of how autonomous solutions are being embraced to transform workflows in construction and infrastructure maintenance.
Stugalux: A fully integrated residential construction company embracing BIM
Luxembourg-based Stugalux is unique because it works across every aspect of residential construction. From drawing up architectural plans (and technical drawings) to property development and construction. The problem the company had was its ability to compare digital plans to completed works, which is a crucial part of assessing for discrepancies.
Stugalux prides itself on being an early adopter of new and emerging technologies to get ahead, so it has streamlined its workflows by adopting the BLK2GO and BLK ARC combined with Boston Dynamics Spot robot. Spot carries the BLK ARC through different environments and terrains to complete scan missions. During these missions, the technology works together to capture 3D point clouds and a precise, accurate overview of an area to help with future planning and design.
Comparing 3D design models versus reality capture data, Stugalux could ensure the BIM model was up-to-date and support stakeholders to take important decisions during the overall construction process. As an early adopter, Stugalux wanted to switch from manual data collection to autonomous as soon as possible, and integrate autonomous data capture with its workflows, so the data is instantly processed.
Geodoc: A sewer inspection specialist using Smart Reality Capture for harsh environments
Geodoc has been using CCTV to monitor Hamburg’s complex sewer network for over 30 years. This is an example of how proactive maintenance optimises essential infrastructure and keeps it working efficiently. The harsh conditions within the sewer system are one of the biggest challenges for Geodoc. The spaces, which are often dark and featureless, are hard to manage with and without human intervention.
Geodoc is a solutions-orientated company and has developed techniques to deal with these challenges, such as using an LED lighting system to support CCTV capture. To take its data capture and analysis to the next level and remove the need for human intervention, it has created a sewer tractor using the BLK ARC, which is ideal because of its ability to capture 3D point clouds (and therefore create digital twins).
As well as accurate real-time data capture when assessing for damage within the sewer, it also enables the company to use no-dig techniques for repair projects. No-dig methods are increasingly popular in the pipeline industry because they are cost- and time-effective compared to traditional methods that require excavating roads and walkways at significant cost.
In the future, Geodoc’s aim is to integrate sewer inspection technologies with BLK ARC to further streamline its processes, enhance its decision-making, and support future smart cities.
Autonomy for all
Autonomous data capture gives business leaders, industries, and individuals options. Accurate data enables people to make informed decisions and better choices directly in the field. It allows them to see more clearly what they couldn’t before.
But while autonomous data capture has come a long way since its inception, there are improvements that could be made, that Hexagon is making, to enhance the data capture process and integration of real-time data. For example, in harsh environments where the aim is to remove human intervention, better navigation is required so BLK ARC can overcome physical obstacles.
There is also demand for increased integration and further simplification through an end-to-end workflow, enabling users to access real-time data via a cloud-based solution. Progress is already being made with this solution and enhanced scanning strategies to support seamless data capture with or without human intervention, regardless of the environmental conditions.
Autonomous reality capture is already here, and it’s here to stay. It is being implemented by early adopters, forward-looking organisations, solutions-orientated companies, and those driven by a desire for operational efficiency. Hexagon’s autonomous reality capture solutions are here for all those organisations and more. We’re already exploring tomorrow’s possibilities today. Take the autonomous journey with us.
Business Development Manager
Reality Capture Division
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