August 02, 2014

Continental View

Justin Avatar Justin Toland

Continental View, written by Justin Toland, covers the European 3D data capture and imaging marketplace, looking at the many ways organizations are using 3D data to make better decisions about their businesses, create efficiencies, and reduce risk. Justin is a long-time business journalist, who speaks Dutch, French, and English. You can find him at

From the skies to the waves, utilities find a use for lidar

Flying or floating, it seems that lidar's getting everywhere these days. There has been a lot of talk about the impact merger and acquisition activity is having on the service provider space. One interesting recent development from over in the U.S. (but involving a Norwegian company, so relevant for a 'Continental View') suggests that one avenue for industry expansion could be through acquiring compatible businesses that allow whole new industry chains to be built. 

121311 FLIDAR
A FLiDAR unit in the North Sea.

Ontario-based GeoDigital International, amongst other things a specialist in the use of helicopter-borne LiDAR for mapping utility transmission corridors, recently acquired (for an undisclosed sum) Powel Inc., the US-based division of Norwegian firm Powel, a provider of mobile workforce management platforms for the utility industry. GeoDigital hopes that by combining its point clouds and 3D models with Powel's platform, it can provide clients with an end-to-end solution for carrying out transmission corridor work, whether that be maintenance of existing corridors - and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has mandated that all utilities finish inspecting, clearing and maintaining the more than 450,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in the US by the end of 2013 - or the planning of new ones.

With power line mapping also a growing business in Europe - Helimap System for instance has mapped some 550 km of power line corridors (at widths of up to 500 m and 5-10 cm accuracy) in its home country of Switzerland - don't be too surprised to see similar tie-ups this side of the pond in the near future.

Helicopter-mounted airborne laser scanning systems have found another significant use in the utilities sector in the planning of wind farms. Not so long ago I wrote how, for offshore farms, fixed measurement platforms have been the best way to carry out wind resource assessments. But now it seems there is a viable new kid on the block - floating LIDAR, or FLIDAR. Developed by 3E and GeoSea-subsidiary OWA, with Leosphere providing the laser scanning technology (WINDCUBE v2), trials of FLIDAR 15 km off the Belgian coast were successfully completed last month. This is an important milestone as it is the first successful trial of a floating LiDAR device in real offshore conditions in the North Sea. If the technology reaches the market, it is hoped that it will avoid the significant costs and permitting headaches associated with the building of fixed measurement masts. 

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