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Mobile Capture: New Technology Revolutionizes Site Design

Technology is evolving.” How many times have you heard that statement lately?

Recently, artificial intelligence (AI) has dominated the conversation surrounding advancements in technology. While AI does have the potential to transform site design workflows, in this post we’d like to discuss a different technological advancement: photogrammetry and point-cloud scanning.

If you’ve ever been curious about ways in which you could use your mobile device in a site design project to tremendous benefits, then you’ll want to keep reading.

Photogrammetry and Point-Cloud Scanning Defined

First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with what these two terms mean.

Photogrammetry – A method using photographs to create 3D models of objects or spaces. It works by using multiple photographs from different angles to produce an accurate model of the subject.

Point-Cloud Scanning – A method that produces 3D digital representations of real-world locations. They’re collections of thousands or even millions of individual points, each with X, Y, and Z coordinates. Point clouds are produced by LIDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging.

The Nomad App | How You Can Use It to Scan Real-World Objects into Your Files

Nomad is Vectorworks’ mobile application that you can download for iOS and Android devices.

With Nomad-enabled mobile devices, photogrammetry can be used to capture objects that you can physically walk around. This is because you need several photos from several angles for it to work properly. Objects like boulders, tree trunks, plants, sculptures, furniture, building facades, and even people are great candidates for this kind of scanning.

If your mobile device is equipped with a LIDAR scanner, point-cloud scanning can be used for smaller sites that you can walk around in 10-20 minutes that can’t be accessed by a drone.

Drone or No Drone – You’re in Good Hands!

More and more, drones are being used to quickly scan a site’s existing conditions and generate point-cloud representations. These files can be faithfully imported into Vectorworks Landmark, which is an effective way to get started on your design file. But there are limitations to drone use, such as:

• No-fly zones

• Areas with too much tree canopy to fly

• Poor weather

So, if you’re unable to use a drone, mobile scanning is an excellent alternative. With both options at your disposal, you won’t have to worry about being able to generate site representations.

Importing into Vectorworks

After you’ve completed photogrammetric scanning, the Nomad produces an OBJ and USDZ file, both of which can be imported into Vectorworks. When you import either file, you’ll see a 3D mesh. Enabling multiview then lets you see the object from different perspectives.

For point-cloud scanning, the Nomad app will produce a PTS file that can be imported directly into Vectorworks at scale. This point-cloud representation can then be traced over, so you have an incredibly accurate base of existing conditions to work off of for your site design.

The 3D points from the point-cloud scan can also be used to generate a site model. Stake Objects can be easily placed throughout the Point Cloud by snapping to specific points, allowing you to take advantage of the Create Site Model from Source Data command. This can’t replace the complete accuracy of a regular survey, but it does give you a fantastic starting point for your conceptual design process.

See How It Works Step by Step!

You’re in luck — you can watch a full presentation for free on how to use the Nomad app for photogrammetry and point-cloud scanning. All you have to do is click here to sign up.

And by the way, if you haven’t started designing with Vectorworks Landmark yet, you can get your free trial here.

Published on August 22, 2023

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