Getting the Most from Your LiDAR Investment

So, youve collected your entire transmission network using LiDAR, built your PLS-CADD models and identified your encroachments whats next? How about leveraging that data to manage the work activities required to upgrade/maintain your transmission network?

We have all heard about Asset Management and how it can help an agency extend the useful life of its infrastructure. We all know that in principal it makes all the sense in the world, but the actual application of these concepts require investment in software, hardware and personnel. What we will never know is How much should we invest in the management of our assets? Using the NERC regulation and the frenzied data collection going on in our industry as an example, consider the following.

Mostairborne LiDAR companies are collecting and delivering data in the $500 $1,500 per linear mile range, depending on the downstream processing requirements. Most of this data is delivered to the end user as .LAS point clouds, PLS-CADD .BAK, files and some other CAD or GIS formats. Once it is delivered, the agency has a unique opportunity to leverage the delivered products for future value.

If we use Vegetation Encroachment data as an example, we can illustrate how the encroachment informationcan be used to create a vegetation Asset Class and managed throughout its life-cycle. Most likely, the data delivered to an agency will include .LAS point clouds with classified data reflecting terrain, conductors, towers, buildings, etc. In addition to this, vector data is also delivered and can be used to support maintenance management activities. The graphic below illustrates a common transmission LiDAR deliverable.

Note the red vegetation in the graphic above. It shows the vegetation points that have been flagged as encroachment violations based on its proximity to the conductors. These points can then be mapped in a GIS or Asset Management program for further analysis. In doing so, an agency can gather more value from this information. For example, the graphic below illustrates the grow-in (light blue) and fall-in (red) violations for a section of transmission line.

GIS mapping provides the user the spatial context necessary to make informed vegetation management decisions. First, the locations of vegetation encroachments are known and with a little manipulation, the volume and area of the vegetation can be determined very easily. This gives an agency the ability to control the costs associated with their vegetation management program. Asset management software that leverages GIS can provide the tools necessary to develop an immediate return-on-investment of the software purchase and associated data collection expenditures.

First, the user creates the geospatial layers from the classified point cloud. Vegetation violations can be exported as points and then aggregated into vegetation encroachment units. These units are then integrated with the Work and Asset management system through the use of GIS. Since the geometry of the encroachment units are known based on its GIS attributes, an agency can then determine the following characteristics about their encroachments:

1. Maximum Height of Encroachment Unit

2. Average Height of Encroachment Unit

3. Total Area (acres) of Encroachment Unit

4. Total Area (acres) of Encroachment Units along a particular circuit

Since the agency knows so much about their encroachments, they can very accurately determine the volume of vegetation that needs to be removed. The agency also knows other geospatial characteristics of the vegetation units and can then apply specific cost factors to the removal process. In addition, GIS also provides a great way to provide contractors with maps and exhibits that will help them generate more accurate bids based on relevant information. The graphic below shows a KMZ export of Vegetation Encroachments that can be provided to field units in charge of vegetation removal.

A typical vegetation removal contract is assigned to a forestry company who heads to the field and clears vegetation based on their perception of what needs to be removed. Now, agencies can tell the forestry companies exactly how much (estimated) vegetation needs to be removed and WHERE it is. This is a pretty amazing concept to embrace because now an agency can accurately predict the costs of their vegetation management program.

Another factor that can be applied to this information is the concept of risk. Risk takes into consideration the consequences of failure of a particular asset and then provides a Criticality Index for specific Asset Classes and Asset Types. The more critical the Assetthe higher the priority it gets when determining an agencys primary work focus. In other words, this concept helps to identify the most critical components of your infrastructure and helps you to prioritize its maintenance over less critical assets. By prioritizing using risk, an agency can take measures to minimize the risk that exists in its asset portfolio by fixing these pieces and parts first.

None of this stops once you get to the Work Management piece of the puzzle. Ill be providing more information related to tracking the work activities as they are completed in the field and using this information to develop more accurate budget forecasts for the future.