Certainty 3D Offers Free Web Apps for LiDAR Project Planning

Certainty 3D is pleased to offer the popular LiDAR project planning software, TopoPLANNER and TopoMISSION, as web applications. This effectively makes these two powerful programs universally available as opposed to the previous download versions. This document will review these applications demonstrating how one can estimate cost, schedule and logistics associated with both static and mobile LiDAR scan projects. In addition to project planning, a brief discussion regarding how TopoPLANNER can be used to support equipment selection for achieving the maximum return on investment (ROI) is included.


TopoMISSION is a user-friendly utility developed to plan, schedule and cost terrestrial mobile LIDAR projects. One can access TopoMISSION through the Certainty 3D website http://www.certainty3d.com/products/webapps/

You begin by entering project location in Goto Location thereby pulling up the associated Bing background map. In this example, we chose the I-4 corridor through Orlando, FL. Next you need to define System Configuration parameters. These are simply Cost per Mile, Time required to establish a control point, and reference distance between control points.

Having established these parameters, simply define the beginning and end of each trajectory (blue line). Use the Convert Trajectory tool to map the trajectory to the road in a single mouse click.

Repeat the process for a second trajectory (green). Continue until all the planned trajectories are mapped. Then select the Create Control Point tool to layout the survey control network reference targets. These are typically located on a hard surface, i.e. shoulder, about 1000 feet apart on open highway, and before and after bridges where GPS reception is typically lost.

The lower left corner of your TopoMISSION screen will contain a summary of each trajectory as well as overall miles driven, cost for miles driven, and cost for placing survey control

This TopoMISSION project file can be saved, shared and modified. TopoMISSION facilitates not only accurate project planning and cost, it also improves the communication between the terrestrial mobile system vendor and his customers. A better and common understanding of the project parameters at the start typically results in greatly improved overall performance and satisfaction for all parties.


TopoPLANNER is a user-friendly utility developed to plan, schedule and cost terrestrial static LiDAR projects. Static LiDAR scanners are typically mounted on a tripod or other stationary platforms. One can access TopoPLANNER through the Certainty 3D website http://www.certainty3d.com/products/webapps/

Static terrestrial LiDAR projects are typically much shorter than the long corridors covered by mobile systems. Operational logistics must permit a setup on a stationary platform such as a standard tripod or TopoLIFT. When practical, stationary LiDAR projects are typically much less expensive and yield a higher quality of data for small projects. Above is a typical interchange with wide shoulders and thus an ideal application for stationary LiDAR technology.

We begin by loading System Configuration parameters. Relevant parameters include Time per Position which is the total time required at each position. This time is best estimated by the total number of scans typically acquired during a day divided by the number of minutes per day. Thus this number includes carrying the instrument, scanner/target setup, acquisition of targets, on-site processing, etc.

TopoDOT offers several pre-loaded reference parameters based on our empirical knowledge of system performance. These should serve as a guideline and any of these parameters may be modified. Finally the cost per hour for scanner operation and placement of survey control points are given.

Having input the system and operational parameters, the location of the reference survey control targets are laid out. Then the scanner positions are laid out for proper coverage for the project. TopoDOT defines the coverage area based on the scanner height from the ground and not the range of the scanner. The effective scanner range is then determined by calculating the range at which a beam from the scanner is 5 degrees off parallel to a horizontal surface. Shallower angles tend to produce data of diminished quality. So this would be the effective data range and is represented as the radius of the transparent circle surrounding each scan position.

After laying out all scan and control positions, the total number of scans/control points, project cost and time are summarized in the lower corner of the TopoPLANNER window. Field experience has consistently demonstrated that such projects are typically finished within about 10% of the of the estimated time and cost calculated with TopoPLANNER.

Definition of System Requirements Using TopoPLANNER

With so many customers having different LiDAR systems, Certainty 3D is often approached for advice as to which system a company should select. Our answer is typically that it depends upon the application, cost and above all return on investment. If a system is $30,000 less than another, but the more expensive system is 4x faster, which system will provide the best ROI? TopoPLANNER can be used to layout typical projects and compare competing systems based on their performance specifications. For example, taking 4x longer to complete every project might quickly wipe out the upfront savings of the lower cost system. Of course issues like performance, accuracy, reliability, etc. all play a role. However TopoPLANNER can be a useful tool for selecting the appropriate system for your intended application based on productivity and ROI.

Look out for updates in LiDAR News inviting you to Certainty 3Ds free webinar introduction to the new TopoPLANNER and TopoMISSION web apps!

About the Author

Ted Knaak

Ted Knaak started his professional career as a control systems analyst for General Electric Space Systems Division through the eighties. In 1990, he moved to Florida where he was exposed to lidar technology at Schwartz Electro-Optics serving as marketing/sales and program manager. Mr. Knaak founded Riegl USA in 1993 and has since been actively involved with lidar and laser scanning technology. In 2011 he founded Certainty 3D, a company focused on data processing software and technology solutions for the laser scanning industry. Certainty 3D’s primary product is TopoDOT™ a point cloud/calibrated image processing program for extracting CAD models from LiDAR data. Mr. Knaak holds MSEE and MSME degrees from Brown and Drexel universities.
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