Contractors and utility companies need the most accurate information when dealing with underground utilities. However, outdated maps and topological surveys make this task challenging. Fortunately, the use of the latest technology makes detecting and mapping out buried pipes, tunnels, and other ground facilities a more efficient task. With 3D scanning and the integration of various tools and software, locating projects are faster and safer.

What is Underground 3D Utility Mapping?

This method utilizes laser scan technologies to capture accurate details of existing underground utilities and other infrastructure. This process usually includes the use of mobile laser scanners, optical cameras, and a device that relays 3D data to a cloud server.

This 3D data is commonly referred to as point clouds. Then you can use CAD applications and these cloud points to create an accurate map. It’s easier to see the exact shape, density, and size of physical objects buried underground with specialized 3D scanning equipment.

Applications for 3D underground Utility Mapping

Here are a few scenarios and types of projects where 3D scanning can eliminate or help avoid some struggles associated with underground utility mapping.

Cable Avoidance

Running into cables, pipes, and other buried utilities is a common and dangerous risk when excavating. Three-dimensional scans can provide updated and accurate maps of such utilities. This makes the excavation safer and more efficient for your crew.

Drainage Projects

Comprehensive maps are vital when working on sewer lines and other underground drainage facilities. However, you may have an outdated map and most maps don’t indicate the depth, size, and direction of fluid flow. 3D scanning technologies make it easy to map out such features onto a topographic base plan.

Design Validation

3D scan data makes it possible for you to create a model of the current condition of an underground facility. You can then work on a validation design using CAD software. This saves the time spent on excavation projects and helps decrease the footprint of the worksite.

Extensive 3D Mapping of Underground Utilities

These technologies allow you to detect and map the exact details of underground facilities. Unlike most detection methods, it can even be useful in narrow spaces that may be a tight squeeze for operators. And, it’s just as effective and time-saving when surveying large sites.

Renovation Projects

Contractors working on renovation projects often have to depend on outdated maps. Common survey methods may fail to reveal deviations and inconsistencies in underground structures. By leveraging 3D scanning technologies, your team can gain a better understanding of the utility line’s condition. This limits the need to perform unnecessary exploratory excavations and helps limit the risk of damaging the surrounding property.

Advantages of Using 3D Scanning to Locate Underground Utilities

Three-dimensional scanning technologies are less invasive and more accurate than most methods. It provides contractors with highly detailed maps of underground facilities. This prevents any unnecessary excavations that may cause damage.

  • It reduces human errors during the scanning process. Making the task more efficient and effective.
  • 3D scanners can detect more types of materials when compared to GPR and other technologies.
  • Effectively maps out voids and other underground irregularities.
  • 3D scanning devices collect highly detailed measurements of an area accounting for every angle.
  • Reduces the associated costs and time spent on planning.
  • Easy to set up and can scan a large area within a fraction of the time.
  • 3D scan data is so precise that it can be used in contingency planning. Any identified flaws may be corrected in CAD software.
  • 3D scanning is a relatively quick process.

Related article: The Role of Thermal Imaging in Locating Utility Leaks.

What Opportunities Does 3D Scanning Present?

Effective use of 3D scanning technologies can help you save considerable amounts of money on a wide range of projects. They provide highly detailed maps of underground utilities as point clouds. Such information also makes it easier for contractors to collaborate with engineers, architects, and other professionals that can add value to your projects.

3D scanning technologies are also easy to use, relatively affordable, and widely available. Such factors will make underground utility location easier as more companies start adding it to their toolkit and using it to augment other techniques.

Related article: How Drone Technology Enhances GPR.

Softdig: Due Diligence Before Any Project

Safety and compliance are key to the success of every project. As a full-service subsurface utility engineering (SUE) firm, we aim to meet even the toughest of client requirements. And, we’ve helped many clients reach their technical goals since 1959. We use the latest in ground penetrating and scanning technologies to ensure the highest safety and ROI value for every project.

Contact us to find out more about our Ground Penetrating Radar services.


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