January 2013 Newsletter • news@whiteshield.com

The Geomatics Conundrum

How To Differentiate Between Geomatics
and Surveying

The world is a digital age of wondrous discovery with powerful and dynamic information literally at one’s fingertips. Individuals may not be aware that geospatial technology is one of the most powerful experiences we behold every day. We should grasp and accept the reality of the geospatial world that we are now so familiar with through our handheld devices. Portable computing devices in phones and cars can determine one’s location on this geoid earth using precision coordinate data on predefined maps of every continent. The technology that defines spacial relationships of artificial and natural objects of this world in its true three-dimensional form is determined through the discipline of geomatics. So what is Geomatics?

Geomatics is the discipline of gathering, storing, processing, and delivering spatially referenced information. It encompasses the fields of surveying, mapping, remote sensing (LiDAR or HDS Scanning), photogrammetry, hydrography, global positioning systems (GPS), and geographic information systems (GIS).

Geomatics is a very broad field and does, in fact, include Land Surveying, but we find includes so many new wonders. White Shield does not claim to provide all things Geomatic by ourselves, but through strategic partnering with other like-minded firms, we certainly can. From underwater sounding, to LiDAR and photogrammetry from an airplane, to underground laser scanning in mines, to showing one’s mother where her property corners are, White Shield can provide it all!

Land Surveying is also a broad term, and generally describes any activity involving property lines, property descriptions, property monumentation, or the historic documentation of any of the above. We combine these activities with some form of mapping for design purposes, or eventually construction layout services. Surveyors typically support Civil Engineers in their design work by providing this information, which ultimately leads to construction. It is at this stage that Land Surveyors can perform Construction Layout services to assist in accurately locating or “staking out” the construction of the physical structures.

Although Land Surveying typically uses direct contact with everything measured, Remote Sensing is a type of measurement that collects data from the air using LiDAR, from the ground with High Definition Laser Scanning (HDS), or from an automobile using Mobile Mapping. This technology uses various laser wave strengths to determine the distance to objects reflectorlessly, detecting structures, surfaces, and anything else that will return signal. This results in the generation of thousands or even millions of data points creating a Point Cloud data set. Finally, the drafting of a processed data point set displays the physical features of the project. For most applications, the data collection is more rapid than data processing because of the tremendous amount of data that is acquired in a given short timeframe.


While LiDAR can survey very large areas in a short period of time, it is also limited to a line of sight from several hundred feet in the air. On the other hand, HDS equipment mounted on survey tripods is operated similarly to a surveyor’s robotic total station. The geomatics technician moves the HDS from control point to control point, gathering scanner data at 50,000 points per second, collecting survey grade point data sets with overlaying digital photos. The result is a spectacular and beautiful geometrically exact picture useful for very detailed design.

HDS has found applications in everything from architectural modeling, historical preservation, and civil engineering design, to food processing and manufacturing, industrial renovation, and mechanical engineering designs. White Shield utilizes HDS in major environmental reclamation projects to determine accurate volume information in radiation zones that would have been very expensive to gather directly with standard survey practices and equipment.

Photogrammetry ties in with LiDAR often times with the high resolution pictures taken from an aircraft several hundred feet off the ground. Overlapping and tying together images with the survey control aerial panels on the ground results in ortho-rectifying the dataset. Using stereo technology, the creation of very detailed base map with accurate coordinate information of large sites is achieved quickly.

Hydrography uses a combination of land-based GPS control, ship-mounted GPS receivers, and sounding equipment to map accurately the floor of bodies of water. The generation of contour maps as well as the detection of underwater structures is very useful for maritime design work.

Bringing any of these Geomatics elements, or any combination thereof, together under a layer scheme for design purposes or into a Geographic Information System (GIS) provides for greater analysis of our three-dimensional world. Commonly, we tie database information together with spatial information about a particular structure or object feature within GIS to provide for analyzing or tracking of features in our environment (i.e. fire hydrants, or storm drains). GIS has been found to have many applications, from marketing research, fastest-route analysis, or forestry management. Government property management is another application that has been more widely used at a county level in most states.

In summer of 2009, White Shield formed the Geomatics division and developed new ways of delivering the wide range of services offered. With the addition of High Definition Laser scanning and Ground Penetrating Radar, White Shield became more than a typical surveying company. White Shield primarily uses AutoCAD software for model development and drafting of final deliverables. These deliverables are custom fit to each project, based on the needs of the client, from strictly point cloud data for the purpose of modeling the existing conditions, or to full topographic base maps complete with the underground utilities and overhead wiring at elevation. MicroStation format is also an option, for those clients who prefer to work in that software. White Shield delivers using the client’s own standards and native format, so just consider us an extension of your engineering staff.

Geomatics is an enormous professional field of work and study, and these services must be provided. Let White Shield provide all your Geomatics needs.

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