The importance of having the right equipment for a job cannot be underestimated. In a surveying and mapping project, the access to advanced 3D laser scanning technology can make a world of difference to the study outcome. A group of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee (IIT Roorkee), honoured by the India Government as an Institute of National Importance, experienced this first hand when conducting a study on India’s railway infrastructure.
The research project was initiated at the Institute, for providing the Ministry of Railways with insights on India’s current railway infrastructure and recommendations for improvements on the tracks, signalling, stations and terminals. There is a huge potential in shaping the country’s future railway infrastructure, and it is imperative that results of such projects are presented accurately to facilitate future scalability.
The First Step
One of the first and most crucial steps in carrying out the research was to select a reliable and effective surveying solution, including comparing traditional photogrammetry with modern laser scanning solutions, and it was clear that the success of this project would require a high-precision and high-speed device.
Scanning an entire railway platform can be a time-consuming activity as complex calculations are involved. Additionally, the research team had to take into account several considerations, including overhead power lines, entities on the railway platform (e.g., escalators, shops, and information centres), diversions on track, and the frequency of arriving and departing trains.
For these reasons and for the fact that a large area of study was involved, it was decided on utilising laser scanning technology. The project team at IIT Roorkee used FARO Laser Scanner Focus3D X Series.
The Laser Scanner Focus3D X 330 opened up a world of possibilities for the research team at IIT Roorkee. Featuring an extra-long scanning range from 0.6 m up to 330 m, the Focus3D has a distance accuracy of up to 2 mm, which was exceptionally useful for the team’s application, given that they needed to capture minute details for the railway research.
The research team was able to completely scan the Roorkee railway station and its surrounding areas in 10 days. In order to capture ‘as-built’ documentation on all aspects of the railway system, the scans had to be taken from different angles, and the Focus3D had to be constantly repositioned. In total, the team obtained nearly 50 scans that covered a distance of over eight kilometres, with each scan taking only 30 minutes from set-up to completion. In a typical day spent onsite for data collection, the research team conducted six to seven scans, concluding the scanning process within 10 days.
Establishing the Benchmark
As the government contemplates doubling existing railway lines, the research results will influence future railway infrastructure strategies for India. Knowing the urgency and importance of this research, the project team strived to depict a most accurate presentation of our current railway situation. Apart from the added advantage of providing point cloud data simultaneously with every scan, the Focus3D also offered IIT Roorkee with a complete, stitched 3D map. When shared with the government, this data can be easily integrated into a 3D Smart City data file for the country.