Harnesssing AI power for simple construction, surveying solutions

AI (Artificial Intelligence) concept. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

I recently had occasion to share time with my good friend Peter Ndirangu of Polken Geocart Survey. Peter loves unconventional solutions and has a penchant for new technology. Admittedly, he has an ear for the future and innovation.

This time he was excited to demonstrate how he’s been generating maps and three-dimensional (3D) models using a simple AI-driven tool. This mobile SLAM Lidar-enabled tool has made it possible for him to provide simple solutions to local industry problems, saving time and resources for his clients.

The tool uses a sensor-laden mobile robot for rapid mapping. Laser beams from the robot make it possible to measure distances to static objects or spaces of interest from which detailed 3D maps are prepared. To do so, one activates the robot and walks with it through or around the objects or spaces of interest then uploads the data onto a computer.

The spatial data collected is then processed and plotted into a 3D map, with all features of interest in their respective relative positions and elevations. The simple methodology could perhaps pick and provide data to plot Uhuru Park, with all its details, in less than an hour.

A quick walk between Haile Selassie Avenue and Kenyatta Avenue roundabouts on Uhuru Highway would easily provide data for detailed 3D maps, invaluable to maintenance engineers, of the Nairobi Expressway above, the road below, and surroundings.

Using the robot, Peter has been able to determine volumes of stockpiles of cement, generate 3D models of dams under construction, and map out vast golf courses.

It’s easy to appreciate that this simple methodology helps to greatly ease data collection rigour, and dramatically save on time. It removes unnecessary human interaction too. All alone, one can execute a survey to a large site and proceed to generate most helpful maps.

One is able to obtain measurements of complex objects and structures, without having to undertake laborious measurements. I am sure the robot will soon be upgraded to be self-propelled, with data obtained from a site and downloaded to plot the required map real time through AI remotely.

Traditional survey methods are labour- and time-intensive. The simple tasks described above, whose data collection takes hardly an hour, would ordinarily take days, and with field assistants.

Professionals in the urban planning, infrastructure development and maintenance, and topographical surveying disciplines should take a keen interest in such rapid data collection and mapping technologies for local solutions.

Surveyors will have to figure out how to tie the data collected to the national coordinate system, which the technology provides for. Indeed, licensed surveyors too may need to figure out how the technology would expedite the execution of surveys for sectional properties that call for the measurement of built-up high-rise buildings.

The robot would tremendously cut the time for data collection of the exterior and interior of buildings, provided the data is domesticated to suit national survey requirements.

Ibrahim Mwathane(Consultant on land governance: [email protected])

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Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.