Visual Positioning Innovation Gives GNSS RTK Surveying a Powerful Efficiency Boost

Updated: August 27, 2020

Visual Positioning Innovation Gives GNSS RTK Surveying a Powerful Efficiency Boost

From Pure Surveying Insights

A groundbreaking new GNSS RTK rover has wide-reaching implications for the surveying profession and other applications that require fast, precise measurement. Manufactured by Leica Geosystems, a Hexagon company, the new Leica GS18 I smart antenna combines the calibration-free tilt compensation capabilities of the pioneering Leica GS18 T rover with first-of-its-kind survey-grade visual positioning. As a result, GNSS RTK can now be used to measure hundreds of points in minutes, reach previously inaccessible points, and capture points from a safe distance.

The GS18 I has the same functionality, look and feel as the popular GS18 T tilt rover but with an extended measurement range and advanced capabilities. Through the sensor fusion of GNSS, an inertial measurement unit (IMU) and a camera, the new instrument captures images that augment the GNSS survey data as a user walks around a structure or area of interest at a regular walking pace. The result is more data captured at survey-grade accuracy with significantly less time on site.

Advantages of Imagery

Bob Kilburn, product and applications manager for Leica Geosystems in the U.S. and Canada, says the ability to immediately visualize what was captured in the field provides a significant benefit. “With the images, you can go through and validate what you captured or missed—you can see what was captured and pull discrete measurement points right from the images,” he explains.

Back in the office, the imagery provides additional advantages. “We’re all familiar with scope creep,” he says. “You come back with the data and then find out the engineer really wanted something else, maybe this facade, or the drip line versus the building edge. You can extract that from the imagery to survey grade without having to go back out to the site, which becomes a huge efficiency gain.”

GS18 I measuring bridge abutments

In addition to surveying, the latest innovation could significantly transform the work done in several other fields that rely on accurate measurement data. In the utility industry, the ability to quickly and accurately map areas that are difficult to reach physically, such as trenches, substations and busy roads, gives service providers greater control over assets while keeping workers out of harm’s way. In public safety, collision investigators could potentially map an entire scene in minutes, enabling a new way to achieve safe, quick clearance. Additionally, applications that have previously been difficult to measure, such as the installation of solar panels on roofs, can now be captured safely and effectively using GNSS RTK with visual positioning.

Real-World Efficiency Gains

Curious about the real-world implications of GNSS RTK with visual positioning, Kilburn and two of his colleagues, Ted Miller and Tim Kerr, are pushing the limits of the GS18 I by taking it out to the field and testing it on applications that would be challenging or impossible for other GNSS rovers. The team will present the results of their analysis in a live Q&A webinar on Sept. 17. (You can register for the webinar here.) But Kilburn encourages anyone who wants to learn more about the new technology to reach out to him or their local rep or dealer anytime.

“This integration of visual positioning with GNSS is something we’ve never seen before,” he says. “Everyone has a lot of questions about what the GS18 I is really capable of doing, and what the best workflows are. We have a lot of those answers already, but we want to keep pushing the envelope. I’m really excited about the efficiency gains we’re seeing with this new solution.”

Sept 17 webinar GS18 I

To learn more about this new solution or explore other ways to increase surveying efficiency, get in touch with Leica Geosystems’ subject matter experts.

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Originally published on August 27, 2020

About the Author

Wendell T. Harness

I’ve been building online properties since the late 1980’s and transitioned to web design in 1999. I formed Harness Media in 2005 to help businesses grow through online marketing. I also talk to cats in a silly voice.

9 thoughts on “Visual Positioning Innovation Gives GNSS RTK Surveying a Powerful Efficiency Boost”

  1. I saw the webinar for this. I tend to have a love/hate relationship with Leica. A lot of their gear is really good, but it’s often offset by silly decisions that seem to stem from a “not invented here” attitude. Having said that, this appears to be a unit I’m not going to complain about. There appears to some really nice design and capability here, with a pretty well thought out, integrated workflow.

  2. I’m glad you found the first webinar useful! We are holding a US/Canada webinar on Sept. 17 that will address questions and show what our US/CAN team has discovered in their tests with the GS18 I. Here’s the registration page for that webinar:

    • @jitterboogie
      Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the yellow team recently discontinue their imaging production/development?

      • @richard-imrie
        They did, a few years back. V10 just never took off. I really liked the concept, and my only complaint was that the sensor resolution was far, far too low for that type of work. Considering the incredible quality of the tiny sensors going into DSLR and mirrorless cameras these days, both Leica and Trimble should have no trouble putting at least a middle-of-the-road sensor into their imaging rovers.
        Leica has the advantage of the IMU, which Trimble did not have in the V10. The point cloud that @eric-kara just posted the other day looks pretty slick, and apparently all you have to do is walk around an object to capture dozens of photos. Easier workflow + more data = better product and more use by the operators…

      • @richard-imrieyeah, its discoed and mothballed but it uses r10batteries and its paid for so we can use it. The SX10we have makes up for it, however it does a decent job for certain applications none the less.

    • @jimcox
      I’ll compare both during the next weeks. From what I’ve seen so far the R12i looks at least as good of the Leica GS18T. What I don’t understand is why it took 2 years to develop it and why there was the R12 1 yr ago without tilt.
      Nothing compares to the imaging of the new Leica GS18 I, will test how it is affected by sunlight, low light conditions and rain, but may indead be a ‘ground braker’. The workflow seems so easy, just walk with camera faced to the objects of interest within a range of 2-10m. 


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