Wheeling Out a New Mapping Approach
Conventional surveying for collecting assets along high-speed roadways, busy streets, and railways can challenge crews to acquire precise measurements quickly while staying safe. One Canadian company adopted 3D mobile mapping technology to help bring speed, safety and optimal data capture to its telecommunications and municipal mapping projects. The new asset-mapping approach has not only helped redefine the business of telco fiber-build projects, it’s driven them into new markets.
ARTICLE | Read Online | GeoConnexion International | Jul - Aug 2021
3D mobile mapping brings efficiency, safety and precision to multifaceted infrastructure projects
A Canadian company redefines asset mapping and builds new business with Trimble mobile mapping solutions.
Based in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Eagle Telecom (Eagle) has been delivering telecommunications solutions to some of the largest service providers in Canada since 1989. Providing everything from route selection to full turnkey project delivery, the company has grown into a specialist in Fiber to the Home (FTTH) projects, delivering data collection, engineering, design, permitting and GIS mapping solutions.
A disruptor in a conventional industry, they’ve continually adopted technology that improves their engineering, design and mapping services. However, collecting decimeter-accurate field data was still putting crews at risk and was time consuming.
When Eagle discovered mobile mapping, they knew it could be the disruptive technology they needed. Long-time Trimble users, the company acquired the Trimble MX7 mobile imaging system in 2018 to bring efficiency, safety and precision to its existing telco work. The system has not only provided Eagle with a new approach for urban telecom solutions, it’s made FTTH engineering, design and large-area mapping in remote communities feasible.
“With mobile mapping, terrain issues, safety issues and data inaccuracies go away,” said Eric Langin, Eagle’s director of implementation. “We can drive at highway speeds and the 360-degree camera captures everything it sees. I capture significantly more data, it’s more precise—3 to 5 cm accuracy—and I can make essential measurements from the office.
A NEW APPROACH TAKES WHEELS
Eagle’s first opportunity to prove the MX7’s worth was for a FTTH project on Grand Manan, an island in the Bay of Fundy about 17 nautical miles off the New Brunswick coast. It would be the first fiber build using mobile mapping in Atlantic Canada and the first-ever fiber network for the island community.
Langin first sourced road centerlines, imported the vector data into the system’s software loaded on a laptop, and ferried to Grand Manan. At his start point, he set up a Trimble R2 GNSS receiver on a tripod and used static observation to collect a control point. With the camera mounted on top of his vehicle, he drove the island’s main roads at 70 km/hr as the MX7 captured a 3D image every 5 meters and tracked the vehicle’s trajectory. In 10 hours, he covered 125 km—including driveways—and collected 150,000 images and 3,700 poles.
“I took a 12-kilometer section and ran a comparative field-data collection test between traditional walking GNSS surveys and mobile mapping,” said Langin. “It took one two-person crew seven hours to capture the 200 poles along the route. I did it in 12 minutes at 70 km/hr and I captured everything the camera could see, not just the individual poles.”
Back in the office, Langin and his GIS team downloaded the images using Trimble’s mobile image processing software. They input the control point position from the field and used the Applanix POSPac™ MMS software workflow to directly georeference all 150,000 images. With Trimble MX Asset Modeler software they extracted individual pole locations from the images, mapped them in ArcGIS, and designed a full FTTH network on Grand Manan.
High-speed Internet is expected to be obtainable for 99 percent of the island by 2022.
DRIVING MORE SUCCESSES
Assured in its mobile mapping solution, Eagle has ported its MX7 approach to other rural regions in neighboring provinces and into new markets.
It mapped 31 km of Eskasoni, a First Nation in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Eagle designed the community’s first-ever FTTH network and customers began getting connected to the broadband in March 2021. That project was followed by numerous others all over Atlantic Canada, including a 600-km fiber project in Prince Edward Island (PEI); today Eagle has fiber builds at different stages in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland.
A significant boon to its traditional telecommunications work, the MX7 has enabled Eagle to create two new business divisions: Eagle GIS and Eagle Municipal, and successfully venture into new markets such as supporting cities with their asset management programs.
Given its growth, Eagle Telecom may indeed disrupt convention again.
“Adding the MX7 to our GIS expertise has driven the creation of two divisions (Eagle GIS and Eagle Municipal), it’s employing more people than we are taking out of the field, and it’s giving us a unique offering that we only see improving.” — Dan McCarthy, President, Eagle Telecom