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Commendium have moved

20 years ago, Commendium set up in the world of business IT support.,  having and successfully winning several multimillion-pound contracts throughout the UK,  within 5 years the staff grew from 3 to 25 with offices in Penrith, Ireland, and Liverpool.  Commendium's task was to 'up SMEs online trading game', by improving their online and office processes. Now that we are in the middle of a pandemic, and online shopping has become ever more vital for businesses, there's a certain feeling of contentment when reflecting upon the assistance the team gave to 140,000 businesses across the UK. Those businesses are in a much better position to take online business advantages in these strange new times.   We have always loved technology and the benefits it brings, and our support of our clients meant everything to us. However we could feel something changing, the EU and the assistance they gave to local businesses was ebbing away, and worse, greedy big business wanted our outputs.  We had a choice, either fight the giant organisation seeking to snuff us out or change our business.  We decided to take the latter, more exciting option and start afresh, to create something amazing from our 30 years in the technology sector.   And lo and behold, Commendium mark two was born. Welcome to the world of 3D scanning and rich computer visuals. Now in our fifth year, we took our LIDAR scanners out and began working with heritage, civil engineering companies and the police.  From this, we became involved in scanning and surveying terrain and buildings in Australia, Slovenia, Laos, Thailand and Yorkshire, Florida, Belize and many more, including numerous sites in the UK.  3D scanning seamlessly progressed into 3D filming and documentaries. Now, we're filming on locations around the world, following on from our debut into documentaries and filming which screened on SKY and National Geographic.  Our 3D scanning operation is aking us on a new worldwide journey and you'll be seeing us soon in various documentaries to be broadcast via SKY TV.  Having become rather nomadic in our work, we have decided to move offices to accommodate our vast range of scanners and equipment, so we're leaving our old building and onto pastures new,  with our 3D scanning and surveying service.  We can be contacted at the following number: 0330 119 0000., or via email - enquiries@commendium.com

Surveying a Water Pipe

It was with some trepidation that Commendium accepted the challenge of surveying an 800m long 0.9m wide water pipe in North London. Being underground, without the aid provided by GNSS and capturing surrounding furniture, surveying a metal pipe must pose the most challenging subjects for LiDAR as there are few clues in the data to assist with the registering and alignment of scans. We set about this by mounting a VZ-400 into a crawler provided by the Water Services Group and set up a process to take scans at every 3m through the tunnel. We supplemented the displacement measurement by using an IMU to measure orientation and displacement between scans as precisely as possible. Scans were taken manually by connecting the scanner to the scanner via a fibre optical link, which via ethernet switching also allowed us to capture photographs and video at the same time. Back on the office, the scans were realigned using data from the IMU and then brought into RiScan Pro for manual, fine stitching using the MTA tools. It was vital to prevent roll and pick tie points from small imperfections in the pipe revealed by the scanners. There was no way around this slow manual process, but the results were excellent, a tribute to the quality of the core Riegl LiDAR technology. We ‘closed the survey loop’ by surveying over the surface to the other end of the pipe, this time enabling auto-registration as GNSS and plenty of street ‘furniture’ was available to stitch scans. In the end the loop closure was just under two metres over 1.8km; that will do nicely. The survey was able to show in detail four additional anomalies that were unknown to the client engineers. Had these not been identified, it could have rendered planned maintenance ineffective. It did mean that additional access had to be dug to address issues, but this remains hugely less expensive and time-consuming than the alternative.

How to Combine Drone and LiDAR Survey Data

In this article, I will attempt to give an overview of how we combine Drone and LiDAR survey data, via point clouds and other means. Everyone has a different method of doing this, depending on the software at their disposal, but this is the process that works best for us. Why combine the data? There are a number of reasons a project requires a combination of Drone and LiDAR point cloud data. In our case, we use a terrestrial LiDAR unit  along with aerial photogrammetry. Sometimes, the shape and height of an object means we cannot get the LiDAR device to scan the top of the target. In other cases, the area is too large to simply survey with a terrestrial LiDAR unit. An example project is a recent project to scan an old farm and it's surrounding landscape. The farm was in disrepair and needed internal and external surveying. As it was built on a glacial drumlin, the surrounding area also needed to be included. Our method was to survey the buildings with the terrestrial LiDAR scanner and then combine this with a point cloud created from an aerial survey. This point cloud would then be used as a guide to draw a detailed Autocad Revit model including the topography and buildings. Drawbacks of this method The main drawback of this method is that we are combining two datasets with differing point cloud densities. The terrestrial LiDAR survey has a point cloud density in the thousands per square meter, whereas the drone photogrammetric survey has a density of nearer the hundreds. This is not generally a problem if we understand that the two methods have different uses. It is also tough aligning two point clouds created with different hardware and algorithms. This is where accurate GNSS survey data becomes essential. [gallery size="medium" ids="7015,7014,7016"] The importance of GPS and Control Points. The importance of using accurate GPS co-ordinates and ground control points / targets cannot be understated here. If you have a wide range of effectively placed targets that are visible in both the drone survey and the LiDAR point cloud, it makes combining the two datasets immeasurably easier. There will be errors and there will be a slight difference in figures, but the more accurate you GPS control points are, the lower the error rate, ensuring the resulting combined dataset is still within accuracy limits. We use a combination…

3D Laser Tunnel Survey – Wet and dry.

3d Laser Tunnel survey; wet and dry Laser scanning methods have been in use for several years to survey objects, buildings and tunnels and the level of detail that can be obtained is stunning. It allows for wide range of inspections to be completed including, mapping, surface condition assessments, over and under breaking analysis, component inspection and relationship to surface features or activity. There are two approaches: a handheld laser unit or SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation And Mapping), or  terrestrial LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) unit; both have their advantages. A hand-held SLAM is rapid and will go places that a LiDAR unit cannot, so is preferable in long or small tunnels, but it cannot capture the detail that a LiDAR unit can, which is a slower more considered approach. Commendium will use the most appropriate method for any job and typically uses a blend of technologies to gain the desire output. With partners, The Water-Services Group, we are able to offer a multi-technological approach to surveying tunnels, aqueducts or aquifers. Uniquely, with software built in-house, we are able to combine and synchronise SLAM, LiDAR, Ground Penetration, Sonar and Airborne survey data into complete 3D models of underground subjects, so that, for instance, we can create a geolocated map of a tunnel, accurately assess the depth below ground of a tunnel at any point on the surface, accurately measure spatial relationships between underground features and give a detailed, even forensic, 3D condition survey, a full 3d laser tunnel survey all in dry and partially or fully flooded systems. We can survey where humans cannot venture using robotic vehicles, but also have the necessary confined space, access, and safety training to physically venture into these tunnels. We have recently been testing these combined technologies in Speedwell caverns in Derbyshire. Here a stairway leads to a boat ride along 450m of half-flooded tunnel, meticulously mined out in the 1770s, to a large chamber. We where able to combine sonar data from underwater, SLAM data long the tunnel and high quality LiDAR data in the chamber at the end, into a single 3D dataset.

Does my BIM look good in this Software?

  3D BIM data delivers some wonderful awe-inspiring models and structured information, but it can be a confusing medium to work with due to the huge array of outputs 3D has on offer. 3D data output comes in various formats from point clouds to intricate geometry. These different formats and outputs are where things start to get complex. Sometimes it is hard to know where to start or what exactly you require from your scan data. The 3D road is beautiful but converting 3D files can eat into your time like a ‘boxset on a bank holiday’. With the AEC industry often tarnished by problems such as growing costs, and project overruns, wastage, and inefficient processes, sorting out your BIM workflow is critical. Getting the right 3D We are all aware that it is relatively easy to do an ‘ok’ job, but it is much harder to deliver a perfect one. Getting the Software right can be a big issue, it is expensive, takes a lot of investment and training to learn; and not one piece of software is perfect for every job. Each 3D job may require an array of kit, software, and peripherals. The choices you make are dependent on the industry you work within. For example, Revit is widely used for BIM, but there can be unique and specific requirements to BIM that require different software. We all know that each sector has its own favourite 3D file software and formats. These choices are driven by the tools used in each sector, which is great, everyone loves a workflow that is smooth and fast. However, sometimes software is used for historical reasons, by this we mean, it is the software the company has used for years and that is just the way they work. Again, whatever works for you is good, but the problems start to emerge when one company works with another, and the combined pipelines must work in harmony. Sticking to what you know v using the right software for the job Software makers have their own file format, which is optimised exactly for their software. Mistakes may occur when choosing which option to use when saving or exporting a file. For example, do you want those CAD files saved in ASCII, Binary, or Compressed Binary? Using neutral software goes some-way to help workflows and improve interoperability. Nevertheless, there are often niggles with changing formats.…

Drain the Oceans: Thai Cave Rescue – A Nat Geo documentary

As a result of our numerous cave scanning assignments, Commendium were contacted by MSP TV to assist them with an episode of the ‘Drain the Oceans’, a series on behalf of Nat Geo TV. Having worked for The National Geographic on several occasions, it was great to be back working on Drain the Oceans: Thai Cave Rescue.  Our brief was to 3D survey a 6km stretch of the Tham Luang cave passages in Thailand, using LiDAR terrestrial scanners. The data from the scans would be processed to make a photorealistic CGI 3D model of the cave journey. The 3D model itself illustrates part of the Thailand Cave Rescue story deep in the Chiang Rai province. Prior to setting off we were looking at a hand-drawn cave survey of the Tham Luang cave system, completed by its first explorers. Looking at the illustration it was immediately clear that this was going to be one of our more demanding projects, 6km of often narrow, invariably humid and muddy cave passages. We estimated it would take three weeks, to scan the caves and a complete surface survey of the area. The Challenge The cave system proved to be every bit as challenging as we had imagined. In the dry sections, the cave was very easy to navigate for experienced cavers, however, then came the slippery section with lots of clambering over large boulders. With each of us carrying about 20kg, the humidity was draining for the crew. We opted to scan from the furthest point inside the cave and work our way through to the entrance. This was mainly for psychological reasons, for every subsequent surveying day required less travel to the start and so became easier, though most days underground were more than ten hours. One job was to record the cave texture through photography. It is amusing to put one of the world’s leading caving photographers to such repetitive work, but the discipline to ensure that everything is recorded meticulously is probably the single hardest aspect of 3D data capture. We tried to work to three days and then rest on the fourth, however, in practise, our rest days and evenings were spent processing the vast amounts of scanned data. Our drone operator meanwhile was travelling above ground capturing the surface terrain data. Capturing Data By the end of the project we had gathered almost a terabyte of data, which takes some managing,…

Mine works in Northern England – Industrial heritage becomes geotourism

Commendium is often requested to assist with mine works filming and conservation projects but rarely both at the same time. We were invited by veteran Geologist Andy Freem and his wife Antonia, to scan elements of the Nenthead Mines, located near Alston in Cumbria. The project was to provide complementary 3D and drone footage and data to be included in Andy’s latest film production.The film opens with aerial video captured by our professional drone operator. It shows the whole mine workings above ground. This video was processed into a 3D model using Pix4D software. Underground, using 3D laser (LiDAR) we scanned two sections of the Smallcleugh Mine, which is part of the overall Nenthead mine complex. Smallcleugh is in the centre of a 50+km complex of mine levels and underground workings, and it contains evidence of the lives and techniques of the lead miners working there for over 200 years.The first scanning target was a ‘Whimsey Chamber’, where horses were brought underground to walk around in circles, providing power to lift and lower items in the adjacent shaft. It is quite remarkable how much of lift feature remains. The 3D models illustrate the mine in fine detail and inform the viewer as to its construction in ways that pure video cannot.The second 3D scan illustrates the ‘flats. Flats are areas where miners hacked and blasted out lead ore from valuable veins. It illustrates the incredible handwork, and stonework used to create arches and build stacks, to support the mine roof.Nenthead Mine Works FilmThe Nenthead Mine video may be viewed on YouTube and offers a rich and fascinating illustration of the mine. The whole area around Nenthead still has many former mine works and invokes a timeless picture of life in Victorian England. Whilst this mine is easily and freely visited, if you are not experienced in the underground activities we recommend hiring a guide or taking a guided tour.Should you like further information on this project, please contact us on 0330 119 0000 or contact us via the website

LiDAR Scanning a UNESCO World Heritage site – Skocjanske Cave System

Scanning the 2nd largest cave chamber in Europe. Commendium have deployed their 3D mapping systems in several caves around the world and we were invited back by the Karst Institute in Postojna, Slovenia to complete a 3D survey of the Skocjanske Cave system. As a part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the data was required for geological studies and an appreciation of the state of the cave for monitoring purposes. On one wintery morning in January we set off via the ferry to Skocjanske in Slovenia which boasts the world’s finest portfolio of amazing karst caves. Karst caves are known for their delicate ecosystem and exhilarating topography and the region around Skocjan is seen as the home of Karst geology.  The brief was to monitor the condition of the cave and take measurements using highly accurate 3D LiDAR, then build digital models of the caves.  After a calm ferry journey and a long drive, we reached Slovenia and were pleased to see our hosts, who are now becoming like family. After a good sleep, we gathered the team and set off excitedly. With the Reigl Scanner, batteries, photography kit, caving gear, and the drone all weighing in excess of 30kg, we started on the 2-hour walk to the Martel Chamber. John Nelmes was particularly excited to be on his first trip to Slovenia with his drone, but not so excited when he saw the cave entrance and the 70m sheer drop. We finally reached the chamber via 1.5 km of narrow paths, hacked into the sides of caves by original explorers followed by 4 rope river crossings and lots of traversing on ledges. During the expedition, we found that the Martel chamber is, in fact, the second largest cave chamber in Europe, and 11th largest in the world. Skocjanske Cave System Flood A few days after our trip, a huge thaw saw the river rise from 2 cubic metres of water per second to a peak of 290, flooding the chamber where we had been working to a depth of 90m. There was no danger, this cave is the most monitored cave in the world, there was no risk of being marooned. The results will take a year or so to process but already three scientific papers are underway. The survey is also being used to assess the feasibility of establishing other tourist paths within the cave. Overall, Commendium's Slovenia trip to the Skocjanske Cave System was very successful and…

SONAR Surveying a flooded quarry

Sonar surveying the floor of a flooded quarry Usually, you will find us below ground scanning or climbing through to the next cavern with a huge amount of scanning equipment, not carrying out SONAR surveying from the back of a boat in winter. This morning we set out to map the floor basin of Capernwray, a former quarry, now flooded and used as a dive centre.  The reason for this early start and rubber dingy journey is to test out a new sonar rig to ascertain if it’s going to deliver the results we need for upcoming bathymetric surveys of several tropical rivers. The rig loaded and ready for use today is the StarFish 452F; for those of you who are technically inclined, the starfish is is a high-frequency side-imagining, sonar device. The starfish is an unusual design with hydrodynamic three fins, it differs greatly from the common cylindrical torpedo shape side scan of many sonars. [caption id="attachment_210" align="aligncenter" width="200"] The Starfish 452F[/caption] With the StarFish - 452F loaded safely and attached to a rope of 10m, we set off across the quarry lake to test the range and resolution capabilities of the imaging device, which promised us wide range imaging of 100m per channel, which is 200m total swathe coverage. The surveying process The sonar surveying took us approximately 20 minutes, with a distance of 0.5 km. With the data safely gathered we rushed back with the data to see what this compressed high-intensity radar pulsing bit of kit could deliver, and would it be enough?  Safely back in the office, we launched the data and saw some very convincing and highly detailed scans produced. Overall, we were indeed happy with the Starfish side scanner, which had picked up several artifacts in the lake including a sunken plane. The detailing of the plane wasn’t high resolution, but the floor of the lake and side facings were captured in full quality, which is exactly what we need from the Starfish. We are now working on programming methods to turn this data into a 3D image of the lake floor. View the video below to find out a little more about the process:

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Giant Sinkhole in China has a Hidden Danger

Commendium CEO, Richard Walters, has been back in China surveying the world’s largest cave chambers in 3D. Using the latest LiDAR techniques he and his team have been revealing the true nature of some recently discovered huge caves in Guangxi and Guizhou provinces. His team resurveyed the world’s largest cave chamber, The Miao Room and found it to be even larger than previously believed. At almost 11 million cubic metres it is about ten times the size of Wembley stadium. Giant Sinkhole Of more note, was the survey of a seemingly small hole, called Maoqidong, situated about 10m from an important road through the mountains near a town called Leye. That there was a huge cave below was clear, as warm damp air condenses as it leaves the hole leaving a signature column of steam rising from the ground. The survey confirmed it was an immense 260m to the floor of the cave. A further 200m down a steep slope to an underground river showed, for the first time, the chamber to be an immense 6.2 million cubic metres in volume. Alarmingly, the road was found to be a mere 4m from this underground cavity. Richard produced a detailed report for the local authorities to highlight the road’s precarious position above the invisible void below. This giant sinkhole could have caused major problems for local infrastructure. Surveying Technique The mapping technique involved 3D laser scanning from selected stations around the cave and on the surface near entrances. Then on return to the base camp, stitching all these scans together using specialist software. Commendium used its own methods and tools to reduce errant points and generate clean point clouds from which geo-located 3D models were produced. To find out more about how we do this, please take a look at our LiDAR scanning services or Contact us.