Laser Scanning: A Socially Distant Surveying Method


DURATION 5 minute read

Laser scanning surveying is a useful technique that allows a small, or single person survey crew to capture large amounts of data in a short amount of time. With this method, a one-man crew is typically all you need to cover an entire job site. The method is also minimally disruptive, and with a smaller crew and less equipment, data can be gathered for an entire site without interrupting normal operations.

The current situation has brought many facets of life to a halt and has demanded flexibility and adaptation from everyone. Many essential industries are maintaining operations under extra procedures and precautions like social distancing while others with dwindling crowds and nearly empty facilities are using this time to expedite infrastructure projects.

Due to COVID-19 and social distancing, there are immediate and on-going orders by state and local jurisdictions to limit interpersonal contact. While the orders may expire, it is likely these actions will continue to change expectations for interpersonal contact in the future. The ability to use scanning technology under the guidance of a Registered Professional Land Surveyor adheres to these new standards and expectations for social distancing.

Our daily lives look different than they did last month or even last week, but technology is helping us adapt. We’re all looking for ways to innovate and continue to help the communities around us while also doing our part to keep our communities safe. Techniques such as laser scanning surveying could help meet the demands of this unprecedented situation.


The Technique in Action

Each project requires a unique and customized approach. From hospitals looking to expand to schools hoping to make improvements, here are some past projects that have benefited from the use of this surveying technique.

Private Hospital:

Two Houston hospitals sharing building space required a resurvey of the external and internal boundaries. Hospital operations could not be halted to allow a more traditional survey crew in the building.  Additionally, survey crews generally require at least two members and, for the hospital, the fewer contractors in their building, the better.

Using laser scanning surveying, a single member of our team was able to rapidly collect data on 11 floors in two weeks with no impact to normal hospital operations.  One of the floors contained a pathology lab requiring zero contact with surfaces and equipment. The surveying method allowed the one-man crew to capture data for the area in one hour while hospital employees continued to work.




Community College:

A community college was looking to improve drainage and flood-proof portions of the campus. They wanted the project completed quickly to minimize disruption to the learning environment.

A one-man crew scanned four and a half acres in one and a half days. He collected a significant amount of survey-grade data and high-quality images of the facades of four campus buildings, pathways and utilities, all of which can be used for projects beyond flood control.

Industrial Project:

A lime plant in North Texas wanted to update its kiln process and add safety features. Because of the complexity of the unit, a laser scan survey was requested for its ability to collect large volumes of data in a short amount of time.

Three levels of the kiln were scanned in a day and a half. The one-man crew collected data for a 3D model of the building’s steel frame and relevant equipment, a processed point cloud and viewer file with 360° images.

What are the Benefits?

Laser scanning surveying offers a range of benefits, including:

Data – This surveying technique collects a large amount of data. Developers can virtually access the data and photographic records for assessment of information such as measurements and utility locations. Having access to this information offers greater potential for a faster turnaround for future projects.

Time – The excess of information can be collected in a short amount of time and without disruption. At the hospital, for instance, our scanning expert was able to collect information on equipment, door sizing, piping and floor materials in addition to data for the initial project.

Safety – This sort of “socially distant” surveying technique allows for a smaller crew and minimal disruption on a site. The holistic data collection and the ability to access and analyze data virtually also cuts down on the potential of repeat trips to a site.

The current situation is unfamiliar and is requiring all of us to innovate and adapt. Jones|Carter stands with our communities, and our team is always dedicated to finding solutions that help improve our communities while keeping them safe.


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