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Dr Mike J Smith
Kingston University

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TLS to 3D shapefiles

Mon, 20 Sep 2010

We have taken delivery of a new GeoWall system at Kingston which Ken has been painstakingly putting together. It does just look like a very large Meccano set. Anyway, we have been thinking about some 3D datasets to show, initially through ArcScene. Given we have a Leica ScanStation 2 (although I might take issue with it being "affordable" and "entry-level"!), we thought it would be good to show-off some of our laser scan data and, initially, one of the campus buildings.

This data is scanned and stored in Cyclone. Cyclone's earlier iterations were more closely aligned with CAD, as users were initially producing 3D models of existing infrastructure. The data itself is simple; x,y,z triples of position, but millions of them. Whilst the LAS format is common for the transfer of airborne LiDAR data, the shapefile is a convenient storage format and understood by just about anything. In ArcScene its then simply a case of changing the base heights to the elevation field and its done. Simple. Except Cyclone only exports as a textfile file; no problem, ArcMap can probably handle it. And I'm sure it probably can, except I gave up trying to work out exactly which ToolBox tool is required and, if its not comma or tab separated, how it should imported and whether a schema ini file is needed. I fired up Global Mapper instead which just has a text import filter and a shapefile export filter. Nothing fancy, no drama; it did it. OK, so the 170Mb file took a few minutes to process (on my slow machine!), but it didn't hang, crash, give an unintelligible error message or anything else. It loaded in to ArcScene fine. Sometimes its nice just to have something that's straightforward (and it would help if Leica could take the shapefile exporter from LPS and stick it in Cyclone. Different heritage and development teams so I don't expect it to happen!).

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