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The Glen Canyon Dam is part of a complex engineering system that provides both power and water to Western United States. Located on the Colorado River in northern Arizona, the 710-foot high dam harnesses the river to produce five billion kilowatt-hours of hydroelectric power per year. The dam forms Lake Powell—a reservoir that spans more than 250 square miles. For over 50 years, the dam and reservoir have helped to regulate the flow of the Colorado River and provide controlled storage and delivery of its water. The facility was built, and is now operated, by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR).

Considering its age, it’s not surprising that the facility’s documentation is mostly 2D engineering drawings (either produced manually or with CAD systems), which can be error-prone. Furthermore, an inherent disadvantage of engineering drawings is their focus on documenting discrete components or systems, with limited reference to adjacent components and/or associated systems. This form of documentation hampers USBR’s facility management activities.

But last summer, USBR launched a project to rectify that situation, with the help of reality capture technology, including Autodesk software ReMake and ReCap. The organization is using LiDAR, photogrammetry, and sonar technology to develop a unified intelligent 3D model of the dam and the power plant facility. This model will be used for design, operation and management, asset management, monitoring, security, and public outreach and education. In addition, the unified model will give USBR personnel a better overall understanding of the facility and its interrelated systems.

The project is being carried out in phases:

  1. The use of stationary laser scanners to capture the as-built conditions of the power plant (interior and exterior), and part of the dam’s exterior.
  2. The use of aerial photography and underwater sonar to complete the capture the dam’s exterior, as well as conditions upstream of the dam for approximately one-quarter mile.
  3. The resulting point clouds are being used to create an intelligent model of the facility that includes overlays for operations and maintenance, facility management, security, power distribution, and GIS.

Some of the preliminary photogrammetry results can be seen in this video:

USBR worked with teams from eTrac (providing hydrographic survey services), R2Sonic (providing sonar technology) and Autodesk on the first two phases of this project. Last summer, the teams collected multi beam sonar data, 677 scans, and over 2,200 ground and helicopter-based photographs. This effort resulted in the first step towards the creation of the intelligent unified model: a highly accurate, photorealistic model of the facility that will be the geometric basis of the unified intelligent 3D model.

As Autodesk’s Shaan Hurley (part of the Autodesk team on the project) couldn’t resist penning/punning in his blog post about the effort, “this was really a big dam project with lots of dam work and dam data.”

More results to come. To receive all the latest news make sure to subscribe to our blog.

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Mitko Vidanovski

Mitko Vidanovski is an author and manager of the Autodesk ReCap blog. A Master's Degree Architect who joined the Reality Solutions Team in 2012 helping Autodesk lift two new innovative products on the market ReCap and ReMake. He is responsible for leading the online community efforts, developing product analysis, and making pilot tests of new technologies involving 3D laser scanning and photogrammetry. Previous to Autodesk, Mitko worked in progressive environments such as Otherlab and Because We Can, where he gained experience in various fabrication technologies, such as 3D printing, laser cutting and CNC milling.