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Reality Capture for Civil Infrastructure – Part 4

Reality Capture Guru
February 5, 2015

Our last two posts explored how Reality Capture technologies are helping civil engineering firms digitally capture existing conditions around a proposed infrastructure project and digitally design the project in the context of that setting. Now let’s see how Reality Capture is used to digitally reshape existing terrain and build new infrastructure.


The final leg of Reality Capture is transferring captured and modified reality data back to the physical world. For civil infrastructure projects, this can be accomplished digitally (via project visualizations) or physically (with machine-controlled earthworks, prefabrication, and other digital construction techniques). Reality Capture can also be used during the construction process to document, monitor, and validate progress—measuring percentage of completion and comparing as-built work to its as-designed state.

Topcon for civil infrastructure scanning

The use of Reality Capture for project realization, particularly GPS-guided grading,
is becoming common on civil infrastructure projects.
Image courtesy of Topcon.

Project visualizations

Reality data and design data can be combined to create very realistic project visualizations. These visualizations can support project communication, planning approvals, public outreach, and construction planning.

For example, during the design of San Francisco’s Presidio Parkway, the project team created numerous visualizations (both still images and animations) to support project communication with the client and other project stakeholders, and for public outreach and approval efforts. The team used a specialized animation and rendering software solution to create photorealistic visualizations, combining the roadway design data with multiple data sources representing existing conditions of the surrounding city and landscape. These visualizations illustrated how the various design options impacted key areas along the roadway—from landscaping at tunnel portals, to various lighting alternative designs in both day and night.

Physical realization

The use of Reality Capture for project realization, particularly GPS-guided grading, is becoming standard on transportation and other infrastructure projects. Other common uses of Reality Capture during infrastructure construction include:

  • Using 3D scanned point clouds of existing conditions merged with design data to help project teams see how their designs fit and if the construction sequences are going to work within the context of the surrounding environment.
  • Scanning in-place construction to help contractors and owners determine if the construction matches the design and, if not, analyze why. This helps project teams assess cost implications and make important decisions regarding future project construction.
  • Comparing scans of in-place construction to design models can also be used for fact-based decisions regarding the release of funds to contractors (30 percent, 60 percent, etc.).

The next post will look at some emerging uses of Reality Capture for infrastructure.

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