10 things to know before purchasing a mobile laser scanner

The acquisition of a mobile laser scanner is a consideration that arises today among many professionals working in the fields of architecture, BIM, cartography, construction or 3D modeling. From the announced precision to the different levels of expertise and the choices between mono-LiDAR and multi-LiDAR solutions, it can be difficult to navigate among all the solutions offered. Focus on ten essential aspects to check before investing in a dynamic laser scanner.

1. Check your need

The first question to ask yourself is obviously: “Does my business really need it?” » Purchasing a mobile scanner is a medium or even long term investment. The purchase of a machine will depend on the nature of the company’s business model and the scale of the projects it manages. Conversely, the purchase may prove essential if the company chooses to make a strategic shift and position itself on new, larger projects, or in the event of successive requests from its customers.

Our advice: Be careful not to overestimate your needs or get carried away by a global trend. Renting or calling on an external service provider may sometimes be more relevant initially.

2. One single LiDAR or more?

Choosing between a single-LiDAR solution and a configuration with 2 or more LiDARs can have a significant impact on performance and data quality. Single-LiDAR devices can be more compact and portable, but may have limitations in data quality and resolution compared to multi-LiDAR setups.

Our advice: Be sure to carefully weigh these factors to choose the solution that will truly optimize your performance and data quality. A data sample will give you an idea of the quality of the data.

Dual LiDARs architecture of the MS-96

3. Technical specifications VS actual performance

Technical specifications can sometimes seem impressive on paper. In practice, performance can be very different. For example, an advertised LiDAR range of 300 meters may only be achievable under optimal conditions. In real environments, the effective range may be limited to 30-50 meters due to various factors such as reflectivity of the scanned surface, weather conditions, etc.

Our advice: Nothing beats testing the machine in a real situation, in a usual, not exceptional, project environment.

4. Announced accuracy

Centimeter? Millimetric, really? When looking at the claimed accuracy of a laser scanner, it is important to understand how these measurements were made. Laboratory testing may yield different results than field testing, depending on the testing context, whether georeferenced control points (GCPs) are used, etc.

Our advice: Read the technical sheet carefully or ask your sales representative. Even better, a field test of an area already scanned with a high-end static scanner followed by a cloud-to-cloud comparative analysis.

2 to 5mm point cloud thickness

5. Mobility in the field

The term “mobile” can be used ambiguously. Some solutions can be described as mobile simply because they are not static. But in reality, their mobility may be limited by features such as “stop-and-go”, which requires stopping for a few seconds at a given distance, and which may not be suitable for all use cases ( factory in production, shopping centers or airports at peak times, etc.).

Our advice: Make sure you choose a solution that offers the flexibility and mobility tailored to your specific needs in the field.

This is true mobile scanning! No stops and a capture at any speed one wants!

6. SLAM algorithm robustness

Not all SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) algorithms are equal in terms of performance, robustness and adaptability to different environments. Some algorithms may be open source, while others are proprietary, and each may have its advantages and disadvantages depending on the specific user needs and scanning conditions.

Our advice: Make sure that the manufacturer has control over its algorithms and is not just an integrator. If you are offered a field demo, do not hesitate to challenge the system by asking the demonstrator to scan a complex area for a SLAM algorithm (staircase, open space without structure, etc.).

Spiral staircase with only short-range viewpoints, a challenge for SLAM.

7. Quality of customer support

Customer support is a crucial aspect to consider when purchasing a laser scanner. The availability of responsive and efficient customer support, as well as the terms of this support (unlimited access, billed tickets, etc.), can greatly influence the user experience and the rapid resolution of possible problems. Even if the solution presented seems to you to be foolproof, the reality of everyday life often presents complex cases to manage. Furthermore, a larger company may seem “more solid” but does not necessarily guarantee responsiveness.

Our advice: Ask the right questions to your sales contact. Is support unlimited? What are SLAs?

8. Overall cost of the solution

There is a very wide price range for laser scanners, from low-cost models to very expensive solutions offering advanced features. It is important to find the right balance between the available budget and the features needed to meet specific needs.

Our advice: Be careful! The initial cost of purchasing a laser scanner does not necessarily reflect the long-term total cost of ownership. Considerations such as pricing model (software as a service vs. permanent license), maintenance and technical support costs can have a significant impact on the total cost over 3 or 5 years.

9. Staff structure

Integrating a new laser scanner may require a restructuring of staff, with fewer employees in the field and more resources allocated to data analysis in the office, particularly when adopting more advanced technologies or more efficient data collection processes. The question of the dilapidation of the IT equipment also arises. Data manipulation may require greater machine resources.

Our advice: By investing in proper training, companies can ensure their team is well prepared to use the laser scanner effectively and correctly interpret the data it generates.

10. In-house expertise

Laser scanners are available with different levels of expertise, ranging from beginner-friendly models (black box, simple to use but more limited) to more advanced solutions aimed at experts and requiring expertise in GNSS and advanced measurement modalities for increased precision and more complex situations.

Our advice: It is important to take stock of the internal skills of the team. Because if the company does not have the skills required to use a mobile laser scanner effectively, it will need to consider training or hiring qualified personnel to fill this gap.

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