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The Evolution of Equipment at Existing Conditions

The Evolution of Equipment at Existing Conditions

For over 26 years, Existing Conditions has been at the forefront of the industry. Before incorporating advanced reality capture equipment, we relied on traditional methods such as single-point (“disto”) lasers and total stations.

Introduction and Background:

Existing Conditions was created to deliver high-quality documentation more accurately, efficiently, and cost-effectively than anyone else in the market. We specialize in providing highly accurate as-built drawings and existing condition surveys, utilizing advanced technology such as 3D laser scanning and drone imaging. 

However, in 2011, with deploying our first scanner, the FARO Focus, Existing Conditions embraced advanced reality capture technology, completely revamping our processes and setting a new standard for accuracy and efficiency in building documentation. This strategic shift not only contributed to our success but also set the stage for what was to come in the adoption of advanced reality capture equipment across the industry. Read on to find out more about the technology we have deployed over the past decade.

 

FARO Focus (2011):

In 2011, the adoption of 3D laser scanning technology marked a transformative period for Existing Conditions. The affordability of the FARO Focus 3D laser scanners reduced purchasing risks, beginning our transition. Our team quickly learned the methodologies that made the new scanner accurate and successful. The introduction of spherical targets accelerated our scanning process, which automated processing time and allowed for faster documentation of buildings. This innovation enabled us to collect significantly more data efficiently and accurately compared to traditional, hand laser methods.

FARO Focus

FARO Focus 3D laser scanner pictured on-site scanning the Bigelow Chapel in Watertown, Massachusetts.

The integration of 3D laser scanning was crucial for us by providing a reliable method for verifying our work through point cloud data. This advancement greatly improved our quality control procedures, reducing the need for repeated site visits. Additionally, we introduced 3D virtual walkthroughs as part of our services, complementing project deliverables alongside 3D Revit models or 2D CAD drawings. Embraced by clients, these virtual tours replaced extensive on-site photography, streamlining project workflows and reducing the need for frequent site visits. During this period, Existing Conditions emerged as the largest user of FARO laser scanners on the East Coast.

 

FARO Freestyle Handheld Scanner (2015):

In 2015, Existing Conditions deployed the FARO Freestyle Handheld 3D Laser Scanner. The FARO Freestyle was a useful tool for capturing intricate details on various projects. As an example, we deployed this scanner on the exterior of a building featuring delicate grotesques that were going to be taken down and put back up. 

These sculptures were scanned to have them documented for historical preservation, safeguarding them against any damage from when they were removed from the building. The handheld design allowed for complete 360-degree scanning around objects, which was not possible with tripod-mounted scanners limited to certain angles.

FARO Freestyle Handheld scanner.

Photo of the FARO Freestyle Handheld scanner.

Watch this brief clip below to witness our arsenal in action!

 

Leica RTC360 and Leica BLK360 Gen 1 (2018):

 

Leica RTC360:

In 2018, the adoption of the Leica RTC360 marked a significant advancement in Existing Conditions’ reality capture capabilities, significantly enhancing our scanning process and setting a new standard for efficiency and accuracy in the architectural, engineering, and construction industry. The Leica RTC360 offered advantages to our scanning process by eliminating the need for spherical targets and relying on cloud-to-cloud technology with feature recognition. This innovation significantly increased efficiency, specifically in environments with tight scheduling needs like hospitals and schools. Its speed substantially reduced our time in the field, with a simple greyscale scan completed in just 26 seconds, compared to three minutes with previous scanners.

Leica RTC360

On-site image of our operations team utilizing the Leica RTC360.

The transition to Leica scanners required a setup of a centralized server and our Existing Conditions cloud to manage the large amounts of data efficiently. The Cyclone REGISTER 360 PLUS software of the Leica RTC360 outperformed previous scanners, generating cleaner data with millions of points, minimizing noise, and making a sharper image for us.

Lastly, the streamlined process managed through a tablet interface, has been more efficient by pre-registering scans on-site, reducing the risk of missing critical data points. Clients quickly recognized the benefits of the Leica RTC360's output, often preferring its data for their projects over that produced by previous scanners. Overall, the Leica scanners were a suitable choice for us due to the workflow and methodology for switching to them, and are also one of the most commonly used scanners to date.

Learn more about our most commonly used reality capture tools by visiting our  equipment page.

 

Leica BLK360 Gen 1:

On the other hand, the first-generation Leica BLK360 scanners were marketed as a compact, user-friendly scanner for various professionals, including small architectural firms and interior designers. Existing Conditions initially deployed this scanner to get into small spaces, such as above-ceiling areas. 

The Leica BLK360 G1 is also equipped with advanced features for comprehensive data capture. Its LiDAR sensor efficiently records 360,000 points per second to create 3D point clouds. Additionally, the integrated cameras enable the capture of 360-degree spherical HDR images, complete with thermal imaging capabilities. While the Leica BLK360 G1 was an easy-to-use tool, its early development limitations limited its efficiency.

Leica BLK 360 Gen 1

On-site image utilizing the Leica BLK360 Gen 1 at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York.

 

DJI Phantom Pro 3 (2018): 

In 2018, Existing Conditions first adopted the DJI Phantom Pro 3 when we were selected by DBVW Architects, a client of almost two and a half decades, for assistance with the existing conditions of the Rosecliff Gilded Age Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. Due to the challenges of accessing certain areas of the building, such as the cornice, traditional methods like scaffolding were not realistic. To overcome this, we utilized the DJI Phantom Pro 3 to capture up-close images of the cornice, providing DBVW Architects with a bird's eye view of the area and allowing them to assess the condition. This solution was driven by the need to support a valued client and provide them with highly detailed aerial drone imagery.

Aerial drone imagery

Aerial drone imagery of the Rosecliff Gilded Age Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island

This integration of aerial drone technology proved to be highly beneficial for Existing Conditions. It enabled our FAA-certified pilots to virtually transport our clients from ground level or rooftops to the specific parts of the building they were interested in. While traditional scanning methods could provide information on the location of certain details, they couldn't capture the actual conditions, such as leaks or cracks. By leveraging drones, we could take our clients to hard-to-reach areas and provide them with a comprehensive view of the building, helping them make informed decisions based on what is happening in that area.

 

Artec Eva (2019):

The introduction of the Artec Eva scanner in 2019 provided Existing Conditions with improved fidelity, resolution, and accuracy in our scans. The tracking system of the scanner allowed us to capture finer architectural details with precision. This was particularly useful when scanning intricate details that needed to be recreated for building restoration purposes. By sending the scanned details to fabricators, they were able to accurately recreate and restore these architectural elements. The Artec Eva scanner became an invaluable tool in Existing Conditions’ arsenal, expanding our capabilities and enhancing our ability to capture and recreate intricate building details.

Artec Eva

Richard St.Pierre, our Operations Associate pictured utilizing the Artec Eva scanner to scan the William R. Rodman House in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

 

DJI Mavic Air 2 (2020):

The transition from the DJI Phantom Pro 3 to the DJI Mavic Air 2 in 2020 brought significant advancements in technology and features. The most substantial upgrade was in the camera, with the DJI Mavic Air 2 offering a substantial increase in resolution from 20 megapixels to 48 megapixels. This improvement allowed for higher-quality imagery and more detailed data capture during drone operations. Additionally, the DJI Mavic Air 2 introduced significant advancements in obstacle avoidance technology, helping us with safety on-site. 

Unlike the DJI Phantom Pro 3, which did not have obstacle avoidance capabilities, the DJI Mavic Air 2 incorporated advanced features to prevent collisions and ensure safer flights. Another crucial development was the implementation of geofencing by DJI in 2013, which allows for safer communication with the FAA and restricts drone flights to authorized areas, enhancing overall safety and compliance.

 

Leica ScanStation P50 and NavVis VLX (2021):

 

Leica ScanStation P50:

In 2021, Existing Conditions deployed the Leica ScanStation P50 3D laser scanners. The Leica P50 3D laser scanners were originally designed for land surveyors and are known for being durable and robust. They are weatherproof and built to withstand harsh construction environments. In addition to their exceptional range and accuracy, the Leica P50 series scanners have a powerful inclinometer, this way the accurate data is in horizontal measurements. This is particularly important for tasks like deformation mapping and seeing what it would take to level concrete surfaces.

While the Leica RTC360 has a range of approximately 225 feet, the Leica ScanStation P50 scanner can reach up to a kilometer, making it a logical choice for scanning large-scale environments such as high-rise buildings. However, it's important to note that the Leica ScanStation P50 is not the right tool for every job. It is slower, bulkier, and requires more personnel to operate. Therefore, it should be used selectively for specific projects where its capabilities are necessary.

Leica ScanStation P50

On-site image utilizing the Leica ScanStation P50 at 85 Devonshire Street in Boston, Massachusetts.

For example, the P50 laser scanner was used by Existing Conditions on a large infrastructure project in New York where drone flights were restricted. By capturing the water side of a building across a waterway, the P50 provided the necessary distance and accuracy to fill in details that couldn't be captured by drones. This highlights how the Leica ScanStation P50 can be a valuable tool in situations where other methods are limited.

 

NavVis VLX (2021):

In 2021, Existing Conditions reached a milestone when we introduced the NavVis VLX, our first 3D laser scanner that incorporates SLAM technology. The NavVis VLX is a mobile mapping device that leverages simultaneous location and measurements (SLAM) to provide accurate and efficient scanning capabilities. With its dual LiDAR sensors, SLAM software, 360° capture capability, high-resolution cameras, and touchscreen interface, the NavVis VLX brings speed and scalability to challenging projects.

However, it's important to note that the NavVis VLX is not suitable for every job due to its size and mobility limitations. Its large and above-head design makes it difficult to navigate through normal residential doorways. Additionally, it requires a significant amount of distance to effectively utilize its SLAM function. Nevertheless, when used in conjunction with other tools like the Leica RTC360 and Leica ScanStation P50 laser scanners, the NavVis VLX enhances our existing workflows.

NavVis VLX

Our operations team pictured on-site utilizing the NavVis VLX.

 

Leica Gen 2 BLK360, DJI Mini3 Pro, Autel Nano, DJI Mavic Enterprise 2 Series (2022):

 

Leica Gen 2 BLK360:

In 2022, Existing Conditions deployed the Leica Gen 2 BLK360 because it is a significant improvement over its original, offering enhanced reliability and accuracy. One of its standout features is the ability to capture images while scanning, eliminating the need for a separate revolution to capture pictures. This means that color scans can be completed in seconds, rather than tripling the scanning time as with other terrestrial scanners.

The inclusion of color in 3D virtual walkthroughs has become increasingly important for clients, as it enhances the clarity and fidelity of the images. While the Leica BLK360 Gen 1 was similar to the FARO Focus laser scanning, the Leica BLK360 Gen 2 is more comparable to the Leica RTC360, incorporating new tracking technology that eliminates the need for spherical targets and allows for easy movement and positioning.

Leica Gen 2 BLK360

On-site image of the Leica Gen 2 BLK360 scanning a mixed-use property on 1069 Greene Street in Silverton, Colorado.

 

DJI Mini 3 Pro, Autel Nano:

The Autel Nano drone was adopted by Existing Conditions in 2022 to be primarily used for training purposes and by beginners in the field. Its smaller and more portable size makes it convenient for field personnel to carry with them. While it may not be used extensively for drone data collection, it serves as a practical option for situations where access to rooftops or other areas is limited. The Autel Nano, along with the DJI Mini 3 Pro, was chosen for its compact size, allowing for easier control on-site.

One unique aspect of the Autel Nano is its lack of geofencing, which means it is not subject to the same regulatory constraints as the DJI models. This allows for more flexibility in flying closer to airports and reduces the need for obtaining permissions before takeoff. The Autel Nano complements the existing DJI models by providing a drone option that offers more freedom and fewer regulatory requirements, making it a valuable tool for specific scenarios where permissions and airspace restrictions may pose challenges.

Aerial drone imagery

Aerial drone imagery utilizing the Autel Nano, of the Lacosta Way Residence in Palm Beach Florida.

The DJI Mini 3 Pro, compact yet powerful, redefines the standards for portable drones. At a weight of under 249 grams, it not only meets regulatory requirements easily but also stands as the safest model in its series. Equipped with a 1/1.3-inch sensor and premium features, it elevates the flying experience for Mini drones to a new level.

Our state-of-the-art DJI Mini 3 Pro is seen pictured on-site conducting a drone survey of the Pinnacle Penthouse at the Woolworth Building.

Our state-of-the-art DJI Mini 3 Pro is seen pictured on-site conducting a drone survey of the Pinnacle Penthouse at the Woolworth Building.

 

DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Series:

In 2022, Existing Conditions utilized the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Series, which we had rented for its various features, primarily for its thermal imaging capabilities. This was particularly useful for our St. Patrick’s Manor project in Framingham, Massachusetts, where we assisted a client in assessing the insulation beneath their roof. Our team completed a roof scan and thermal drone survey of the premises, which can optimize energy efficiency and lower costs. By deploying thermal imagery, we were able to provide valuable insights without the need for invasive measures like cutting into the roof.

Thermal drone survey of St. Patricks Manor

Thermal drone survey of St. Patrick’s Manor in Framingham, Massachusetts.

 

DJI Air 3 (2023):

Existing Conditions’ introduction of the DJI Air 3 in 2023 was a response to the growing need for drones and the rapid advancements in technology. As with many electronics, by the time a product is purchased, a newer version is already on the horizon. The DJI Air 3 stands out with its exceptional camera capabilities, including a 48-megapixel photo and an optical zoom, providing clearer and more detailed images compared to drones with digital zoom. With two cameras on board, it allows for closer shots without getting closer to the building. Additionally, the drone offers software updates and improved geofencing features, enhancing its overall functionality.

Aerial drone imagery

Aerial drone imagery utilizing the DJI Air 3 of the 808 Windsor Street in Somerville, Massachusetts. The surrounding areas were the focus of this project for our client, Studio Troika to render with.

 

Looking Ahead to Future Technologies

Existing Conditions is continuously monitoring emerging technologies in reality capture to stay at the forefront of the industry. One area of focus is SLAM technology, exemplified by the NavVis VLX 3D laser scanner, which utilizes control points to improve efficiency in the field. Drones are also a key area of advancement, with improved photogrammetry capabilities and the ability to scan with LiDAR, offering faster and more accurate data collection, particularly for roof scanning. The potential for autonomous robots to perform scanning in unsafe or challenging environments is another area of interest for us.

In terms of hardware, the transition to solid-state LiDAR technology is anticipated, offering faster scanning times and instant data processing. Leica's BLK Pulse, for example, introduces flexible data points that can be individually adjusted for improved accuracy. Additionally, software advancements are expected, such as feature recognition algorithms that can automatically identify objects in point cloud data, speeding up the post-processing and modeling stages. The ability to work natively within point clouds, eliminating the need to create a separate 3D Revit model, is also a potential future development. Lastly, the industry will likely see improvements in processing speed and file size reduction to enhance efficiency in working with large amounts of scan data.

From Existing Conditions’ beginnings with single-point lasers (“disto”) to our current arsenal of state-of-the-art 3D laser scanners and drones, we have consistently pushed the boundaries to deliver the best quality services to our clients. As we look ahead, Existing Conditions’ commitment to staying at the forefront of emerging technologies is our priority, ensuring that we continue to shape the future of reality capture and maintain our position as the industry leader.

 

Ready to experience the future of reality capture?

Contact us today to learn how Existing Conditions can elevate your project with  ourcutting-edge technology and industry-leading expertise. 

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