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The Value of Point Cloud Analysis for Transportation Infrastructure

Effective transportation infrastructure asset management starts with understanding your full inventory of assets and their condition. The resulting point clouds from Mobile LiDAR provide a clear picture of your transportation assets and their condition to make data-driven decisions quickly and cost-effectively.

Mobile LiDAR captures roadway and infrastructure assets at posted speed limits, thereby collecting data at a fraction of the time it takes traditional surveying methods.

Mobile LiDAR creates 3D point cloud models that are precise depictions of roadways and infrastructure. These give unparalleled accuracy in establishing relationships between your data points, revealing their true position and condition.

Maximizing the Value of the Point Cloud with PILLAR

PILLAR’s Mobile LiDAR service takes the significance of the point cloud to the next level with its proprietary Fully Automatic Feature Extraction System (AFES) that instantly extracts features and attributes (such as height, width, text, etc.) as data is processed. Machine Learning, AI, and Computer Vision are incorporated in the processing of this data with outputs to standard GIS formats, Shape files, geodatabases, and more.

Gone are the days of spending countless man-hours scrolling through pictures overlapped on the point cloud, pointing a cursor, and clicking on the asset to spatially link the two. Rather than traditional “point and click” semi-automatic extraction, Mobile LiDAR with AFES means fewer days to completion of your global view.

Decisions Backed by Data

Without a global view of your assets and infrastructure, it can be difficult to make decisions for asset managers to justify funding for projects and programs. Tasked with managing hundreds of assets, some organizations are unaware of more hidden assets such as pipelines, drainage systems, and paved ditches. This can account for poorly mismanaged asset maintenance, costing agencies thousands of dollars.

A point cloud analysis powered by PILLAR AFES gives decision-makers the ability to provide asset data across various departments and stakeholders, integrating databases and streamlining processes to cut time and share costs. With a geospatial inventory, transportation agencies can determine priorities and set those priorities with a ROI-focused approach.

Applications for Mobile LiDAR and Point Cloud Analysis

Mobile LiDAR and Point Cloud Analysis help departments of transportation and localities make data-driven decisions to effectively manage the state’s transportation assets. Applications of this technology also serve as a valuable tool for emergency planning, disaster response, and community resiliency in the face of climate change. Infrastructure plays a significant role in these efforts, creating a need to better manage and invest in infrastructure improvements.

With PILLAR’s AFES, data can be instantly extracted and processed as 3D environmental models – increasing efficiency, transparency, and better planning.

An innovative application of Mobile LiDAR with point cloud analysis for mowing management won the Virginia Department of Transportation – Staunton District the Environmental Agency Award. In collaboration with PILLAR, the team discovered it could allocate thousands of mowing acres as stormwater pollutant offsets. The discovery led to a 15,800-pound reduction in nitrogen, saving VDOT about $12.8 million in mitigation projects and nitrogen-credit purchases.

PILLAR Point Cloud Analysis in Miami, Florida

Save Time, Save Money, Save Lives

With the advances in surveying technology like Mobile LiDAR and point cloud analysis, asset management firms can help deploy effective asset management plans that will save time, save money, and save lives. PILLAR is trusted by departments of transportation that manage some of the largest state-maintained highway systems in the country to do exactly that. We help organizations make value-based decisions that proactively manages risk for the long-term needs of your asset base.

Contact us at or (276) 223-0500 to discuss your asset management plans with a PILLAR expert.

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LiDAR-Based Mapping Method for Mowing Management Earns VDOT-Staunton District Environmental Stewardship Award

An innovative application of LiDAR-based mapping for mowing management implemented by the Virginia Department of Transportation -Staunton District is saving the agency millions of dollars annually by converting interstate rights-of-way into pollinator habitats. The innovative program just earned VDOT’s Staunton District the coveted agency’s Environmental Stewardship Award.

VDOT’s Staunton District Roadside Manager Scott Nye and Interstate Maintenance Contract Administrator Guy Tyrrell needed a better way to track vegetation mowing so they collaborated with PILLAR Operations & Maintenance Advisors to develop a solution.

PILLAR worked with Tyrrell and Nye to leverage LiDAR-based mapping and PILLAR’s proprietary automated feature extraction (AFES) software to quickly and efficiently identify VDOT acreage that requires mowing. The approach provides a highly accurate way to measure and track mowing costs and allows quick and easy adjustments to mowing operations. More importantly, the data from the LiDAR mapping method enabled the team to see a  better solution– a large percentage of the interstate rights-of-way could be set aside for pollinator habitats without compromising public safety or roadside aesthetics.

The Staunton District has now allocated more than 5,100 acres of mowing operations to only once per year in the fall. This acreage set aside as meadow can be transplanted into stormwater pollutant “credits” to support the total maximum daily load pollutant reduction requirements VDOT’s MS4 permit. The conversion of mowed turf into a meadow condition equates to a 15,800-pound reduction in nitrogen that would otherwise reach the Chesapeake Bay, saving VDOT about $12.8 million in mitigation projects and nitrogen-credit purchases.

Learn more about how Pillar can work with your DOT or municipality to see the bigger picture and develop cost-efficient transportation asset management solutions.

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Mobile LiDAR Improves Safety By Reducing Need for Work Zones

Transportation surveyors are frequently exposed to significant danger from traffic as they work to collect the asset data required to maintain, build, or repair infrastructure.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that transportation incidents accounted for 76% of roadway work zone fatal occupational injuries between 2011 and 2017. In 60% of these transportation events, the worker was struck by a vehicle in the work zone.

Clearly, roadway operations and maintenance require a safer, accurate, and efficient way to collect infrastructure asset data.

Reducing Traffic Exposure with Mobile LiDAR

A Mobile LiDAR scanning system is the efficient way to inventory transportation assets and their condition at highway speed, eliminating the need for a static work zone that impedes traffic flow as surveying staff conduct their work. Instead, Mobile LiDAR collects data from a vehicle driven at posted speed limits and creates a digital 3-D representation of existing road conditions within the right-of-way.

Mobile LiDAR scans the conditions of infrastructure assets like pavements, guardrails, mowing acreages, bridges, highway signs, and more. Mobile LiDAR takes transportation asset management to the next level, collecting massive amounts of data with speed, precision, and cost-efficiency. Complete surveys in a fraction of the time it takes with traditional survey methods and yield higher quality data for optimal operations and maintenance plans.

Advantages of Mobile LiDAR

  • Easily identify the location of all your transportation assets.
  • Gather robust data while mitigating exposure to dangerous working conditions for employees.
  • Avoid the extra cost and man-hours that come with work zones.
  • Reduced exposure to road accidents and other roadway related injuries.
  • Advanced collection methods ensure accurate asset data and rapid data extraction.
  • Integrate asset data with existing databases and workflows.

Minimize Employee Risk and Maximize Productivity With PILLAR

With advances in surveying technology, the transportation industry is investing in innovative asset management solutions to improve operational efficiencies, optimize budgets, and ensure employee safety in the field.  

As a transportation asset management firm, PILLAR houses advanced technological solutions like Mobile LiDAR, drone aerial collection, street level imagery, and geospatial inventory to locate your assets and identify their condition. Our robust approach to asset management merges technology with specialist expertise to optimize, develop, and execute tailored asset management plans to secure O&M funding and improve the service level of all infrastructure assets.

Partner with PILLAR today and discuss with our experts to figure out the best way to augment your staff safely, reduce traffic interference in your communities, and collect transportation asset data quicker and more accurately than ever before.  

Contact us at or (276) 223-0500 to discuss our Mobile LiDAR solutions and more.

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Drive Safe, Work Safe, Save Lives

National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week is April 26 – 30

National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 26-30, is a timely reminder for motorists to stay alert for DOT and other workers. In 2020, work zone crashes and fatalities increased, despite lower traffic volumes due to COVID-19.

Distracted Driving Costs Lives

Even a small mistake by a driver or worker can be disastrous in and around a highway work zone. Highway workers are in a high-risk category, but statistically, motorists are even more at risk. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), most fatalities in work zones are motorists, not highway workers. The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse – which collects federal data – reported that in 2019, there were over 760 work zone fatal crashes that resulted in 842 deaths.

National Efforts to Increase Work Zone Safety

To combat this significant public safety issue, 48 states have banned text messaging for all drivers, while 25 states, including Virginia, prohibit all drivers from using handheld cellphones while driving. Using a handheld cell phone while driving, and especially in a work zone, can be a deadly choice.

Defensive Driving Tips for Work Zones

  1. Stay focused and alert in a work zone: DO NOT use a cell phone, change the radio, eat, apply makeup, or create a distraction from the road.
  2. Research your route. When possible, try to avoid work zones altogether and use detours when available. 
  3. Lane closures and reduced speeds are common in work zones. Slow down when entering a work zone and pay careful attention to the presence of workers and machinery.
  4. Move into an open lane as soon as possible when approaching a lane closure. Remember to pay close attention to other vehicles around you, particularly in your blind spot.
  5. Avoid trucks of all types when possible. They usually have limited visibility and cannot maneuver as well as smaller vehicles. Give them a lot of room in all driving situations.
  6. Because rear-end crashes are the most common types of collision in work zones, always maintain extra following distance between vehicles. Four seconds is the recommended following distance.
  7. Turn on your headlights, even if it is not required by law. It is good ‘driving practice’. Headlights ‘on’ is the equivalent of wearing a high visibility vest on your vehicle. This helps other drivers identify your presence.

Be Alert. Risks Abound Outside Work Zones

The risks and challenges associated with highway travel are not confined to defined work zones. There are numerous other activities on a road that can easily create impairment to safe travel, such as mowing, litter pick up, snow & ice control, law enforcement activity, animal hazard, standing water, pavement defect (i.e., pothole), etc.

While work zones are usually well marked with signage and devices, most of these other impairments offer minimal advance warning to motorists. The combination of ‘Boots on the Ground’ (that would be Pillar!), a distracted or impaired driver, failure to reduce speed or any of the other risks noted above can prove to be costly, if not deadly, if you aren’t paying attention.

When transiting work zones, remember to be patient and stay focused.

PILLAR employees and other work zone crew members across the nation diligently strive to improve our infrastructure and make the roads safer for everyone. Join PILLAR next week as we raise awareness for work zone safety.

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Transportation Asset Management: A Vital Tool In Community Resiliency Efforts

In recent years, local municipalities and the federal government have invested millions to make their cities more resilient and prepare for natural disasters, along with mitigating the imposing threats of climate change. Local and federal governments are realizing the critical role transportation infrastructure plays in assisting in disaster and climate adaption efforts and are searching for ways to increase community resilience, improve aging infrastructure, and decrease flood risks with transportation asset management.

Investing in Resilience and Sustainability

In 2017, the City of Miami passed a $400 million general obligation bond, with half of the investment funding community resilience, disaster, and climate relief efforts. This includes reducing flooding risks, mitigating rising sea levels, enhancing public safety, and improving infrastructure. As of March 2021, there are 7 on-going projects in the city to assess transportation assets and improve infrastructure.

In February 2021, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration awarded a $1.1 million grant to the Miami Conversancy District in Dayton, Ohio to protect communities from flooding and upgrade Dayton’s levee system. The grant is matched with a $276,254 local investment, all focused on supporting key infrastructure improvements in the Miami Valley.

Challenges of Resiliency Planning and Disaster Management

From mitigating flooded roadways to effectively planning emergency routes, community resiliency plans start with a comprehensive and accurate assessment of all transportation assets, including pavement condition, stormwater management systems, bridges, tunnels, signage, medians, and guardrails—just to name a few. 

A significant challenge for most asset management and disaster prevention systems is the lack of a reliable infrastructure asset collection, leading to delays in response time. In terms of the cost to human lives and properties, delays can be hazardous for disaster management agencies. A robust asset management and analysis system is required to ensure that the asset condition is properly assessed, so accurate insights for improving the asset are found.  

With lives at stake, effective transportation asset management requires industry expertise and next generation technology to make informed decisions based on data.

PILLAR’s Mobile LiDAR collects massive amounts of data with speed, precision, and cost-efficiency. This system helps us complete surveys in a fraction of the time compared to traditional survey methods. As a result, higher quality data is collected to develop effective emergency response and community resiliency plans and secure appropriate budgets for repair and ongoing maintenance.

With Mobile LiDAR’s fully Automatic Feature Extraction System (AFES), data can be instantly extracted and integrated with existing databases – increasing efficiency, transparency, and better planning.


Municipalities across the nation are using transportation asset management data to better prepare and protect their communities against natural disasters and the imposing threats of climate change. This is where PILLAR comes in. Equipped with the best asset management experts and advanced technology, PILLAR efficiently collects transportation asset data, accurately assess asset conditions, develops, and executes asset management plans to maintain and optimize their performance against climate change and natural disasters.

As a transportation asset management firm, we help organizations save time, money, and face (by preventing public outcry in the case of a disaster). Partner with us today and help the communities that you serve be more resilient.

Contact us at or (276) 223-0500 to discuss your asset management plans with a PILLAR expert.