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Endangered Bat Species and LiDAR: PILLAR Technology is Mapping Conservation Efforts

PILLAR works with departments of transportation, environmental, and engineering firms to better understand the condition of infrastructure in challenging environments. LiDAR (mobile light detection and ranging) is an advanced technology that goes beyond just providing detailed maps: the data can be used to influence critical decisions to protect critical wildlife habitats.

PILLAR’s recent project at a bridge in southwestern Virginia highlights the effectiveness of LiDAR for mapping conservation efforts and managing transportation infrastructure.

LiDAR Applied to Wildlife Conservation: A Case Study

Scientists learned that the endangered gray bat and the more common big brown bat, were using this man-made structure for roosting purposes, yet engineers needed to assess the bridge’s operating conditions and schedule routine maintenance. Gray bats are listed by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) and the US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS) as endangered, and upwards of 10,000 gray bats find refuge in the bridge from April through October as a maternity roosting site.

A cluster of gray bats roosting under a southwestern Virginia bridge.

The Virginia Department of Transportation along with biologists from Stantec Consulting Services, entrusted PILLAR to accurately survey the bridge with noninvasive LiDAR technology and collect data on the structure, while also preserving the bats’ habitat and wellbeing. In approximately one hour, PILLAR engineers had safely completed their survey, and biologists studied about 200 gray bats in their natural habitat.   

Experts from PILLAR teamed with biologists from Stantec to survey the bridge accurately and quickly without disrupting the roosting areas of the gray and big brown bats.

A Positive Impact

Noninvasive and accurate, PILLAR’s approach using LiDAR and its proprietary Automated Feature Extraction System (AFES) safeguards sensitive ecosystems and wildlife habitats while collecting the required data. This data then helps officials develop environmentally sensitive approaches to infrastructure maintenance planning.

Contact us at info@pillaroma.com or (276) 223-0500 to discuss PILLAR’s mobile LiDAR solutions and how next-generation asset management technology can enhance your next survey project.

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A New Tool for PILLAR Infrastructure Asset Management’s Services

For years, PILLAR has been helping municipalities and departments of transportation manage and inventory infrastructure assets like signs, guardrail footage, mowing acreage, trees, striping, ditches, sewers, overhead utilities, and more.

Now we’ve added a new tool that will enable our clients to manage, visualize and assess underground pipes, sewers and waterways safely and efficiently.

The DeepTrekker 340 L Pipe Crawler is the latest tool in PILLAR’s arsenal, adding another layer of geospatial detail that we are able to capture in addition to Mobile LiDAR and our other capabilities.

Rugged and mobile

The Pipe Crawler is a robotic, remotely guided platform submersible up to 164-feet with tether options up to over 1,300-feet. It is extremely portable, breaking down into two cases, and easily deployed and operated.

A video camera with tilt, pan, and zoom capabilities can be attached to the body of the Pipe Crawler, allowing up-close, internal inspection of pipes to assess their condition and look for potential flaws. PILLAR can integrate the data collected with your organization’s asset management database, and recorded video can be directly uploaded to the asset management software.

The Pipe Crawler runs on batteries, as does the hand-held controller, making it a truly portable option for inspecting underground pipes almost anywhere.

A safer option

With the Pipe Crawler, we can help you get places that wouldn’t be safe or accessible for humans, and we can deploy quickly in emergency situations. We can save you money because you don’t have to wait for contractors or multiple people to inspect a pipe. And we can save you time by starting data collection instantly rather than waiting for jet or pump trucks or dealing with unexpected terrain disruptions.

The Pipe Crawler is a rugged modular system that allows us to customize it for your particular application, with a variety of options for wheels, elevating arms and cameras.

Contact PILLAR today to find out how we can put the Pipe Crawler to work for you.

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Work Smarter by Aggregating and Normalizing Your Asset Data

Technology has made creating a geospatial inventory of transportation assets far more accessible than it used to be. However, this asset data may be accumulated from many different sources and may have been collected using disparate techniques and technology, resulting in data that is formatted differently.

The inability of different systems to talk to each other often means that municipalities and departments of transportation frequently resort to recollecting data they already have because of a siloed department structure. This is costly and limiting.

But PILLAR can solve this problem. We can aggregate and normalize data from many different sources (from paper to pdf to complex databases) and departments, giving your organization far greater flexibility and eliminating the need for costly recollection of data you already have.

Getting started

PILLAR will gather all the data files you have already collected, identify what technology generated the data, then audit it and identify a storage solution for optimal visualization for the end-user. We determine goals and help create visualization tools that provide decision-makers with accessible information at their fingertips.

We will get your data into a format that will allow your organization to analyze your data and compare it to other information sources layering artificial intelligence over top of “Big Data.” The resulting enhanced database will allow you to make more informed decisions based on more complete and interconnected information.

In addition, a point cloud analysis powered by PILLAR AFES (automated feature extraction system) will let you provide asset data across your organization, integrating databases and streamlining processes to cut time and share costs.

We’ll help you create a truly useful geospatial inventory of transportation assets that can help determine your priorities, focusing on getting the best return on investment.

Contact PILLAR today so we can get started aggregating your data.

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Meet the PILLAR Team Online and In-Person at Upcoming Events

Over the next few months, members of the PILLAR team will be “on the road” at various tradeshows and conferences. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn more about the company’s approach to infrastructure asset management and how it can help organizations save time, save money, and save lives.

Our unique approach merges technology with specialist expertise to maximize efforts, justify budgets, and reduce risk thereby delivering greater sustainability and longevity of your transportation assets.

The PILLAR team would love to share more information with you. Make sure to say hello if you see us in person or online at one of these upcoming events.

Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting

Jan. 9-13

Meet the PILLAR team in Washington, DC, for one of the industry’s premier events. This year’s theme directly correlates to what PILLAR can do for you: Innovating an Equitable, Resilient, Sustainable, and Safe Transportation System. We’d love to talk to you on-site. http://www.trb.org/AnnualMeeting/AnnualMeeting.aspx

If you’d like to discuss ways to save time, money, lives, and face (by preventing public outcry in the case of a disaster), contact us to schedule a meeting during one of these events, info@pillaroma.com or (276) 223-0500.

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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 info@pillaroma.com 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 info@pillaroma.com 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.

BE PREPARED WITH PILLAR

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 info@pillaroma.com or (276) 223-0500 to discuss your asset management plans with a PILLAR expert.

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Your Technology Guide for Geospatial Asset Collection

Geospatial technologies increasingly allow engineers and experts to evaluate assets quickly and accurately. Since the Department of Labor introduced geospatial guidelines for professionals in 2010, new methods and approaches have emerged with promising results.

Explore these technologies and their diverse applications below. Learn how advanced firms like PILLAR can help you evaluate assets, collect data, and improve infrastructure with these various geospatial tools.

Static LiDAR

Collecting assets inside buildings, through intersections, on bridges, and on the ground—Static LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) measures and records asset data at a precise, granular level. The efficiency and methodology of Static LiDAR provide increased clarity for more complete and valuable data.

Since the information stored details your assets accurately, Static LiDAR applies best for transportation and construction applications, improving asset insights and decision-making for operations and maintenance planning.

Mobile LiDAR

Mobile LiDAR scans roadways and other infrastructure assets with extreme accuracy and cost-efficiency. With a vehicle traversing highways, roads, and bridges, Mobile LiDAR provides detailed data on elevation, pavement conditions, guardrails, road signs and more:

  • Street and highway conditions
  • Landscape and transit elevation
  • On-the-ground data
  • Bridges, tunnels, slopes, and fences

Transportation and construction managers find great utility in this powerful mapping method, covering up to 50 miles of right-of-way every day.

Aerial Collection

Using planes and helicopters, aerial collection captures exansive plots of land by scanning and storing data without street-level detail.

Helpfully, anyone can access aerial collection data in their state since each makes this information public. While it is less detailed than LiDAR data (which most states do not publish), this format is used across industries:

  • Mining
  • Gas and Oil
  • Agriculture and Forestry
  • Infrastructure and Utilities
  • Emergency and Disaster
  • Construction Sites
  • Corridor Mapping

When you use this broad data in combination with sharp LiDAR collection methods, you’ll benefit from a global and granular assessment of your assets.

Drone Collection

Data on some assets can by difficult to collect. In some cases, data collection would block accessibility to the asset itself, present a safety issue or is simply inaccessible.. Drone collection offers a way for companies to still collect miles of asset data and related functions in the following industries:

  • Mining
  • Gas and Oil
  • Agriculture and Forestry
  • Infrastructure and Utilities
  • Emergency and Disaster

Speed through Asset Collection with PILLAR (and Save)

Committed to client safety and satisfaction, PILLAR provides quick, quality data to infrastructure professionals, by tailoring the data collection solutions and recommendations for public project improvements. Our meticulous approach promises accuracy and efficiency, and our extensive expertise means clients save time and money through our proven asset management process.

Contact PILLAR at info@pillaroma.com or (276) 223-0500 to leverage our advanced technologies and optimize your operations and maintenance plans.