User conference re-energises surveying professionals

July 14th, 2014, Published in Articles: PositionIT


The Optron User Conference, held on 30 June 2014 at the Clocktower Centre in Cape Town, showcased the latest advances in positioning technologies to 150 representatives from the surveying industry. Optron managing director, Trevor Venter, urged the delegates to assess the technology on offer and establish how it can be used to make them more productive in their role as geospatial practitioners. He called on the delegates to move beyond their traditional role of data collectors and verifiers, and start becoming analysers of data.


Trevor Venter, Morne du Plessis, Henk Greef, and Charles Meyer

Continuing with this theme, the keynote speaker, former Springbok great Morne du Plessis, pointed out the need to be analytical in one’s life. Drawing on experiences from his successful rugby career and captaincy, Du Plessis said that while winning was important it was not everything. He cited the example of Chris Burger who lost his life while playing rugby and explained how he, along with his team mates, established the Chris Burger fund to assist seriously injured rugby players. This led to Du Plessis’ involvement in making rugby safer and the subsequent establishment, with Tim Noakes, of the world renowned Sports Science Institute of South Africa.

Du Plessis said that while winning is important, other factors need to be prioritised too. He emphasised that it is important to have high standards, to work sustainably, to have fun, to make a profit, and to change people’s lives. In line with this, he added that it is sometimes necessary to take a step back and look at our lives and our businesses, and breathe new life into them.

The user conference provided the delegates with ample opportunity to  re-vitalise their geospatial skills and offerings. The programme was divided into five streams with an array of interesting presentations covering topics such as using ground penetrating radar and GPS for locating and mapping underground utilities; the latest GNSS developments and their impact on data collection; Trimble Insphere, a cloud solution for surveying and mapping data, and equipment management; deformation monitoring solutions for monitoring man-made structures; construction project monitoring with VisionLink; using imaging total stations, imaging rovers and unmanned aircraft systems for digital imagery and geospatial data collection; and Trimble Business Centre, the complete survey office software package.

The highlight of the conference was a presentation by Hilton Treves from FuseFx who spoke about how he makes use of lidar scanning with the Trimble TX5 for on-set surveying. He said that using lidar makes 3D camera tracking easier and more accurate, and the resulting point cloud makes re-creating a location as a digital asset much easier for live action. The technology enables his team to digitally revisit locations; to set-up accurate camera angles and focal lengths on the computer prior to shooting; to create 100% accurate animated storyboards based on an actual location; to merge 3D computer generated characters in live-action photography; to use geographically referenced and aligned models to track the sun’s position throughout the day; and to simulate the behaviour of natural phenomena e.g. wind, water, fire in the real world. Treves concluded his talk by saying that lidar scanning is not a panacea and must be used with caution – planning and understanding the needs of the movie production being critical for its effective use.

Another interesting presentation was a case study by Eskom’s Sanjeev Hirachund who spoke about power line measurement using the Trimble MX2 mobile spatial imaging system. He explained how Eskom was using the system for measuring power line conductor clearance, modelling of crossings for the design of new lines, modelling of towers, surveys of substation infrastructure and for the design of substation extensions. Hirachund expressed his satisfaction with the system saying that  turnaround times are five times faster, but emphasised that field recces need to be conducted prior to the field survey to establish the extent of access and to identify any unforeseen hazards that  may have a negative impact on the survey. The day closed with a cocktail party on board the Sea Princess luxury catamaran where delegates made the most of the opportunity to network with colleagues from around the country.

More photos from the Optron User Conference can be viewed in the photo gallery:  Click here

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