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3D Laser Scanning: New Opportunities for Surveying and Mapping Professionals

Integrating 3D laser scanning technology into traditional surveying is transforming the way surveyors capture, analyze and visualize spatial data. Improvements to hardware and software make scanners easier to use and more cost effective to operate and maintain than ever before. By collecting dense point clouds and color imagery in a fraction of the time, 3D scanning technology is providing value for many applications and generating new business opportunities for surveyors today.

By working with a Trimble X9 3D laser scanning system, surveyors can expedite work in dangerous, remote or highly trafficked areas.

Adding scanning technology to services offered is not just advantageous but essential for staying ahead in today’s competitive landscape. Adopting new scanning hardware and software optimizes workflows and creates opportunities to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Here’s how:

Laser scanning potential

Comprehensive point cloud

3D laser scanning elevates spatial capture to a new level by providing context for the whole environment. Scanning collects millions of data points in a matter of minutes, delivering highly accurate and detailed representations of landscapes, structures, and objects. The comprehensive point cloud adds value by capturing data that may not not have been required in the original scope of work but can improve the deliverables without additional site visits.

Examining the millions of data points in a point cloud using Trimble Perspective software on a Trimble T10x tablet.


Imagine completing in hours what used to take days or even weeks. Laser scanning accelerates data collection, while in-field registration expedites processing in the office, significantly reducing project timelines. Auto calibration ensures accuracy that not only enhances the quality of surveying but also minimizes errors and reduces the need for return visits to the field. Annotations and in-field measurements can be performed while the instrument is scanning, maximizing the user’s time and ultimately leading to cost savings. 

Enhanced safety

Surveyors often navigate challenging terrain or hazardous environments. Laser scanning mitigates risks by extending the scanning range, allowing the operator to distance themselves from a dangerous situation or remove themselves altogether by coupling the scanner with an autonomous or remote controlled device, sometimes called “virtual surveying.”

Time to collect is reduced, which is particularly valuable in dangerous situations like busy roadways, mines, tunnels, etc. This technology ensures a safer working environment while still delivering comprehensive and accurate data.

Trimble X9 3D laser scanning system.


From infrastructure assessments to heritage preservation, 3D laser scanning supports applications across various industries. Its versatility allows professionals to adapt and cater to diverse project requirements, expanding the scope of services offered and opening doors to new opportunities, including  ALTA surveys with scanners, landscaping, and as-builts (e.g., renovation projects on hospitals, hotels, and other large buildings).

Addressing Concerns

Unfamiliar with scanning technology

Surveyors who are accustomed to traditional surveying methods may not have firsthand knowledge of the capabilities and benefits of 3D laser scanning. Educational initiatives, workshops, and accessible resources can bridge this gap. Learning about real-life success stories that demonstrate the technology’s tangible advantages can go a long way toward alleviating concerns. 

Hardware and software learning curve

The prospect of adopting new hardware and software can be daunting. However, with the rapid evolution of user-friendly interfaces and intuitive platforms, the learning curve is becoming less steep. Training programs tailored to familiarize professionals with scanning devices and analysis software are available, enabling a smooth transition to incorporate this technology into existing workflows.

Urban environments can be captured quickly by scanning with a Trimble X12 3D laser scanning system.

Cost of hardware and software

Scanning software is integrated with the hardware for a continuous workflow, and scanning modules can be added to existing software packages, limiting the need for new purchases. Information is easily accessible to all stakeholders through the Trimble Connect database, also improving efficiency and reducing costs.

Compared to 10 years ago, the cost of hardware has dropped significantly while performance has improved dramatically to reach two million points per second.

The Trimble X9 3D laser scanner offers automatic calibration to ensure consistent data quality from scan to scan, while Trimble Perspective software allows users to review scans in real time to detect gaps and correct errors without returning to the site. In-field registration increases data capture confidence and expedites the workflow. The combined impact of these new capabilities is a higher return on investment (ROI) and improved customer service.

The X9 offers automatic calibration to ensure consistent data quality from scan to scan.

Navigating Forward

Scanning technology isn’t just a tool; it's a gateway to innovation, efficiency, and growth into new markets. By understanding its potential and addressing hesitancies head-on through education and training, surveyors can revolutionize their practices, staying at the forefront of their field. The challenges are real, but so are the rewards.

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