American Engineers, Inc. (AEI) is a full-service surveying and mapping firm established more than thirty-five years ago headquartered in Glasgow, Kentucky with 2 additional locations in Kentucky (Louisville and Owensboro) and one in Georgia. AEI is committed to staying ahead of the technology wave and has added RIEGL LiDAR to complement their traditional boundary, topographic, and land title survey capabilities. They are confident in the level of accuracy RIEGL LiDAR provides and that translates from their surveyors to their engineers and ultimately to the quality of the designs they deliver.
They offer more diverse surveying capabilities and services than many other Small Business Administration (SBA) classified small businesses their size. Surveying, high-definition scanning, and utility location services are the backbone of the AEI geospatial services offices. Their surveys are completed to support their in-house design services, work of other A/E firms, contractors, Federal and State agencies, utilities, and developers. They invest in the most advanced technology and the most qualified people. The AEI team includes over one hundred topflight engineers and professionals who undergo continuous training to accomplish even the most complex tasks. They bring an arsenal of experience to develop sensible solutions to the toughest problems faced by their customers.
AEI’s marketplace is in transportation (roadways, complete streets, and airports), geotechnical, bridge and structural, site design, environmental, and geospatial. They provide the most commonly requested A/E services typically required on a design project including surveying. AEI is looking forward to continued growth in the marketplace and is always open to new possibilities. Their world class teams are furnished with the most cutting-edge tools to ensure quality, accuracy, and professionalism in everything that they do. The staff is proficient in the use of total stations, they operate their own UAV, and use their Beechcraft Baron B-58 twin engine aircraft to mobilize the required staff and expertise quickly to serve any project.
AEI currently utilizes a RIEGL VZ-400 terrestrial laser scanner as the LiDAR unit in their “survey tool box”. When asked why RIEGL was chosen as their LiDAR provider, Justin Richardson, Geospatial Technologies Manager at AEI, was able to provide some unique insight as to why: “RIEGL and AEI have similar histories and cultures. Both organizations have been honing their craft for more than 30 years, are compelled towards innovation, and are motivated to exceed customer expectations. We chose a RIEGL VZ-400 3D laser scanner because of the accuracy it displays, the ease and flexibility of collection methods, and its versatility to mount between a tripod and the Certainty 3D TopoLift.”
AEI prides themselves on being technology “geeks” and prior to their acquisition of the RIEGL VZ-400, LiDAR was the only tool missing from their repertoire. AEI, on the whole, is driven by what their clients need and want and RIEGL LiDAR allows them to collect data faster, more safely in certain situations and conditions, and with higher accuracy when it is needed. With the RIEGL VZ-400, AEI has a tool that can fit their customer’s needs and can use the LiDAR data to provide an accurate point cloud or linework extraction based off of the point cloud collected with the scanner. It is not uncommon for clients to ask for more data after surveys are complete and since RIEGL LiDAR captures the full spectrum of data, AEI can be responsive to their client’s requests without needing to send a survey crew back out into the field, costing additional time and money to all parties involved.
AEI uses their RIEGL VZ-400 for a multitude of applications such as as-built surveys, roadway, runway and taxiway designs, site design for commercial and industrial properties, quarry mapping, and crack monitoring. Originally starting out by using the scanner for surveys for transportation projects, AEI is exploring more Building Information Modeling (BIM) and point cloud integration applications to expand their capabilities in the Federal sector, in particular. Richardson stated, “Data collection is the most enjoyable part of working with LiDAR. Our projects run the gamut from roadways to airports, industrial developments to churches, airports to flood control dams. It is fun to visit the variety of project sites and interact directly with clients. They are all impressed with the level of detail and precision that LiDAR provides and appreciate the cost savings that can be achieved through easier accessibility and reduced cycle time.”
A fascinating project recently completed by AEI was a 100 year old bourbon distillery that was able to be captured by the RIEGL VZ-400 in real-time with a 360° 3D scan. The structural engineers at AEI needed an accurate picture of the location of fermenter tanks, piping, brackets, and other potential obstructions they needed to avoid in their design work and the point clouds created from the scan data fit the bill for their needs. Richardson’s personal favourite project is terrestrial LiDAR scanning for the Hidden River Cave in Horse Cave, Kentucky. Richardson grew up in the area and always wanted to explore beyond what the public had been granted access to. This project gave him the opportunity to delve further into the cave and to provide an accurate model for the engineers at AEI and consultants to work up designs for future tourist attractions inside of the cave and new developments topside.
Hidden River Cave Project
AEI has considerable geotechnical resources experienced in South Central Kentucky karst topography, characterized by underground drainage systems with caves and sinkholes. AEI’s Hidden River Cave client in Horse Cave, Kentucky, had a quick-turnaround need for a significant amount of cave data to support future design projects and in this case specifically, to have AEI’s structural staff design a swinging bridge throughout the cave. In response, AEI provided terrestrial LiDAR scanning services, traversing deep into the cave to provide an accurate LiDAR point cloud model of the cave system.
The RIEGL VZ-400 3D terrestrial laser scanner, in addition to a Trimble S6 Total Station and Trimble R10 GPS unit, was used to carry out this project. The R10 was also used to stake out key points on the surface for potential drilling locations. The scanned LiDAR data collected provided an accurate and geo-located point cloud model for the staff to design the bridge in the cave. The engineers and designers were provided the point cloud along with a Topo showing contours so they could assess the data and make design recommendations off the scan data.
The ruggedness and durability of the scanner came into play on this project, as the site to be scanned was quite challenging with steep terrain, mud banks, massive and slippery rocks to climb over, and a river running through the cave. “The Hidden River Cave has a massive, 140-FT plateau mud bank that was so slippery you could barely stand on it. That is probably the coolest thing I have been able to scan with LiDAR.” said Richardson. The safety of the surveyors was always top priority to AEI so the VZ-400 was used to both collect the data safely, as well as meet the client’s expectations and deadline.
This project is one of many of the unique projects that AEI loves to do, showcasing that they love a challenge and will welcome any sort of project requiring terrestrial LiDAR scanning.