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  The American Surveyor     

Editorial: Intergeo and Breithaupt Print E-mail
Written by Marc Cheves, PS   
Saturday, 17 November 2012

A 1.239Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

We recently returned from our annual visit to Germany for Intergeo. As the largest show of its kind in the western world--535 exhibitors, 16,000+ attendees from 80 countries--Intergeo provides an opportunity for us to meet with technology-creators and implementors from around the world.

Two years ago there were three UAV companies on exhibit. Last year, the number had grown to eight, but this year there were no less than 17 companies exhibiting some form of unmanned aerial sensors or software to support these devices. Privacy concerns aside, it's clear that photogrammetry will be impacted by unmanned vehicles.

Our European correspondent, Jan Loedeman, is gearing up to attend both SPAR Europe and ELMF. He wrote an excellent recap of last year's events for our LiDAR Magazine. Jan has had a long career in photogrammetry and reasons that photogrammetry has not been replaced by scanning.

Friendships developed over many years make these meetings most pleasant. We met with old friends Bernd Becker and Oliver Bürkler from FARO. Bernd has been elevated to the position of Chief Technology Strategist within FARO and, based on what we saw, new developments are percolating. As a result of a partnership with the University of Stuttgart, on display was a very inexpensive--less than $25K--autonomous ScanBot scanning cart. Full of artificial intelligence, the cart knew not to run into anything, and according to Oliver, could be pre-programed to run thru a building at night. FARO also displayed SCENECT app software for a very inexpensive Kinect gaming console scanner.

Those of you who have seen the movie Prometheus might have marveled, as I did, at the tiny scanning balls they threw into the air when they wanted to explore the caverns. Once stabilized, the devices autonomously flew down the tunnels, scanning as they went and wirelessly reporting back what they had "seen." One of the limiting factors of UAVs is battery life, but I have no doubt that battery technology will improve over time. The sky's the limit for scanning and I'm sure FARO Labs will be at the forefront.

In addition to Intergeo, we also had the distinct pleasure of visiting F.W. Breithaupt & Sohn­the world's oldest instrument manufacturer­in Kassel for its 250th Anniversary Celebration. With the eighth generation of family members running the company, Breithaupt is older than our country!

Prior to 1835, Breithaupt constructed a heliotrope for Carl Friedrich Gauss, who, in 1795, had become the father of the familiar bell curve and the least squares analysis without which our GNSS observations would be impossible. Gauss was working on a project to triangulate the entire kingdom of Hanover (in which Kassel lies), and needed something to aid in long-distance observations. Fred Roeder wrote a fascinating account of Gauss' life which you can find on our website at http://www.amerisurv.com/content/view/6078/

Today the company focuses on super-accurate opto-mechanical, mechatronical and optronical solutions for high precision measurement of angles, planes, and distances. Breithaupt continues with its line-up of niche products aimed at users who want extreme reliability and ease-of-use but not so much electronics (because many of them work where there is no reliable electricity). These include geology and mining, and such things as specialized weather balloon observation instruments.

Hans-Friedrich, the eight generation of Breithaupts to run the company continues in the tradition of invention and ideas--more than a hundred by his estimation--that will capitalize on the company's strengths and reputation for "Fein Mechanik." They will move further into camera-based measuring systems, or the marriage of opto-mechanical with digital photography. Examples include a laser field of view measurement instrument for determining what an automobile driver can see, an electronic alidade, and an electronic quarry measurement system.

On the cover of the beautiful 250th Anniversary book the company created for the event was the German phrase genauer als haargenau, which translates to "more accurate than a hair." To demonstrate that claim, a factory tour allows visitors to pull out a single hair the thickness of which is then measured. Clearly, it can be seen that if the instruments the company builds were only accurate to the thickness of a hair (±50 microns for men, ±35 microns for women), the resulting accuracy of the instrument would plummet.

Given the reaction to our recent article about plane table surveying, one of the Breithaupt instruments I find so interesting is an alidade that doesn't require the operator to stoop over the plane table. And added benefit of the large mounting bracket connecting the observing part of the instrument with the drawing part allows the instrument to be slung over a shoulder while moving from setup to setup.

As I said in my last editorial, we continue to marvel at measurement and positioning technology, but I suspect that, like surveyors, the founder of Breithaupt, Johann Christian, would not be all that surprised at the developments over the past 250 years: the customers Breithaupt has always served are still interested in measuring angles, planes, and distances.

Marc Cheves is the editor of the magazine.

A 1.239Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

 
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