Digital ground work for a sustainable city

How the Leica GS18 I workflow changes utility mapping

Digital ground work for a sustainable city

Jaén, a region in south-central Spain, is renowned for its 555,000 hectares of olive groves dotting rolling hills and towns with varied historic architecture from medieval mosques to Renaissance castles. Beneath narrow stone streets in centuries-old cities and traversing agricultural areas lies a network of water utility lines that are vital to the region yet ageing and in need of updating.

Global water management company, Acciona Agua, and the Regional Government Authorities, Diputación de Jaén, created a joint venture company called Somajasa to serve area residents. They recently began a digital mapping campaign as the first step in a larger €1 million project to modernise the region’s infrastructure, focusing on sustainability.

The project provided an opportunity for Leica Geosystems to propose a field test demonstrating how the new Leica GS18 I with Visual Positioning technology could speed data collection on the way to data-rich geographic information system (GIS) deliverables.

Digital utility mapping to support sustainable water management

Acciona Agua works with regional partners across the globe to design water infrastructure and deliver sustainable water management solutions. Part of fulfilling their company motto, “Business as Unusual,” is a commitment to overcoming water scarcity challenges. Sustainability is more than a buzzword for Acciona – it is a daily focus in the drought-prone areas they serve, including Jaén, where water reserve levels are depleting faster than they are replenished.

Together with Somajasa, a local Jaén water management provider, Acciona delivers services across the water cycle to more than 250,000 inhabitants and supplies an average volume of 31,700 cubic metres of water per day.

Ensuring that water infrastructure is maintained, repaired and upgraded when necessary is crucial. Ageing sanitation and source lines, outdated data and a growing population in the Jaén region prompted Acciona and Somajasa to initiate a digital mapping project that will support utility construction and sustainable water management planning.

Juan Miguel Reca, a technical engineer at Somajasa, explains: “The project we are carrying out with Acciona Agua is for a geographic information system of the sanitation network. It’s about digitising 35 municipalities which we currently manage. We are now collection field data of all the networks.”

Reca provides technical assistance to the sub-contracted teams in the field and partners with Melisa Bruna from Acciona, who oversees the GIS projects. They work together to ensure the field data is accurate before uploading it into the Acciona GIS. The network information is then made available to different stakeholders, including service and construction personnel and administrative decision-makers.

In addition to organising the collection of data for under and above-ground surveys, “Acciona provides the technological infrastructure and technical support necessary to host the GIS, edit the data both in a professional desktop and web environment and share it with other users through maps and applications,” says Bruna.

The data they are collecting includes all utility assets, like pipes, hydrants and manholes, and topography elements like slope inclination. Asset status, year of installation and contractors are also added to provide comprehensive digital information on the network.

However, lacking reliable pre-existing sources, all data needs to be newly acquired. Measuring lines running under narrow streets and through rural areas in trenches presents several challenges to safely survey the assets within the project time frame.

A smart antenna and survey software solution for GIS

David Fernández, a technical expert at Leica Geosystems in Spain, saw the challenging project as an opportunity to demonstrate an end-to-end workflow solution for the utility mapping project.

This solution featured the Leica GS18 I, a new GNSS RTK rover equipped with Visual Positioning technology. In the smart antenna, GNSS, IMU and a camera seamlessly integrate to enable powerful measuring capabilities, allowing users to measure points from images. Both, the imaging and tilt compensation of the GS18 I make it possible to easily record points that are difficult or dangerous to reach.

“Obstacles to surveying the sanitation lines, like needing to measure points in deep trenches or points that don’t have direct view to the sky, made the Jaén project an optimal opportunity to test out this new solution with one of our customers,” says Fernández.

With Leica Captive field software, Fernández showed Reca how to check the data and directly measure points on the controller in the field, ensuring data is accurate and complete to eliminate the need for rework.

“Another goal for the demonstration was to test and explore the benefits of this solution in the office with the team members, using Infinity to combine, process and analyse real data,” explains Fernández. “Essentially, with Infinity, they can better collaborate and, for example, update coordinates in the project for upload into ArcGIS, making the process more straightforward and less manual.”

Bruna adds, “The ideal would be to connect what we already have on our servers with the new data and be able to work with it in the fewest possible steps.”

Already familiar with Leica Geosystems instruments in prior surveying work with Somajasa, including the Leica TS16 total station and the Leica Viva GS16 and GS18 T GNSS smart antennas, Reca was receptive to the proposed field test. Bruna at Acciona was interested in the benefits of the office workflow, and they both agreed to share their impressions after the demonstration.

Proving the perks of the complete workflow

The demonstration was carried out in June 2021 and used the GS18 I to measure a 500-metre length of exposed pipe under construction in southeast Andújar. Part of a 1200-metre sanitation pipeline, this portion was located at a problematic point for stormwater management and had been susceptible to overflows during extreme rainfall.

On-site, Fernández easily set up the GS18 I by connecting the instrument to the Leica CS30 tablet. The CS30’s 7’’ screen and processing power make it ideal for the Visual Positioning job. To ensure a smooth workflow and high accuracy, Fernández connected to the HxGN SmartNet correction service in the GS18 I. After this simple set-up, the duo was ready to visualise and measure points.

Fernández and Reca commenced their survey by walking with the smart antenna along the top of the 5-metre-deep trench at a steady pace with the pole tilted slightly to give the camera a clear line of sight to the pipeline below. As they walked, the GS18 I captured all the data along the pipeline in a few minutes with the survey-grade precision the project required, removing the need to physically reach each point.

The data was then instantly available to view in Captivate, allowing Fernández and Reca to check the accuracy on-site and identify and measure individual points.

“After this demonstration, I believe that with the GS18 I we can improve our data collection times,” observed Reca. “We don’t have to access the trench and we can measure places we couldn’t before because we didn’t have a direct view to the sky and lacked satellite reception. We will be able to skip setting up a total station for those points.”

“The GS18 I can bring us an improvement in safety, and it saves time and adds efficiency to data collection work,” Reca concludes.

Using the cloud service Leica Exchange, Fernández and Reca quickly transferred the field data into Leica Infinity. The fieldwork completed, they returned to the Somajasa office to process and analyse the data in a remote collaboration session with Bruna.

Fernández then demonstrated measuring and checking points from the GS18 I’s images, verifying they were within the required accuracy. They also added the newly acquired data into the larger project utility map and built 3D models of the site.

“For creating and maintaining the Acciona GIS, the main advantage of the Leica Geosystems solution is the workflow,” Bruna noted after the session. “Data collected in the field can be used without intermediate steps thanks to the ability to edit data and upload again from Infinity to the Acciona ArcGIS server. Our traditional workflow is greatly improved, and productivity is increased.”

Bruna also saw value in 3D modelling and the ability to view points that become of interest in retrospect.

“It is interesting to have a 3D model of the project area. The GS18 I enables us to make 3D models very easily and quickly so that anyone can use them. The images and point cloud allow us to take measurements in the office even long after the trench has been closed. For example, we have a clear record that the pipes have been laid or serviced correctly,” says Bruna.

After the demonstration, both Reca and Bruna agreed that incorporating the GS18 I and survey software into the project would be beneficial across the workflow, advancing them towards a current, complete GIS of Jaén’s utilities and ensuring the historic region can build modern water management infrastructure.

Interested to see how the GS18 I field data is analysed and explored in our office software Leica Infinity? Our product expert Martina Di Rita digs deeper in to the captured data and works directly in Esri ArcGIS to make the data available. Watch the recording here.

Walk through the real data from the utility site in Spain with our product expert and learn how to work with the captured data in the office