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Against the Odds, Forward-Thinking Approach to Surveying Remote Island Garners National Attention

March 21st, 2019


In 2016, DRMP was face-to-face with a challenging project, but providing surveying and mapping services on a remote island while dealing with a very tight deadline proved to be something we could not only tackle, but win an award for as well. In the end, DRMP’s surveying experts’ experience and working knowledge of the latest equipment and technologies was key to making this once-in-a-lifetime project a success.

Ascension Island is a volcanic island located in the South Atlantic Ocean with a population of less than 1,000. It also hosts one of four ground antennas that assist in the operation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) navigational system. The island’s runway and support facilities, built nearly 80 years ago, provide strategic United States and United Kingdom space launch, surveillance and operations and needed a full-depth replacement.

This project required DRMP to provide accurate and thorough surveying and mapping data for design and construction. The crew came up against numerous challenges, which included the island’s remoteness, located between Africa and Brazil and more than 5,000 miles from Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.

The team would have only 14 days to perform all data collection. There was no opportunity to return to collect more data with military flights to the island only being available every two weeks.

Using truck mounted static terrestrial LiDAR scanners, crews scanned over two miles of runway developing a point cloud of data, which allows additional data to be pulled without needing to revisit the project site. While one group employed the LiDAR scanner, another group used a UX5 HP Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), commonly known as a drone, to collect photogrammetry imagery to cover more land beyond the runway. This data combined, produced a detailed, 3-D representation of a design-level topographic map.

With the use of these technologies and techniques, the surveyors created a survey control network expanding beyond the project limits. The sustainable development benefits of the survey data collected assisted with the design and construction of the runway and enhanced the safety and welfare of the public utilizing the facility, but most importantly the US and British Air Forces’ space operations and global transportation missions.  

Our team’s unprecedented work allowed the project to be recognized with both state and national level awards from the American Council of Engineering Companies in the Surveying and Mapping Technology category.

For more information on this project, click here.

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