When people hear that my role in NATS is to lead the Survey and Drawing Services (S&DS) team they often think I sit at a desk drawing things every day. But in truth, what the team and I do is much more varied and exciting.

Using our skills coupled with state of the art equipment we can create 3-D, photo-realistic models to enable ‘fly-through’ visualisations in support of engineering and design work. And our work is not just confined to the office, we often find ourselves in unusual remote locations or 30 metres above the ground in a cherry picker to check for line of sight between microwave dishes!

Point Cloud Model Reduces Risks and Costs

Over the past few years, computer-aided design (CAD) and surveying technologies have evolved to allow the collection and manipulation of large amounts of survey information into extremely accurate and valuable representations of the physical world.

The technology offers many benefits to our customers and us, for example avoiding multiple site visits  and reducing risk to service as well as saving money. The use of laser-scanning techniques allows large physical areas such as airports to be rapidly scanned into a ‘point-cloud’ model consisting of millions of three-dimensional points within millimetre accuracy. Using CAD skills, the processed point cloud can then be developed into a full colour 3D, geo-referenced CAD model, negating the requirement to physically visit the location each time information is needed.

We have already used 3D point-cloud technology to survey and model several major airports with each survey taking under two weeks on-site. The data produced is akin to actually being there, with dimensions and other data being easily extracted.

This 3D CAD output has a multitude of uses in a range of areas, for both NATS use and for external clients. Producing accurate airport models, for example, provides valuable information; from precision graphics for simulation purposes to highly accurate surfaces for nav-aid analysis and radio coverage mapping.

Diverse Project Support

Our specialist skills and hi-tech equipment are put to a multitude of uses in the support of NATS projects providing precision surveys, CAD engineering design/modelling and visualisations.

One week we could find ourselves standing on the roof of a control-tower, the next we could be on a mountain top in a blizzard and the following, dodging aircraft movements on a runway (safely of course!) Only last year, a NATS engineer called on us for urgent assistance when a team of contractors could not gain a visual fix between two distant towers. We were on-site within hours and using our GPS and robotic-laser theodolite we were able to visually pin point the opposing tower to confirm there was indeed line of sight between the two objects. This confirmation enabled the project to dispense with the requirement for a costly landline!

Whether we are sitting behind a desk or up in a cherry picker, our services assist during the whole lifecycle of projects from the generation of the initial survey data through design drawing and visualisation on to supporting asset sustainment and eventually disposal, driving project efficiency up and costs down in so doing.

Some images of the team in action:


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