Leica BLK ARC is a series of reality capture, laser scanning, and photogrammetry hardware and software.
CES 2022 Innovation Award
CES 2022 is an influential technology event. It took place from Jan. 5-8 in Las Vegas, NV and digitally. Leica’s inclusion in the 2022 CES Innovation Awards (in the category of Robotics) marks the product line’s fifth appearance since 2017 in the annual awards program. This year’s CES Innovation Awards program received a record high number of over 1,800 submissions. For the 2022 awards, the Leica BLK ARC was named a CES Best of Innovation Award Winner. This is a significant feat, as the jury fully consists of people from outside the geospatial, building and construction world.
The Leica BLK ARC is an autonomous laser scanning module for robotics applications. It provides images and 3D data of areas that are difficult or dangerous for humans to reach. Professionals of all sorts attach the BLK ARC to a robotic carrier to capture data. Its datasets find their way into 3D models, digital twins and real-world situations. For example, some areas include automotive plants, bridges and infrastructure, man-made or natural disaster sites, and movie location sets. Its speed, accuracy and flexibility provides fully autonomous mobile LiDAR scanning and helps improve robotic navigation. “We’re are humbled by the recognition for the BLK ARC’s win across the evaluation criteria in design, innovation and engineering,” said Burkhard Boeckem, CTO, Hexagon. “We have been showing the entire BLK series at the event and presented our autonomous reality capture technologies.”
Autonomous Reality Capture
Valentina Albano is senior product engineer at Leica Geosystems. “In a market situation of a constant increasing need to maximize productivity and optimize repetitive tasks, with BLK ARC we look forward to bringing Autonomous Reality Capture to many different applications. There, a new level of autonomy will help users to eliminate extra works. They will end up using downtime more efficiently and also, remove human intervention in dangerous areas.”
Here she explains some of the workings of the BLK ARC: “When we describe the BLK ARC we use three words. These are: autonomous, versatile, and safe. The BLK ARC module is autonomous because it enables improved robotic navigation by exploiting our GrandSLAM technology. This is based on LiDAR SLAM, visual SLAM, and an IMU. Just like the Leica BLK2GO, the BLK ARC uses SLAM, Simultaneous Localization and Mapping. Herewith it positions, orients, and therefore navigates itself through 3D space. Also, it captures images and dimensionally accurate point clouds in real-time.”
“In addition,” Albano continues, “The BLK ARC leverages the SLAM features in order to provide enhancements to the robot navigation. Spot Robot uses its close-range perception system to walk spaces and to overcome obstacles on its path. BLK ARC extends the robot capability of avoiding obstacles. With real-time scanning it enhances the navigation accuracy in larger and more challenging environments. Therefore, users don’t need additional payloads to make navigation more robust and reliable. And with GrandSLAM they can make laser scanning and mission decisions in a faster and easier way.”
“The versatile aspect refers to offline mission planning and two different scanning modes, static and mobile, within the same mission.” Valentina Albano explains that the offline mission planning enables users to create a scan path for the BLK ARC. It remotely uses existing drawings, CAD models, or BIM models of a building. It can receive a mission in order to be automatically repeated. Then, there’s no need for qualified workers on-site, thus removing human intervention. “In case of major changes on-site, such as construction progress, you can use the existing BIM model to modify and adapt the scan path without going back to the field.” BLK ARC can complete both static scans, similar to tripod-based scanning, and mobile scans, similar to the handheld BLK2GO, during the same scan mission. GrandSLAM automatically enables the registration of static scans in the same coordinate system as mobile scans.
The safe aspect of BLK ARC refers to the removal of the need for humans to be present on difficult or dangerous sites. For specific applications, such as scanning hazardous or complex areas for uses like fire investigation or power plant scanning, this allows the user to remain in a safe location while BLK ARC and the robot scan the site. Albano concludes: “The BLK ARC also includes a pair of protection bars to protect the hardware itself against physical damages that could happen because of unpredictable or sudden activity in close proximity to the robot. There are integrated protection bars in the mounting plate with a simple and sleek design. Moreover, all the components of the BLK ARC system are arranged for transportation in a dedicated backpack.”