3D Surveying - What is it?

Table of Contents

Why 3D Surveying?

In addition to the BIM and digital twin services, we offer the link between them: 3D surveying. With the help of 3D surveying, it is possible to create a digital twin in the first place. The three-dimensional nature of the survey makes many things possible that are not possible with a conventional survey – fast and accurate recording of all objects. It is often advantageous to capture a complete situation at a specific time and return to it at another point in time. There, any captured information can be easily viewed and retrieved. With the help of laser scanners, it is possible to create point clouds and thus easily interpret the situation even as an outsider.

What is a 3D Survey?

3D surveying is a combination of different technologies and represents a revolutionary methodology for surveying. In contrast to conventional surveying, the three-dimensional variant can capture spaces as actual spaces and thus create a more real experience. With the help of various technologies and instruments, it is possible to accurately measure small as well as large buildings. The size does not matter as long as it has been included in the planning beforehand. Besides buildings, other objects such as ships or construction sites can of course also be scanned. At DiConneX, we specialize in the digitization of buildings and technical facilities and offer you a true-to-scale and state-of-the-art 3D model of your facility.
Apart from that, the 3D survey also forms the basis for the digital twin and, is an important part of the As-Built Documentation. Using modern mobile mapping technologies and our model standards, we create a fully functional 3D model. The model can be opened and used in any browser and can thus be used regardless of location.

How Does 3D Surveying Work?

Depending on what kind of project it is and what result is to be achieved, there are different measuring methods with different measuring tools.
A total station is equipped with an angle measuring system and an electro-optical range finder. These two components provide a spatial and polar point survey. The special feature is that the direction and the distance can be measured in one step. In addition, the horizontal distance, as well as the height difference between the total station and the target object, are measured. With the help of this tool, it is, therefore, possible to obtain three-dimensional images of the object. At DiConneX, we use the total station to record control points and slam anchors, for example, but the total station is not suitable for creating point clouds.
Another tool is the terrestrial laser scan (TLS). This is stationary and emits laser beams from its position to all surrounding directions. Distances, as well as angles, are measured. An integrated rotating mirror directs the lasers from the device onto the object and back again. Apart from the mirror, the entire laser scanner also rotates 180 degrees so that the object can be captured completely and without gaps. For an even more precise capture, it is possible to have the laser scan from several points within the object. With the help of the terrestrial laser scan and the resulting 3D model, point clouds with all information about volume, masses, and distances can be created.
Surveying that is not done on-site? This is possible with photogrammetry. This method surveys with the help of images without being directly on-site at the object. From the images, information is extracted that reveals the 3D shape of the object. However, this is not usually done with standard cameras, but with special measuring cameras. By taking many pictures including intersection points, it is then possible to calculate the data of the object.
We have already introduced terrestrial laser scanning. Airborne laser scanning (ALS) offers a kind of extension. The same technology is attached to a flying object, for example, a drone, and the object is measured from the air. The drone then flies over the entire area in strips and with deliberate overlaps. This is called “light detection and ranging” (LiDAR).
Mobile mapping makes it possible to measure an object on the ground. Different methods and tools are usually used for outdoor and indoor areas. Outdoors, cars are usually the best choice, while indoors, narrower solutions are often needed. Backpacks or trolleys are used for this purpose. Mobile mapping is used for planning, documentation, and surveying within the BIM method. An example of a mobile mapping system is the M6 Trolley from NavVis, which, in addition to 3D laser scanners, also has high-resolution cameras. This makes it possible to make a 360-degree image of the object in addition to a point cloud.

Need a Reference?

Click here for the As-Built Documentation of Viega World.

Examples of a 3D Survey

There are many examples of a successful 3D survey, because 3D surveying lays the foundation for creating a digital twin, for example. Therefore, you can see the 3D survey of the research vessel “Polarstern” here. Here it is easy to see what a digital twin can look like, thanks to a 3D survey. Thanks to the 360-degree images and the point cloud behind them, it is possible to walk virtually through the model and retrieve huge amounts of information. In this video, you can see how the Mobile Mapping Trolley is set up and how the digital twin can be created.

Processes of 3D Surveying

To digitally measure a building and to be able to use it practically afterward, five consecutive steps are required. We have individual adaptations for the different projects – regardless of whether it is the creation of a digital twin or the setting of control points.
To create an individual strategy for your project, we examine the general plans and obtain further information about the project. This first step also includes making appointments and the associated accessibility to the object.
The Level of Detail (LoD) determines the accuracy of the survey and thus, also influences the use of the right tools. You can decide what exactly your goal of the 3D surveying is, and together we will advise you on the required LoD. This ensures that you get exactly what you want and not more or less.
The survey of the object takes place “on-site”. This means that we will be on-site to measure the desired property. After all framework conditions and requirements are set, we can get started and measure your property. The pre-arranged tools will be used based on the LoD and through this precise pre-arrangement, we can carry out the 3D survey in a time-efficient manner. This ensures that the 3D survey is faster than traditional surveying methods.
The opposite of on-site is “off-site”. We process the data that we have collected on-site into your desired product off-site. This can be either the point cloud, the digital twin, or a BIM model. We carefully prepare the data for you on our workstations and process them according to your ideas.
After the data processing, these are refined and tailored according to your wishes. Afterward, of course, they are handed over to you. You can now use the data for BIM modeling, for the digital twin, or your documentation.

What are the Advantages of 3D Surveying?

Defect management

With 3D surveying and a BIM model, it is possible to locate defects within the property and rectify them precisely.


The detailed recording of various properties offers more transparency to all parties involved. It does not matter whether it is a building site documentation or the digital twin.


The 3D model is produced faster than with conventional surveying techniques, and working afterwards can be made more efficient, thanks to an accurate model.


With a precise survey of your inventory, you have an overview of your properties and can view them without being on site.

How Can I Start With a 3D Survey?

In the beginning, you should be aware of your motivation and goals. What exactly do you want to have a 3D survey of your building done for? What do you want to achieve with it? With clear goals, it is easier to pinpoint which product is best for you. We would be happy to advise you on your goals and offer you various options for achieving them. After you have made your decision, you can simply make an appointment with us, in which we will clarify all the details together.

For whom is the 3D Survey suitable?

For Facility Managers and Real Estate Operators, 3D surveying offers an ideal solution for inventory recording. Here, too, the acquisition is a basic building block for the creation of a networked digital twin.
Documentation and transparency are of great importance for builders and investors. They want to carry out a comparison of the current state with the planning. Problems can be identified and rectified and, if necessary, the planning can be revised later. In addition, the AS-Built documentation is the basis for transferring the data to the operator and for facility management. Builders and investors can benefit from 3D surveying, as it has made planning a project much easier. This is due to the current and holistic data of the point clouds and the digital twin.
The foundation for a construction site documentation (AS Built documentation) or the digital twin is provided by the 3D survey. This makes it possible to ensure more transparency on the construction site as well as in the operations.
The ultra-modern and versatile surveying instruments make it possible to cover very large areas. Therefore, 3D surveying is also suitable for large industrial plants. A digital twin can then be created with the collected data, which simplifies the maintenance and management of the systems.
Having a precise overview of all properties is essential for their owners. Because they have to make decisions for the property and can view details from home, thanks to the 3D survey.

What are the Advantages of a 3D Survey?

Granting access

People who are connected to the building can be given access authorization. This way, everyone can find and access the information directly when they need it.

Exact Classification

The information can be classified precisely in terms of space and time. This creates a clear structure.


Various forms of data can be stored in the model, such as written documents, audio or video notes, photos, etc.


For international projects, the documents can be stored in several languages so that everyone can understand the information.

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