Continuously improving roads is the way to go, according to the Belgian Road Research Centre. This independent institute sets out their own path and recently added digital surveying yourself to their workflow. They do so with our UNI-GR1 digital receiver and we’ve asked Ben Duerinckx and Liliia Pleskach how and why they came to this choice and, more importantly, how digital surveying contributes to their goals for the future.
BRRC for knowledge and research
“The Belgian Road Research Centre is the centre for research for the Belgian road construction industry. We were founded in 1952, by the Belgian road contractors, to promote and coordinate technological progress in road construction through scientific research, innovation, and knowledge sharing”, says Ben Duerinckx. He is the Test Section Coordinator within BRRC and has been with them for almost 18 years. He is responsible for implementing new technologies and translating all practical issues from research to the field through demos and test sections. “BRRC consists of a multidisciplinary team of experts that work together to promote innovation and sustainability in road construction in Belgium. We do so through our own research and development and technical assistance. We share our knowledge through training in our own Belgian Road Academy, conferences, and publications, and by working together with national, European, and international organisations. That usually leads to analyses and research projects that are one-of-a-kind in Europe.”
Liliia Pleskach works with Ben at the Belgian Road Research Centre, she is a GIS analyst within the IT GIS team. “Our goal is to become the main party for road research data and advice in Belgium. To become the go-to institute for Belgian companies and road authorities whenever they require recent and accurate data about (the state of) roads in Belgium. In order to do so, as well as fulfil our current commitments, we needed a solution to digitalize our workflow and implement that into our projects. That’s how we ended up choosing the UNI-GR1 digital receiver from marXact.”
Finding and choosing marXact
Their search started within BRRC itself, deciding on what was needed from the new addition to the current toolbox. Having an open-source solution that was easy-to-use and being able to connect to software that is already being used, were top of the list. Liliia: “I started looking for solutions on Google. I compared receivers and other equipment on accuracy, satellite systems, and other requirements. Our goal was to find something that is ‘open’ and compatible with other systems and external applications we use, such as Mergin Maps and our own BRRC Geoportal. We came into contact with marXact and first had an online meeting and demo, where we learned more about the hard- and software and how they would fit into our workflow. We learned quickly that they met all of our needs, not only on price.”
Integrating centimetre accuracy
Digital surveying centimetre accurate data has become an integral part of BRRC’s workflow. Ben: “We use that information with our own GIS software for various purposes, including digitalizing our (daily) activities, such as indicating test locations on test sections for later use, visual inspections, measuring the density of asphalt pavements, as well as technological support for all companies and individuals in road construction. Let’s take the test sections, for example. We generate accurate data when we construct those and use that same information to find the exact same spot back when we return to that location for monitoring and follow up research.”
“It really helps with our visual inspections, too”, says Liliia. “We can register images of road damages in Mergin Maps app, as well as use the UNI GPS antenna for geolocation – also helpful with the registrations. We use the tablet to enter the surveying data and synchronize the results with our BRRC Geoportal platform. That includes all the detailed information we need, such as value measures and photos.
Within the GIS team, we have created multiple customized forms for our technical teams that allow us to register all needed road-related information. We can determine the position of the measurements and completely customize the customer’s request. It’s all easy-to-use and set up, that’s what I really like!”
“The stakeout functionality is a real game-changer for us. We can find points back easily and can select them on the map. The centimetre accuracy of the equipment really helps with that! It makes the survey much easier, especially when you go back to locations you have been before”, concludes Ben on the new and improved workflow.
Non-traditional use of the UNI
“Although the UNI is commonly used as a rover, we at BRRC use the UNI also in combination with different measuring equipment. The open-source solution the UNI provides is a must-have in these kinds of projects. For example, we connect the GPS antenna to our FFWD (Fast Falling Weight Deflectometer) to assess the structural condition of a road or to our wheelchair in order to assess the comfort of the sidewalks.
This will give us the possibility to register the test results in combination with a geolocation. All the information can be visualised in our Geoportal. As a future road data provider, all this information can be shared with the sector. So for example, road authorities can use this information in their pavement management strategies. Also, various datasets can be provided for research purposes”, Ben explains.
Counting on support
“The support team has been great! We have had some issues before and sent the UNI to Hilversum for a repair, the team has always been transparent and helpful about it. By phone and by email. Besides that, there is a lot of documentation available and we know we can always count on their support”, Liliia says.
Would you like to experience for yourself what Ben and Liliia are talking about? You can request an onsite demo easy and affordable digital surveying right here.