Software Adapted As Needs Arose
When the Bureau of Economic Geology scientists first
began using the Optech commercial LIDAR system there was a great
deal of software development associated with the system. However,
the Bureau of Economic Geology has been instrumental in the software's
Every six months or so the company that builds the
software, InnovMetric, has upgraded parts of the system based on
user needs identified by the geologists in the field.
"Although LIDAR technology has been around, there
are many exciting applications," said the BEG's David Jennette.
"The LIDAR tool was primarily designed for civil and mechanical
engineers to capture large, complex facilities. We are adapting
it for geological situations. For instance, horizons are easily
interpreted with the InnovMetric software."
Scientists are taking "this rich set of XYZ data"
and modifying the computer framework so it can be ported into geologic
"That's the area where the BEG has worked the hardest,"
Jennette said, "to try and combine the rock data both in terms of
intensity and surface information and draping digital photographs
to produce detailed models and bring all that information into a
geological modeling package like GOCAD."
GOCAD is a 3-D modeling software package that serves
as an integration environment. It is designed for modeling detailed
geologic rock properties in 3-D space, but it provides the ability
to involve other kinds of data volumes like seismic when building
the geologic model.
"The scans provide what approaches an irregular 3-D
seismic line based on the outcrop data," he continued. "This is
done by taking the 3-D point cloud and interpolating the intensity
values to make a surface of texture that is draped on the model."
Digital photographs also can be draped on the model
as a texture, producing the ultimate visual experience.
"I used to work in a major oil company research facility
and we had a mantra -- increase precision, increase accuracy and
decrease interpretation cycle time," Jennette said. "That was our
research mission. This tool continues that philosophy and allows
us to bring incredibly accurate 3-D outcrop imagery into a 3-D geologic
model very quickly."
Instead of months of arduous digitizing of a photograph,
for example, scientists can begin assimilating outcrop data in a
matter of a few weeks.
"That's a significant time reduction," he said. "But
more importantly, the accuracy is profound."
Instead of companies storing everything as photo
pans or sketches, this tool now allows interpreters to call up an
outcrop and actually navigate around the outcrop with a whole front
end window dressing of description of such elements at grain size
and lithofacies types.
"In a desktop environment people can be so much more
in tune with rock analogs at their fingertips," Jennette said.
-- KATHY SHIRLEY