By Marsha Cohen
As the demand for dredging remediation and land reclamation activities is growing on a global level ways to optimize these operations are more in demand than ever before. The optimization of dredging operations by using real-time 3D software is an important addition to the arsenal of tools for these projects.
In July 2016 VEIT one of the Midwest’s leading specialty contracting and waste management companies found itself in need of 3D software visualization in an upcoming dredging project on Superior Bay in Duluth Minnesota. Headquartered in Rogers Minnesota VEIT serves general contractors customers in private industry municipalities and local governments. Its services include: earthwork foundations demolition utilities industrial cleaning hydraulic dredging commercial diving solid waste disposal material recovery and roll-off containers.
VEIT is a long-time user of Trimble but was in need of a more visual 3D solution dedicated to dredging. Using a bucket solution in the past VEIT wanted to try a clamshell-type dredging bucket for future work. The company was looking for a system that would represent the clamshell’s position and progress in real-time.
The solution that VEIT found was the 3D dredging software from EIVA a/s a Danish based company with a North American partner and distributor OARS-HPSG located in Austin Texas. The software known as NaviSuite Uca is a solution dedicated to dredging operations allowing for full integration with the Trimble GCS900™ Grade Control System for excavators and it provided all the functionalities VEIT needed. Although prior to the VEIT project at Superior Bay NaviSuite Uca did not support clamshell bucket types EIVA already had a proven track record with Trimble GCS900 bucket operations. “As a result” according to EIVA’s Global Sales Director J. M. Nielsen “the integration to support a clamshell was a natural progression.”
Nielsen elaborates: “Many dredging contractors are still using simple 2D software or no software at all on the dredge equipment and as a result important information is lost. For instance information about where the bucket or clamshell is being placed and the update of the theoretical removal of sediments compared to the design model. Often the challenge for the operator is to know where the bucket went into the water last and where the material was removed at the seabed.”
Move from 2D to 3D Display
In an effort to overcome these challenges VEIT was looking for a way to optimize its dredging operations through better visualization for its excavator operator since the simple 2D display did not allow for any display customization. For this dredging job a 2D display was not good enough. The data gathered on the 2D system was considered “dirty” because of the low resolution of the terrain model caused by memory restrictions in the control box inside the excavator cab. VEIT was in need of a system that allowed them a good overview of the real-time dredging operation. With the simple 2D display the operator’s view was limited as it does not allow for multiple views of the operation in a customizable display view. Additionally the processing time of their daily progress reports was an area that warranted improvement.
All that said keeping the existing Trimble GCS900™ Grade Control System which VEIT already had purchased and installed on its excavator was a priority.
“VEIT was looking for a solution that could handle large data sets be integrated with the Trimble GCS900 would show 3D real-time visualization of the material being removed had customizable mapping color and visualization and cleaner mapping data than its current 2D view had clamshell supported guidance and mapping and could supply faster daily progress reports” Nielsen said.
EIVA’s 3D dredging software solved these problems. Previously operators had limited views of what was going on below the water surface. They could see the current position of the bucket and the planned depth displayed as a line but they had no clue as to what the dredged surface was. The result was that there were areas left behind (above grade) or missed altogether. This would cause expensive re-mobilization efforts and lost time due to re-dredge.
These issues were resolved with the EIVA NaviSuite Uca software. In addition to viewing the dredged surface as digital terrain models in real-time as the work is being done operators can now export the Digital Terrain Model (DTM) as progress reports to the office while on the job.
One unexpected challenge did arise: The 3D visualization demanded more data power and a larger display than they were using. This issue was fixed by installing a stronger computer connected directly to the serial output from the Trimble CB460 control box. The computer was placed out of the way of the operator’s area and connected to a large rugged display placed in the right side of the cabin. This placement allowed the operator to view the operation in 3D and still having a clear unobstructed view of the work area.
As the project progressed condition surveys confirmed that the depths from the calculated NaviSuite Uca surface agreed with the sounding data collected by the survey crew at bi-weekly intervals. These condition surfaces could be loaded into NaviSuite Uca and the progress of the project over time can be seen using the 4D feature for Digital Terrain Modeling (DTM) comparison.
After installation of the system the operator was able to know exactly where the bucket should go each time since the software would map and visualize as soon as the bucket was breaking the seabed surface. This eliminated the risk of placing the bucket in the same position twice or missing a spot. By using a Windows based PC instead of the control box with limited memory the operator could use the Multi-beam progress surveys as the dredge surface that would be updated as the job went on.
Nielsen said “Using this software helped VEIT improve the dredging operation by about 20 percent overall compared to previous similar operations it had performed when simply using 2D visualization within the control box.”
The other challenge VEIT was experiencing was the time it took to prepare a progress report. These reports were typically prepared after each condition survey during dredging operations. Because these condition surveys were done infrequently throughout the project it was difficult for VEIT to estimate when it would finish an operation. Ideally VEIT was looking for a solution that could provide a daily progress report of the operation and have this be suitable at the end of the dredging as documentation for the end-client. Because EIVA NaviSuite Uca significantly reduced the time needed for reporting VEIT could monitor the job’s progress more frequently and make better estimates on budget equipment needs and personnel schedules.
The EIVA NaviSuite Uca 3D dredging software offered the possibility for instant mapping compared to the digital terrain model (DTM) from the pre-survey condition surveys and the design grade. The different color shading of the DTM showed clearly the amount of material above the design allowing the operator to know when the target depth is met while also staying within paid over-dredge depths.
By using faster reporting techniques VEIT began generating daily volume reports to show how much material had been removed and how much material was remaining. Previously using their old methods these types of volume calculation took hours. By using the same software suite to log the machine data – and report the volumes – the time needed to generate the final progress report for the end-client was reduced to 30 minutes.
Another advantage that helped the project manager at VEIT to optimize its operation was the possibility to follow the real-time dredging work via the Trimble Connected Site or TeamViewer functionality where the operation could be monitored from a remote location. The software was constantly making a comparison between the surveyed surface and the design grade. The result is a significant increase in dredging performance and bottom line savings impacting the time needed for the barge spread and the excavator but also the time needed for the land support equipment excavator trucking dumpsite equipment and other operations. GPS/Surveyor Technician at Veit Britton Lawson summed it up saying “NaviSuite Uca has been a great tool for our operators to use during dredging operations with 3D mapping visualization. In addition it has streamlined our post-processing of quantity data in the office.”
Looking to the future Nielsen predicts that “As the dredging remediation and reclamation markets continue to grow and the demands from the dredging operators start to shape the software products and deliverables requested by the end-clients multiple software companies should be expected to begin to support 3D features in place of their current 2D displays.
“The next logical step for EIVA” he said “is to develop similar 3D dredging software for all current popular dredging equipment including cutter suction heads on excavators and swinging ladders. For more difficult areas where sediments can slide or where high currents transport material that cannot be estimated by machine data alone additional integrations of Multi-beam or 3D scanning sonars to update the dredge surface in real-time will clearly provide solutions.”