An enjoyment of the time spent outside working on a diverse array of projects paired with a fascination with the possibilities offered by LiDAR technology unites Patrick Crawford and Scott Confer. As part of Shafer, Kline & Warren’s (SKW) LiDAR team, the two have traversed the country, scanning everything from street intersections, movie theaters and 200-year-old buildings to chemical plants, pipelines and pipeline facilities.
Confer joined SKW in 1988 and Crawford was hired in 2006. Both began as drafting technicians and worked their way up, learning about LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scanning and its applications in surveying and design as part of their progression at SKW.
“I didn’t even know what LiDAR was in 2004,” says Confer, who drafted by hand when he began at SKW. “It captures such detailed data – billions of points. The real challenge is getting that information out and into a useable format in CAD without losing that accuracy.”
After training at the Leica Geosystems manufacturing facility in San Ramon, California, Confer says the new technology required hours of practice, including scanning Kansas City’s Union Station and other sites as test cases. Since that time, Confer and Crawford have completed numerous scan projects, including some surprising applications and one that led Confer to serve as an expert witness.
For a 2006 project, Confer surveyed the iconic Kansas City Power and Light building. Measurements of every floor, from the basement to the lantern had to be verified, and the work was done with a combination of traditional survey and LiDAR.
“It was a fun project,” says Confer, a licensed surveyor in three states. “We had the master keys in our possession and no space was off limits. The lantern at the top of the building was stunning. We were able to look out over the entire city. It was incredible!”
Crawford’s work with LiDAR began in the office on the post-processing side after SKW’s field crews had obtained the data. Then, when SKW was in need of staff to scan pipeline projects, he volunteered to learn.
“You learn something new and then you see all the possibilities,” says Crawford. “With scanning, I learned how much data you can get and how much detail, and wondered, ‘why aren’t we scanning everything?’”
One of the projects that stands out to Crawford involved scanning seven sites as part of an interstate pipeline reversal project, all during an eight-day road trip. With careful planning, Crawford obtained the data needed from all the sites, ranging from a one-acre launcher-receiver facility to a compressor station facility that spanned more than 100 acres, without needing to revisit a single site.
For Crawford and Confer, the demands of the job keep them busy, but each finds ways to enjoy their time away from the scan worlds. For Confer, this includes riding one of his two Harleys and jumping out of airplanes.
“I’m scared to death of heights,” says Confer who has completed more than 40 skydives. “On my first jump, it was like trying to put a cat in a bathtub to get me out of the plane at 13,000 feet, but then it was absolutely beautiful and put things into perspective.” Initially, Confer says the one tandem dive would have been enough for him, but the technical side of skydiving interested him enough that he pursued his solo license.
Crawford finds his stress relief in exercise, lifting weights at a CrossFit gym and occasionally competing in Olympic-style weightlifting.
“You work hard and you see a little bit of improvement. Then, you wonder, how far can I go with this,” says Crawford, who has also been renovating his condo in his free time.
Confer hand penned his original letter of interest to SKW while Crawford received a call seemingly out of the blue while working at a restaurant during college. Years later, having participated in the growth of SKW and experienced the advancements in technology, they both pursue innovative applications for LiDAR, analyze Point Clouds and enjoy the diversity it brings to their work lives.