Feb 03

Aerial Lidar in Wisconsin: A View from the Ground Level

eAyres Presents Aerial Lidar Workshop at Surveyors Conference

fZach Nienow and Matt Vinopal had the opportunity to demonstrate applications of Lidar during the 68th Surveyors Institute organized by the Wisconsin Society of Land Surveyors (WSLS). This three day event in the Wisconsin Dells is one of the best attended professional events for surveyors in the Midwest and features many continuing education opportunities from a broad range of topics- ranging from ethical decision making to highly technical topics about survey and mapping equipment.



2ppm_surfaceZach and Matt’s presentation at WSLS focused on LiDAR technology advancements, history of use in Wisconsin, and current examples of how surveyors and engineers are using the data around the State.  Matt Vinopal also demonstrated how to import Lidar data into Civil 3D and practical implementation of lidar in day-to-day operations in an AutoCAD environment.




Lidar_MapOne of the topics of the presentation covered the status of existing Lidar in Wisconsin.  Zach presented a map of the State showing which counties have existing data and provided an overview of ongoing Lidar projects and upcoming efforts to complete Lidar coverage for the remaining counties. As an example, Zach highlighted Ayres collaboration with several counties to secure grant funding through the USGS’s 3DEP initiative to secure high resolution, high accuracy Lidar data.  Much of the Lidar data around the state is now available to the public through individual counties or through the State’s Wisconsin View portal.




In addition to the presentation, Ayres was also on-hand in the exhibit hall at the event to share information about geospatial technology and discuss ongoing aerial mapping and survey initiatives around the state.







Dec 12

Geospatial Technology for Stormwater Management


Effective stormwater management can make or break a municipalities preparedness for major rain and flood events. Too often municipalities opt for reacting to major storm events, rather than properly preparing for them.  Storm event preparedness is no easy feat and it often takes tremendous effort to identify and prioritize best management practices.  Ayres Associates understands the many complexities involved in stormwater management and our talented team of geospatial and engineering experts can provide data driven solution that help reduce and eliminate risks associated with major storm events.

floodAccurate information is a vital component to mitigating risk up front and quickly reacting to events as they occur.  Ayres Associates suite of geospatial solutions can provide the necessary information needed to facilitate the process of planning, constructing, monitoring and continuously improving your stormwater management program.

Geospatial information technology comes in all shapes and sizes.  Whether it’s utilizing GPS technology to inventory stormwater assets, using advanced modeling techniques to design capital infrastructure improvements or deploying manned and unmanned aircraft to monitor events as they occur, Ayres Associates is ready to guide you through solutions tailored to your needs.

storm-surgeDeveloping a successful stormwater program hinges on routine collection and maintenance of data relevant to supporting your infrastructure and allowing for continuous improvement based analytics.  In today’s environment, understanding the location of information is key to proper planning.  This is why more and more organizations are relying on geospatial datasets to guide them in administering stormwater management programs.  Routinely collecting LiDAR and imagery not only provides a snapshot of conditions and statistics at a given point in time, but they can also be used to derive additional datasets such as asset inventories used for efficient maintenance operations, capacity modeling and improvement analytics.

5_tin_conts_onlySpatially accurate asset inventories are also necessary for adherence to MS4 permits for stormwater discharge, improving your Community Rating System (CRS) class and reducing flood insurance rates for local residents and businesses.  Ayres Associates deploys a range of techniques to provide stormwater management information, including; aerial and terrestrial data collection, impervious surface analysis, field inventorying, overland flow modeling, permit application support, pollutant load analysis, floodplain modeling, post event survey and reporting, flood inundation modeling and much more.

So when creating or improving your stormwater management program, don’t just wait for the next big event to determine your next steps.  Get ahead of big storms and floods by routinely collecting and analyzing geospatial data to empower your workforce with readily available solutions to mitigate and more effectively react to the inevitable forces of nature.

Oct 26

Integrating UAS into Ayres Professional Services


Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), or drones, are becoming increasingly common tool in the survey, mapping, and engineering fields. Incorporating these aerial imaging and mapping platforms into our services is adding new dimensions and perspectives as we measure and observe project sites and structures. This technology is a tremendous tool where site safety and accessibility are a concern. It also provides an economical means of frequent observation and measurement.


Inspection/Observation Applications

uas-adams_co2While UAS may never replace the human element of a professional inspection or construction observation, this technology is already proving to be a useful tool to provide new perspectives for project sites and structures.

Applications include:

  • First-person scouting missions for structural inspection.

  • Construction progress reporting.

  • Documentation for traffic and parking volume studies.

  • Storm damage assessment.

Mapping Applications

monroe_co_landfill_dsm_surfaceUAS systems are capable of supporting high accuracy topographic mapping for small project sites. This technology is providing high definition surface models for contour generation and volumetric calculations with rapid deployment and turnaround time. These systems are especially effective at mapping sites that require frequent updates and for accessing potentially hazardous work environments.

Our mapping capabilities include:

  • Digital surface models and contour generation.

  • Volumetric analysis and topographic change detection.

  • High resolution aerial imagery.


Topographic mapping products derived from UAS imagery:


Volumetric computations from the topographic mapping:





1″ = 50′ scale site maps:



Customized Viewing Perspectives

Ayres flight planning and data processing software is specifically designed for sUAS technologies. Our customized workflows allow for efficient handling of your project ensuring data we be delivered that will meet your needs. Ayres Associates can capture imagery multiple viewing perspectives:

  • First-person point-of-view (POV) to see the world from the UAS.

  • Nadir (top down) and oblique-angle viewing perspectives.

  • HD Video can be captured (up to 4k).

Qualified UAS Pilots

p1020041-cropSuccessful projects start with safety. Ayres Associates completes our UAS projects in accordance to the FAA’s Part 107 guidelines. Our Pilots in Command are all properly certified and go through strict internal training both in the lab and in the field. All Ayres projects follow strict safety protocols and our personnel invest the time needed to understand and appreciate the risks of the work environment before deployment of UAS equipment.

Sep 15

Ayres Associates Attends the Annual Colorado Stormwater and Floodplain Managers Conference



The 27th annual Colorado Stormwater and Floodplain Managers Conference (CASFM) has kicked off and is filled with bright minds and innovation from across the state of Colorado.  Attendees from state organizations, municipalities, consulting firms and more are gathering to gain certifications, present solutions and enjoy the comradery amongst water focused professionals.


In addition to discussing the many geospatial focused principles involved with flood mapping and modeling, River Engineers from the Fort Collins, CO office are presenting on the use of 2D modeling for flood damage repair on U.S. Rt. 34, which travels through extreme terrain in the Big Thompson Canyon.  In September 2013 a near 100-year flood struck the area, resulting in tremendous damage to river banks, roadways and buildings along the canyon corridor.  Ayres Associates is working with the Colorado Department of Transportation and construction consultants to repair the river corridor through a 15-mile stretch of the Big Thompson River.


Whether it’s ground or aerial survey to GIS based analysis picture1and modeling, Ayres Associates Geospatial and Engineering Services plays a vital role in the many projects and initiatives across Colorado.  The increasing need for advanced LiDAR solutions and 2D or 3D modeling has given Ayres great opportunities to participate in flood mitigation, post event analysis and water resource planning across a very unique region.  Colorado faces many obstacles for water engineering due to its varying elevations, susceptibility to drought, localized severe flooding and increasing development resulting in higher demand for water.  As a result, water engineers are becoming increasingly reliant on advanced data driven geospatial solutions with LiDAR derivatives being a focal point to their modeling techniques.


Sep 04

Ayres Spatially Integrated Video System


Split2Ayres Spatially Integrated Video  (SIV) system provides a low-cost solution for recording and gathering street level information. We have developed this application to support a wide range of municipal and highway applications, including pavement/road condition analysis, pre-construction documentation, and asset/infrastructure inventory.

Recent advancements in our approach have Split4enabled us to simultaneously capture geo-referenced videos from multiple angles resulting in a broader picture of the assets. This is particularly useful where a traditional “windshield survey” may not efficiently capture and record information about a corridor or streetscape.


The geo-referenced video can be formatted for play-back within a  GIS platform.  Road centerlines representing each segment are generated from the GPS data and output as shapefiles.  These vectorized centerlines can be attributed with qualitative and quantitative information such as road names, date and time of capture, and observations.  Additionally, date and time stamps can be inserted into the individual videos showing the exact date and time a video was collected.

The system is readily deployable necessitating only a brief setup after which data collection can be initiated remotely and viewed in real-time by the operator on Wi-Fi capable tablets or smart phones.



Aug 23

Cooperative Aerial Imagery Missions in Illinois


County and municipal governments in Illinois are benefitting from coordinating their aerial photography programs- saving money through efficient use of aircraft and high accuracy mapping cameras.


In the past four years, Ayres Associates has collected thousands of square miles of aerial photography- for dozens of counties and communities throughout the State. No matter the size of the area or whether is urban or rural, we apply equal resources and aggressive schedules for each project to encourage greater participation and lower fees for all.


Mobilization Discountscover-Ottawa_IL_2

As part of our continuing effort to build upon the grassroots success of our orthoimagery partnership amongst local government, we offer discounts when multiple counties in Illinois acquire aerial imagery in the same timeframe. This is a result of significant savings in aircraft operating costs. Once we have commitments sufficient commitments, we apply a mobilization discount to all participants in the aerial imagery missions.  In recent years the discounts have been as high as 10-15%.


Flexible Budgeting OptionsMarion2_IL

Ayres Associates understands and appreciates budget constraints that counties and municipalities are facing.  To help facilitate these important projects, we offer flexible budgeting options on a case-by-case basis.  As an example, a county can potentially split the project costs over two fiscal years- budget for the aerial imagery in year one, and the production and delivery of products early within year two.





3-inch Resolution Options for Municipal Areas.

glenviewAyres Associates is collecting high resolution aerial imagery for municipalities- from the Chicago area to county-seats in southern Illinois.  Aerial imagery at 3-inch resolution imagery is being applied to a myriad of municipal applications, including engineering, planning and zoning, public works, and public safety.  We can provide these services as buy-ups to county-IL_6-inch_c2wide efforts or as standalone projects as needed.

Ayres Associates has a long history of service to counties and municipalities in Illinois We have established a unique ability to build partnerships among our clients. We have helped build  many grassroots partnership programs in which participants work together to take advantage of cost-sharing opportunities.



















Jul 21

Geospatial Analysis of Road Washouts

On July 11 Northern Wisconsin saw severe storms leading to millions of dollars of damage in several counties.  Many roads could remain closed potentially for months greatly affecting transportation in the height of the region’s tourism season.  Ayres Associates structural and highway engineers mobilized quickly to provide extremely fast-track design services to replace culverts with bridges with greater capacity to pass floodwaters.  Pictured below you see an example of the damage from the storm to State Hwy 13 in Ashland County WI.  Read below to see an example of geospatial technologies can to use to analyze events like these.


Ayres Survey team arrived shortly after the storm to capture several datasets from the site.  One of the datasets collected was terrestrial LiDAR, a technology which can collect millions of accurate measurements quickly and efficiently.  Ayres used this data to build a model of the ground surface after the flood.  The results give an immediate picture of the damage to the road and the amount material the flood washed away.


This show a profile view of the job after the July 11th flood based on the terrestrial LiDAR data


Using the 6” resolution orthoimagery Ayres produced in 2015, the County’s aerial LiDAR data, and the newly acquired Terrestrial LiDAR data our surveyors just collected Ayres Associates geospatial team wanted to look closer at this site to see what could be learned.  By merging the orthoimagery with the County’s LiDAR, an image is produced which give the viewer an impression of the site prior to the July flood.


 As the rain fell it would have overwhelmed the existing culverts and effectively turned the road into a dam.  Modeling in the water that was being impounded behind the road prior to the road failing it may have looked like this.


As the culvert capacity was exceeded, the road overtopped and washed out the culvert and road bed.



When a road washes out like this a lot of material is moved changing the landscape down stream.  To measure what the change is and where it occurred Ayres technicians were able to compare the ground surface elevations from 2015 to the terrestrial LiDAR survey completed after the flood.  In the map below you can see in red where material was removed and in blue, where it was deposited.  In areas the change was greater than 20 feet.



Flood events like this can dramatically change the landscape lowering elevations in some areas and raising it in others.  Understanding this change is important for several reasons:

  • Understand how water will flow at this site in the future
  • Aid in emergency management planning
  • Measure the amount of material lost
  • Estimate costs for fill material to rebuild the site
  • Help to engineer smarter structures for the site







Jul 15

Ayres Oblique 3D Viewer Incorporates Municipal GIS Layers


As a follow up to our earlier blog article on our new oblique solution, we are demonstrating that our 3D viewing platform will permit referencing of existing vector data.  In this example, we are showing parcel data and road centerline data layers from the City of Madison draped over the 3D photo mesh model.

City_data_zoom_street City_data_zoom_psrcel City_data_zoom_address

Please see the earlier blog article for more additional information and graphics:  http://www.ayresgeospatial.com/2016/05/27/ayres-shares-new-oblique-solution-at-umgeocon-16/



Jun 30

Automated Extraction of Building Footprints Using LiDAR


Delineating and mapping building footprints may be used for multiple purposes such as emergency management, planning and zoning, demographic estimations, and natural resource management. It is fairly quick to heads-up-digitize buildings in a small area of interest. But it is very time consuming to digitize building footprints for a large area. Using classified LiDAR points to generate a polygon representing the building boundary speeds up the process of delineating buildings enormously.

It begins with classification of the LiDAR points into their respective classes. A sample of LiDAR points classified as buildings is shown in Figure 1. Bringing it into a GIS and performing a buffer on the high density points generates polygons much more efficiently than ever before. For better representation we manually review the building polygons, which can be shown in Figure 2.


Figure 1


Figure 2















Examples of potential uses:

  • Planning and Zoning – shoreline issues with buildings being built within the allowed distance.
  • Emergency Management – to assess if buildings are at risk of floods, wildfires, crime, etc.
  • Visualization
  • Estimating Social and Demographic Data



Example of Shoreland Zoning Use:


Figure 3


Wisconsin Legislature Chapter NR 115 includes information about the minimal distance that a building must be built from any navigable water. Efficiently constructed building footprints  could aid in the minimum zoning standards of shorelands in Wisconsin (Figure 3).










More Examples of Building Footprints:


Building Footprints with Orthophoto Background
Manitowoc County, WI


Building Footprints without Orthophoto Background
Manitowoc County, WI



Industrial Building Footprint
Manitowoc County, WI



My name is Brandon Lee and I am currently working with Ayres Associates as a Geospatial Intern at the Madison Terrace Office. I am a student at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point with majors in Geographic Information Science and Water Resources. Some recent research projects I have completed include modeling storm runoff for multiple watershed delineation methods and classifying stream alterations to identify land use correlation. The latter was presented at the Wisconsin AWRA State Conference this past Spring.  My interests include modeling environmental and hydrologic processes in GIS, water quality, and remote sensing.

May 27

Ayres Shares New Oblique Solution at UMGEOCON ’16


Ayres Associates is developing a new oblique imagery solution for local government and utility applications.  We were excited for the opportunity to show this off at Upper Midwest GEOCON in La Crosse, Wisconsin this week.


IMG_20160525_175859364UMGEOCON 2016 was a first-of-a-kind gathering of geospatial professionals and users from multiple states in the region: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.  This was a unique opportunity to see how geospatial data is being collected, used, and managed for a wide range of applications, including transportation, utilities, local government, environmental, and commercial.  Ayres is proud to support this conference and appreciated the chance to show off some of our new services.




MadisonWI_20160416-17_DatAir_9Cam_2inch_PVM_5xThis system employs a 9-look array of digital cameras that can effectively capture resolution up to 2-inches for large project areas.  We recently completed a test over the Madison, Wisconsin area.  With this approach, we are able to easily reference dozens of images that correspond to any particular point on a map- each representing a distinct look angle and perspective.

MadisonWI_20160416-17_DatAir_9Cam_2inch_PVM_3xOur oblique package also includes the ability to create 3D photo mesh of an area from the imagery.  This allows us to create high resolution 3D models of an urban environment with an image drape.  The viewer that accompanies this product permits the import of shapefile vector data to enhance the ability to attach parcel information, 3D infrastructure, and utilities. It also allows the end user to take horizontal, vertical, and area measurements.

Madison_nadir_only_orthomosaic_sample9Examples of applications:

  •  – Situational awareness

  •  – Asset management

  •  – Zoning and code enforcement

  •  – Urban planning

  •  – Marketing/promotional material

















Measurement Capabilities







Mar 23

WROC Earns ‘Best of State’, Featured in Latest TRENDS


We’re very proud of the feature article about the Wisconsin Regional Ortho Consortium (WROC) in the latest issue of TRENDS magazine.  Learn how a collaboration of local, county, state, and private organizations worked together to build this program and how it’s being applied by this diverse range of stakeholders.

The American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin recently honored the Wisconsin Regional Orthophotography Consortium project with a 2016 Best of State Award, presented to projects representing the highest degree of technical innovation, client satisfaction, and contribution to the engineering profession. Winners of this award are eligible for the Grand Award, the highest award at the state level, announced at the ACEC WI Award Banquet on March 18. IMG_20160318_215317236_TOP

Read more about WROC and other projects occurring around Ayres Associates by clicking on this link:   TRENDS_Spring2016



Mar 08

Catching up with USGS & 3DEP at ILMF

hAyres Associates sent a contingency of project managers and supervisors to the 2016 International LiDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF) in Denver, Colorado.  ILMF is a technical conference and exhibition showcasing the latest LiDAR advances and emerging remote-sensing technologies.



Our team had a unique opportunity to meet with key staff from USGS staff regarding the ongoing and upcoming 3DEP LiDAR projects in Wisconsin. Not only did we get a chance to meet with the folks that wrote the USGS LiDAR specifications, but we also spent a considerable amount of time with their Quality Control team. We reiterated with the USGS that our goal is to pass the rigorous USGS QC process on the first delivery and get it accepted for publication in the National Map.


eThe buzz around the conference this year was Geiger-mode and single photon LiDAR, which are new sensor systems that collect super high density point clouds (20+ points per meter) from altitudes of 20,000+ feet above the ground. We met with the companies that provide these new LiDAR technologies to see how well they fit for our clients’ needs as we look towards the future of topographic mapping. Overall it was a very busy couple of days in Denver – very educational and informative.

Feb 29

Spring Aerial Photography Season is Here!


The Aerial Mapping group at Ayres Associates has officially kicked off their spring aerial photography season for 2016.  The flight crews will be busy traveling throughout the Midwest over the next couple of months capturing high resolution aerial imagery.  Take advantage of the opportunity to capture cost effective imagery for your projects while the aircraft and digital mapping camera are crisscrossing the region.

Ayres Associates will be acquiring thousands of frame of aerial imagery using their Leica RCD30 digital camera.  The imagery captured will support a wide range of engineering, survey, and environmental applications across the Midwest.

Project locations are shown in the maps below:



 Examples of projects using this high resolution imagery:

  • Transmission line rebuilds in South Dakota

  • Pipeline corridor in Michigan

  • Ecological management in Green Bay and Lake Michigan (Phragmites)

  • Transportation design in Minnesota

  • Forestry in Oneida County, Wisconsin

  • Municipal engineering in Chicago region

The first missions to be completed are located in central Illinois for county and municipal projects.  The crew will be making their way north over the coming weeks covering a substantial amount of territory from South Dakota to Michigan.  Contact us now to discuss aerial imagery options for your project.

Jan 28

Rapid Tree Canopy Delineation from Aerial LiDAR


Recent developments in mapping technology have made it possible to efficiently extract two dimensional tree canopy polygons from LiDAR point clouds, even in leaf-off conditions.

Historically, LiDAR data has been utilized primarily to create high resolution ground surfaces and digital contours. Digital Elevation Models and Digital Surface Models are the most common products derived from LiDAR data, but there is much more information that remains locked inside of the point cloud thanks to its multiple-return nature. This information includes any elements found at or near the ground such as: buildings, vehicles, power lines, and vegetation.

The process of tree canopy extraction begins with a classified point cloud – specifically: ground, high vegetation, and building classes. The better this classification is the more accurate the canopy representation will become, although it is not essential that everything in the high vegetation class is actual vegetation. Things like power lines, light poles, basketball hoops, and even rooftop points can get lumped into the high vegetation class due to the automated nature of point cloud processing, and that is where canopy modelling takes over.


Left: High vegetation points showing inclusions such as roof lines, and power lines. Right: Tree canopy polygons overlaid on high vegetation points 

Point clouds are robust and even small areas will contain millions of points classified as high vegetation. These points are extracted from LiDAR processing software and brought into a GIS where it is aggregated to create polygons, filtered, and smoothed to create accurate representations of the real world tree canopy from above. The results can be further refined to only accept trees above a certain size or trees that meet certain geometric characteristics.


Side-by-side comparison showing high vegetation points on the left and tree canopy polygons on the right 

At Ayres we are continually looking for methods to extract secondary information from point cloud data that adds additional value to the product at reasonable costs. Tree canopy polygons are one such product that can be obtained quickly and accurately from the data you may already have.


Further analysis showing canopy polygon centroids rendered in a 3D environment with realistic looking trees

Dec 17

Ayres Employees Attend Annual ESRI Wisconsin User Group Conference

Over two days in early December three Ayres employees attended EWUG2015_450the annual ESRI Wisconsin User Group (EWUG) conference at the Hilton City Center in downtown Milwaukee. The conference is a great opportunity for Ayres’ GIS staff to stay abreast of advancements in GIS technology as well as network with other industry professionals. Adam Derringer (Project Manager), Matt Vinopal (Geospatial Supervisor), and Mike Seidel (Geospatial Technician) were on site representing Ayres and Mike also presented and exciting project which is a collaborative effort between Ayres’ surveying and geospatial divisions.


CoverSlideMany interesting topics were covered and the staff learned a great deal about open data standards, GIS editing tips & tricks,  and effectively employing Amazon Web Services. Several of these ideas have already been implemented into day-to-day production with others fostering discussions about data accessibility and visibility for Ayres’ clients.


Mike’s talk was entitled CAD to GIS: Easement Mapping Made Easy 100-small-scrub1and displayed the usefulness of ArcGIS to expedite the mapping of utility easements. The talk emphasized unique applications of ESRI’s Model Builder, Data Driven Pages, Definition Queries, and Python scripting. Models described involved the importing of large volumes of CAD data into geodatabases and formatting of annotation amongst others. It was shown how Data Driven Pages in conjunction with Python can be used in an unconventional manner to utilize the dynamic functionality of the tile index without being beholden to the rigid nature of the application.


This presentation displayed the efficiency of using mapping software with an alternative approach which results in notable time and cost savings over conventional computer aided drafting. It was well-received and highlighted a lesser known service available to Ayres’ clients in the utility or other industries.

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