My name is Josh Friedman and I work with Green Mountain GeoGraphics, Ltd., a GIS consulting firm based in Essex Junction, Vermont. For the past several years, we have used SketchUp to create 3D GIS databases for various communities in the northeast. Recently the Town of Shelburne, a community south of Burlington, approached us in regards to creating a 3D scene. They were considering the installation of a series of power transmission line towers and wanted to be able to visualize what the landscape might look like should the towers be installed. The town had the engineering plans for the towers but had a hard time envisioning how they would look in the real world.
We used SketchUp to create a custom simulation of one section of the power lines. Using engineering drawings for dimensional information, we created SketchUp models of each individual pole type that appeared in the study area. We then compiled these models into a single model representing the entire series of towers. SketchUp's GIS plugin allowed us to export the model and save it as a GIS feature. Using the ArcScene viewing environment (part of 3D Analyst from ESRI) we used local terrain and image data to create a representation of the landscape. Adding some trees and the feature we created in SketchUp resulted in fairly quick but accurate 3D Scene. Decision makers from the town can now view the area dynamically and get a true sense of how the power lines will look if installed in the proposed location.
By using SketchUp and GIS in combination, we were able to produce a product that could be accepted by all of the parties involved. The major issue surrounding the installation of the new transmission line is how much of it can be seen and where it can be seen from. Simply looking at a pole blueprint or artist's sketch may not be enough to get an accurate picture of how things will look. By combining highly accurate terrain data with precise SketchUp models, we can offer with confidence a window into the future. In addition, displaying this information within a GIS system will enable users to continue exploring any traditional mapping or geoprocessing operations that they might be interested in.
It is certainly a great bonus that SketchUp is very easy to learn and use. However, as a GIS firm, the ability to create custom models and symbols that we can use within a GIS environment has enabled us to greatly expand the use of 3D in our work. We use the software and the plugin all the time and would highly recommend them.
Green Mountain GeoGraphics