Can’t see the forest for the trees? Kaarta can.

Densely wooded areas are notoriously challenging for localization and mapping. So when Kaarta was asked to demonstrate the performance of its mobile real time 3D scanning technology, that’s exactly where they went. With just a 30-minute walk and Stencil™ portable mapping device in hand, Kaarta soared beyond expectations by producing an accurate 3D map in real time – no prior data, GPS or infrastructure required.


The Site

Working with CH2M, one of the world’s top Architectural/Construction/Engineering firms, Kaarta headed to a heavily wooded lot in rural Maryland (figure 1). With its rugged ravine, dense flora and humid climate, the site would make conventional surveys and even newer techniques laborious, expensive and time consuming.

The Challenge

The demonstration was intended both to test the rigor of Kaarta’s system and to explore its use in military applications, specifically, to locate buried ordnance. While the US Department of Defense has a sensing device for this purpose, its design precludes it from working  in heavily wooded areas that are typically GPS-denied and difficult to traverse. In this type of application it is very difficult to use stationary LIDAR and subsequently combine data from multiple scans, or to drag a mobile mapping cart through such an unforgiving area. 

Kaarta in Action

For the purposes of the demonstration, a dozen ground level points were staked within a 100 meter square grid. The site was then surveyed by an independent professional surveyor using a robotic total station to provide ground-truth assessment of Kaarta Stencil accuracy. Stake measurements and locations were not provided in advance. Kaarta was then tasked with surveying the grid, mapping the area, and determining the precise location of the previously surveyed points.

The Kaarta team got things started, but it didn’t take long until CH2M tried their hand at scanning. Despite little experience with the device, CH2M handled Stencil with ease. The terrain precluded a simple path and yet just 30 minutes of traversing back and forth yielded a complete scan of the area (figure 2). A 3D map was created in real time from the scan sequence, capturing nearly all areas and leaving no shadowed spaces that would require another visit or additional scanning time.

Equally impressive, all of the previously surveyed points were accurately identified (Figure 3). The difference between Kaarta’s rapidly scanned points and those that were meticulously surveyed ranged from just 3.5 cm to 19.8 cm. All this was achieved in one fourth the time and one fourth the cost of a traditional surveying method, and the resulting model was immediately available without timely post processing procedures.

“Accurate 3D mapping is fundamental to our work, and to produce these results with such relative ease and cost efficiency is eye opening,” said Tamir Klaff, Principal Technologies at CH2M. “We undertake many projects in environments where this technology will undoubtedly be a key problem solver.”

Achieving this strong performance in a heavily wooded area proves Kaarta's suitability for mapping and other applications as well. The detailed topography of the underlying terrain is also revealed by viewing the scan from ‘underneath’ as shown in figure 5.

The Kaarta Difference

Unlike prior technologies, Kaarta maps instantly and on the go. It combines a lightweight, handheld hardware component with a layer of software intelligence that uniquely allows the device to autonomously identify its location and surroundings. Why does this matter? In the woods of rural Maryland, Kaarta was able to collect and synchronize data to produce a complete and accurate 3D map in real time. It condensed the work of many people, machines and hours into one remarkably smart tool that fit into a carry-on bag for the travel home.


June, 2016


Rural Maryland

Products used

Kaarta Stencil™




Mapping heavily wooded area for buried ordnance

Degree of difficulty



Create an accurate 3D map of heavily wooded rough terrain that with no GPS or existing infrastructure


Delivered a 3D map within an accuracy of 3.5 cm – 19.8 cm in just 30 minutes

Previous method

Traditional survey

Time/time savings

400% improvement in time to complete the scan. No SOW/RFQ, approvals, bid evaluation, or sole source justification

Cost/cost savings

24% of the cost 

Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 3: The overlay of the surveyed points (red crosses) and the position data from the scan (blue triangles) shows how closely the Kaarta real-time mobile scan matched the precise survey data.

Figure 4. The resultant scan shown with a section about 1.5 meters above the ground.

Figure 5. The final 3D map can be viewed from underneath to reveal topography.