Hamish MacMillan

Capture Features Remotely Using Trimble TerraFlex and  LTI TruPulse Laser Rangefinders

Blog Post created by Hamish MacMillan on Jan 30, 2020

The latest release of Trimble TerraFlex software now supports capturing remote features using the TruPulse series laser rangefinders developed by Laser Technology, Inc. (LTI). LTI is a pioneer in laser-based measuring products and have partnered with Trimble for more than 25 years. So, what does this mean for TerraFlex users capturing data in the field? 

The “GIS style” of collecting field data is a fine balance between accuracy and efficiency. GIS users often have a lot of information they need to capture on the job. This requires a streamlined workflow that enables field workers to combine multiple technologies for acquiring data productively. When it comes to capturing the location of features, being able to extend the reach of GNSS receivers into often-times tough-to-capture environments enables field workers to collect high quality locations in more places. With support for LTI TruPulse laser rangefinders built directly into TerraFlex and a new guided offset workflow, users can now capture more features, more accurately, safely, and efficiently.

Improve the safety of your field crews

Field crews often need to capture data in environments that may be hazardous or places that are hard to reach. This can be a manhole or road sign on a busy street, a gas meter on private property, or a power pole on the other side of a levee. By equipping your team with TerraFlex and an LTI TruPulse laser rangefinder, they will be able to safely and accurately capture the position of these assets without having to physically occupy the location. 


Improve the accuracy of features you capture

In situations where obstacles like tree canopy and buildings can degrade the quality of your GNSS positions, using a laser rangefinder can help extend the reach of high accuracy GNSS. Choosing the right TruPulse laser rangefinder for your application is important in order to get the best results. 


  • TruPulse 360° models


The TruPulse 360° models are capable of measuring distance, inclination and azimuth which enables the most efficient and quickest remote feature capture workflow. The TruPulse 360° is best suited to environments without magnetic interference which can impact the accuracy of the internal compass, such as a park or forest block.





  • TruPulse 200


The TruPulse 200 laser rangefinder is capable of measuring distance and inclination to targets. It is best suited to working in urban environments where sources of magnetic interference are more likely.





  • TruPulse 200X


The TruPulse 200X is a ruggedized laser rangefinder that is also Bluetooth compatible with iOS smart devices. It features the highest distance and inclination accuracy to deliver the best remote offset position result.




When capturing features using TruPulse laser rangefinders in TerraFlex, the application will combine both GNSS error and laser error and stores that as feature metadata. This gives a true picture of the accuracy of the captured feature location and the information needed to verify its quality.

Increase your data collection efficiency

In situations where efficiency has a higher priority than accuracy, using a TruPulse 360 laser rangefinder can help speed up data collection in areas with densely populated features. If the job requires capturing the location of all assets in a park, the field user can remain stationary and capture locations without having to walk to each one. Paired with TerraFlex streamlined data entry workflows, this will greatly increase the productivity and efficiency of field crews.



To learn more about TerraFlex, visit our website here. If you want to know more about LTI TruPulse laser rangefinders, visit the LTI website here.


How to capture a remote feature in TerraFlex using a TruPulse 360R laser rangefinder:


Step 1: Pair the laser rangefinder to your handheld

The first step in capturing an offset using a TruPulse laser rangefinder in TerraFlex is connecting the rangefinder to your handheld. The TruPulse 360R laser rangefinder connects wirelessly to Android and Windows handhelds via Bluetooth. Make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your handheld, then go into Bluetooth Settings and look for a device with a name like ‘TP360RB’. Select it from the list to pair with the rangefinder, if you’re asked,enter the passkey ‘1111’.



If you don’t see your rangefinder in the list of available Bluetooth devices then check out the troubleshooting steps on Page 21 of the TruPulse 360R User Manual available here.







Step 2: Select the laser in TerraFlex

Start up TerraFlex and sign in using your Trimble Identity (TID). On the Settings screen in TerraFlex select ‘Laser Rangefinder’, this will show you the list of laser rangefinders that are paired with your handheld. Select the rangefinder you paired with in Step 1 and TerraFlex will connect to it. Now you are all set up to start capturing offsets in TerraFlex.













Step 3: Capture an offset in TerraFlex

Offsets are captured in TerraFlex from the same location where you log the feature location today. Start by selecting the form template you want to capture the offset for, tap on the ‘Map’ button at the top of the attribute screen, and you will be taken into a map view with the geometry capture icons at the bottom of the screen. There is a new icon on the geometry capture bar for starting the offset wizard.












Step 4: Offset Wizard

The offset wizard guides you through the process of capturing an offset in TerraFlex. The first step is to log your reference position for the offset. This should be in a location where you have a good view of the feature you want to capture and where you are getting good GNSS accuracy. Tap the ‘Log’ button to capture your reference position.


Now that you have captured your reference position TerraFlex will start listening for a measurement coming from the TruPulse 360B. Make sure the rangefinder is set to SD or HD mode, and then use the laser rangefinder to measure to the feature. The measurement values will be sent to via Bluetooth to TerraFlex which will then calculate the location of the feature and show it on the map. You’ll also see the distance to the feature as measured by the laser and an estimate of the error of the features location, the error is a combination of both GNSS error and laser error.


At this point you have two options - if the estimated error is within the requirements for your data collection project then you can accept the offset and you’re done!



Step 5: Refining an offset

However if the estimated error of your offset is too high and you want to improve the accuracy of the captured location then you can use the ‘Refine’ option. This will guide you through capturing another reference position and laser measurement to reduce the amount of error. In this step TerraFlex will highlight areas on the map in yellow - these are the areas we recommend you take your second reference position and laser measurement from in order to get the best result. The wizard will give you the same steps as before - log a reference position and then use the laser to measure to the feature. By combining two laser measurements we can calculate a more accurate location for the feature.