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Last Updated on 25th April 2022

Where in the World is LiDAR Being Used?

Top 6 uses from 2021

With increasing awareness of LiDAR technology, its applications are becoming more diverse. From helping to prevent natural disasters to mapping historic caves and restoring architectural wonders, our ZEB laser scanners have been involved in a range of interesting projects over the past 12 months.

Here are our top 6 real-world uses of 2021, showing how people made use of this technology all over the globe. These examples detail the versatility of laser scanning technology and the essential information and intriguing findings it can uncover.

US: America’s Oldest Show Cave Mapped For the First Time

Accurately surveying and mapping caves has historically been a challenge. Cave systems often include difficult terrain, dangerous conditions and inaccessible passageways. What’s more, there’s no option to use GPS underground, which limits the mapping opportunities.

This year, a team from James Madison University overcame these limits by mapping the oldest show cave in America using a ZEB Horizon scanner.

Grand Caverns (formerly known as Weyers Cave) is the oldest show cave in the USA. It is now a popular tourist attraction but is also a site of scientific and even historical interest. It was used during the Civil War by Confederate and Union soldiers. These soldiers made their marks on the cave, with over 230 signing their names on the walls.

Professor Angel A. Garcia jr. and his students are the first to ever map the cave in 3D, creating a comprehensive point cloud with many intended uses. This data is being used to help measure mineral formations, plus monitor any human impact on the cave.

The point cloud data has also been used to create 3D printed models of the cave system. These models are a celebration of the cave’s extensive history and highlight its fascinating geoheritage.

The models will also enable people to learn all about the caverns, even when they are physically unable to visit them.

Greece: Greek-Roman Odeon Scanned for Restoration

Another historical preservation project made possible by the use of LiDAR scanners was the creation of a digital model of the ancient Roman Odeon theatre in Greece.

The Roman Odeon is known around the world as one of the most important monuments in the ancient Greek city, Nikopolis. Dating back as far as the first century AD, historians believe it was used for lectures, literary and musical events. It was also used for theatrical performances that honour the Greek god Apollo. It’s made up of 19 rows of seats, a semi-circle orchestra and a stage.

Traditional scanning methods would have struggled with mapping this impressive monument, due to its age. The intricacy and delicacy of the structure only add to this difficulty. But the ‘walk and scan’ method used with the ZEB Revo RT scanner, made it much more achievable. The team were able to capture and understand the layout of this historic site within only 15 minutes.

With the resulting scans, researchers were able to identify areas of the ancient structure that are in need of restoration work.

US: Forest Wildfire Management and Prevention

Environmental change ensured 2021 was another catastrophic year for wildfires across the world. Particularly across the American West. Almost 7.7 million acres faced ferocious fires across the U.S.

One team from Northern Arizona University are hoping to shrink the spread of future fires, and LiDAR scanning is a key tool in their fight. They’re using drones and planes equipped with scanners to accompany ground measurements and build a 3D view of forested areas.

These scans and 3D models will then be used to identify areas of forest that are so overgrown and thickly populated with trees that they pose an alarming wildfire risk. Workers will then thin out these areas, to slow the spread of wildfires.

This slower rate of spread will make it easier to control and contain wildfires.

The project is hoping to thin out around 500,000 acres by 2035. This is a mammoth task and the LiDAR data captured by the team is an integral part of being quick and efficient with their work.

Learn more about this project here.

France: Deep Time Isolation Experiment

LiDAR scanning played an important role in an unusual project conducted by The Human Adaptation Institute, which ended in April 2021.

The ‘Deep Time 40’ experiment, sent 15 participants to live in caves in the Lombrives region of France for 40 days. During this time they had no access to clocks or sunlight and had no contact with the outside world.

The aim of the experiment was to learn about the limits of human adaptability to extreme isolation. They also wished to explore the human brain’s relationship to time.

Participants were set a series of tasks, one of which was to scan the depths of the cave, to help give structure to their days. The researchers chose ZEB Horizon scanners as the best tool for this job. Mainly because they are so user friendly while still being capable of capturing the expanses and crevices of the cave.

The caves stretch for 3km, with chambers of up to 70m in height and wells up to 90m deep. Impressive, but the Lombrive terrain data was easily mapped with the ZEB Horizon’s 100m range.

Caribbean: Large Scale Hospital Restoration Project

Hospitals can often pose a difficult prospect to map, due to their significant size, and their complex, multi-room layouts. But in 2021, this complicated job was completed in less than a week thanks to the use of a ZEB Horizon scanner.

The St. Elizabeth Hospital supported its local community for over 160 years, functioning as the main hub for medical care to Curaçao and nearby island nations. Constructed in 1855, it had a long and illustrious history but in 2011 it was deemed no longer fit for purpose.

A new hospital was built beside it, and in November 2019 the St Elizabeth hospital closed its doors to the public after 164 years of service to the people of the islands. Less than two years later, it is already earmarked for potential renovation projects to commemorate its contribution to local life.

In anticipation of this restoration work, Ellen de Brabander from Urban Studio was tasked with scanning the hospital. The size and complexity of the building meant this posed a difficult prospect. The hospital consists of 6 sub-buildings, with an average of 3 floors each, not to mention the many, many rooms on every floor. The time frame for the project appeared to be significant.

Instead of relying on a traditional tripod-based system, Ellen used a ZEB Horizon scanner. This meant she could move easily through the complicated buildings and awkward spaces capturing data as she went.

Rather than the anticipated months, the building was completely captured within just 6 working days. These scans covered 22,346 square metres, spread over 52 separate scans. Each scan took around 20 mins.
Ellen has already used this point cloud data to create an accurate BIM model of the hospital. Next, she hopes to create a virtual tour, so that people can enter the buildings from anywhere in the world.

France: Surveying a Villa for a Large Renovation Project

Professional surveyors have adopted LiDAR technology quicker than most, cutting the time it takes to accurately measure large areas, cost effectively. In early 2021, Robin Bruna of CEP David Pierrot scanned a large villa in the South-East of France, ahead of its new land insertions and construction work.

The 8000 SQ/m villa is on a hillside, further adding to the complexity of the scan. Using the ZEB Horizon scanner, the team mapped the entire area over 4 scans, each lasting 10-15 minutes. They captured the entire villa, pool area, and the hillside leading up to the house.

Using the point cloud as a foundation, Robin created both 2D and 3D vector maps in Autocad. They also created longitudinal cuts through the point cloud to provide reliable and visual information of the incline of the hillside.

The results were sent to an architect so they could begin to work out the feasibility of the work that needed to take place, without needing to visit the location.

Interesting LiDAR applications are global

As you can see, LiDAR data has a wide range of uses. Many industries use and even rely on it. From protecting the environment to preserving human history, this article only begins to demonstrate what it is capable of.

With the ZEB range of scanners, this important work is easier, more accessible and even quicker.

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