3D Laser Scanning is a non-contact, non-destructive technology that digitally captures the shape of physical objects using a line of laser light. 3D laser scanners create “point clouds” of data from the surface of an object. In other words, 3D laser scanning is a way to capture a physical object’s exact size and shape into the computer world as a digital 3-dimensional representation.
In essence these scanners collect millions of individual point measurements within minutes. The measurements are then plotted within a single XYZ coordinate system to form a 'point cloud' of the object’s external surface. With the addition of GPS data these points can be geo-referenced and transformed into a global reference system. Multiple data clouds collected from different viewpoints can also be combined (“registered”) using common features in order to create one 3D dataset. For example a building could be scanned to include all external walls and then registered together to include scan data from inside the building.
The resulting 3D data can be used for visualisation, modelling and planning in 3D e.g. BIM, geomorphological change and heritage projects. Additionally the point cloud data can be exploited in order to take any number of measurements without having to physically take each measurement on site. Furthermore, point cloud data can form the basis of a rich dataset containing more than purely spatial information (XYZ). For example intensity or photographic imagery could be applied to create a coloured point cloud and 3D vector data can be over laid to map pipes and cables.
3D Laser Scanning is an increasingly popular tool for collecting vast amounts of accurate spatial data within a short amount of time. This makes laser scanners a popular piece of equipment within surveying, construction, film and archaeology companies, criminology where on site time may be restricted. 3D laser scanning is increasingly taking place in plans and maps development, construction and equipment monitoring, industrial imaging, interior and exterior architectural surveys, documenting cultural monuments, documenting crime and crime, etc. It is used for documentation of buildings, facilities, installations and infrastructures in the public and industrial sector.