3D Modeling Laser Scanning Lidar Surveying Technology

3D Models of Caves with Pocket Lidar

photo of 3D Models of Caves with Pocket Lidar
3D Models of Caves with Pocket Lidar

Continuing my quest for using lidar in newest phones to build 3D models of caves. Here we have a scan of the Schneefleckhöhle, a 160-meter marble cave in the Zillertal mountains in Austria. The cave has been scanned with iPhone 12 Pro and Polycam, using lights and the phone mounted on a Benro selfie stick. Scanned segments were put together in Blender and used for fly-through animation. I can also feed the 3D model to my “Cave Outliner” software that draws a plan view map and cross sections based on the model. Lots to improve in various pieces of software, and scanning an entire complex form is very hard. While all of this is very experimental, bleeding edge technology it is also very exciting, and already offers some stunning views onto a caves.

From a post in Teton Gravity Research by planetskier.

In the following I go through what the process is for making these kinds of scans:

Have a phone, needs to be an iPhone pro model 12 or later. You’ll also need to have enough free memory and a scanning app such as Polycam installed. You’ll need the commercial version of the app, as data export will require that.

Setup a lightning method. This can be just your helmet or hand-held light, but it is better to use a setup where the phone sensor and the lights are built to point to the same direction for more even lightning.

Start a new scan, set a lidar and camera mode to get both the shape and the texture. Carefully and with modest movements start scanning the cave entrance and the tunnel forward. You will need to cover different holes and side rooms, under bigger boulders, etc as well.

To ensure that software can process your scan results, stopping the scan, storing the results, and starting a new separate model is advisable every now and then. In my experiments doing this every 20-50 meters in a normal cave tunnel (with some forms and other complexity) is about right.

After each scan, or at the end when your phone is reconned to power, process the scans in the app. I have used the custom setting with maximum range and highest accuracy.

Upload each scan to iCloud by exporting each model in, say, the GLTF/GLB format.

Import one model at a time to a post processing software such as Blender. Cut away erroneous or shadow parts, if any.

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3D models of caves

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