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Indoor Mapping with Lidar to Support First Responders

Two projects are testing ways to use light detection and ranging (LiDAR) remote sensing for indoor mapping buildings to increase first responders’ safety and efficiency when they respond to emergencies.

From an article in GCN by Stephanie Kanowitz

Both efforts are part of the Global City Teams Challenge (GCTC), led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in partnership with other agencies such as the Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology Directorate. They’re also part of a larger program in which three teams are researching LiDAR-enabled indoor mapping, which has traditionally been used to map outdoor terrain.

“The government is getting out in front and trying to create standards early and ensure the relevance” and interoperability of the technology, said Joel Lawhead, CIO at Nvision Solutions, a geospatial solutions provider. Rather than ending up with a “VHS vs. Betamax issue where the end users don’t know what to get, we’re hoping that developing standards gives all the innovators a target so things are compatible and everybody knows what the end game looks like,” he said. “Hopefully it will help technology develop faster.”

Lawhead leads a GCTC project in Hancock, Miss., where his team scanned the interiors of 10 public schools and is now working to label objects in those scans — such as fire extinguishers, stairs and emergency exits — that first responders could use to support and expedite rescue efforts.

“That’s like taking a Sharpie marker and walking around labeling everything in your office or house and then doing that in 10 or 15 buildings,” Lawhead said. “It’s very tedious and time consuming. We can do it manually with just looking at things, drawing a box around it and typing in what it is, but we are also working on a way to automate that using image recognition.”

To collect the data for the maps, the team used a handheld LiDAR scanner connected to a hard drive in a backpack that stored the data as it was collected.

“It’s a laser that spins around on a gun-looking device in your hand that also has a camera system on it,” Lawhead said. “It’s like a laser range-finder, but it’s shooting 43,000 points a second.” The camera takes video while the laser provides points in space with X, Y and Z locations – horizontal, vertical and forward and backward. The result is a point cloud.

“It looks like just a blizzard of dots, but they’re in the shape of the area you walked around,” he said. Because the cloud and video are linked, the dots can be colorized to create a 3D picture of everything that was scanned. That can then be converted into other types of data such as a 3D model. “It’s a starting point for doing indoor mapping,” Lawhead said.

For the complete article click here.

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