What Exactly Is 3D Laser Scanning?

When you hear about land surveying, more often than not the term “3D laser scanning” is mentioned. So what exactly is 3D laser scanning, and how is it applied within the land surveying process?

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3D laser scanning utilizes devices equipped with lasers to measure the physical world by capturing millions of measurements. The collected data is then used to generate polygon meshes or point clouds that represent the geometry of a physical object. This technology is used in many professions and applications, including dentistry, archeology, mining and urban topography. In the land surveying business, 3D laser scanning is highly appreciated for its unprecedented range and speed, as well as its precision.

Trained surveyors using 3D laser scanning can rapidly and accurately measure existing buildings, structures and other sites. At Feldman, we use 3D graphics software to create realistic digital renderings, also referred to as virtual reality models, of our subjects. These are representations that viewers can virtually walk around, through and over! One of the most exciting aspects of this technology is that we can now record precise measurements of existing structures, including historic buildings and heritage sites. That means we can virtually recreate and preserve sites that are degenerating over time due to erosion as well as culturally valuable buildings that need to be maintained in their original states. Our collected data can even be used to reconstruct buildings that have been damaged due to earthquakes, fires or other events. Over the past few years, numerous heritage sites around the world, such as Mount Rushmore and Pompeii, have been scanned for both preservation and education.

Our firm uses 3D laser scanning in a range of different projects. For example, we’ve scanned the Boston Public Library, McKim Building as part of our pro bono Scanning Historic Boston Program. We’ve also scanned the Burnham Building, better known as Filene’s Basement, for the site’s redevelopment under the direction of our client Millennium Partners. And we continue to use this adaptive technology in our work on both existing and new sites.