April 30 - Researchers at Australia's CSIRO have developed a hand-held, spring-loaded laser scanner that can produce three-dimensional maps with unprecedented speed and accuracy. Called Zebedee after a French, spring-propelled television puppet of the sixties, the scanner fires laser light, giving surveyors and archaeologists a powerful new tool for discovery. Rob Muir reports.
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Fort Lytton, near Brisbane, was bult in 1881 to repel a possible attack against Queensland. The attack never came but now the fort is under scrutiny by surveyors, and their hand-held, hi-tech tool called Zebedee.
Built on a spring, Zebedee is a lightweight laser scanner designed to map unfamiliar environments with unprecedented speed and accuracy. The University of Queensland's Kelly Greenop says that for surveyors, it's breakthough technology
SOUNDBITE) (English) KELLY GREENOP, LECTURER OF ARCHITECTURE AT UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND SAYING:
"It's a huge archive of 3D points so you can go through and cut sections, you can cut plans, you can cut the roof off and see what it's like inside so you can see what the surfaces look like, you can see the cracks in the walls, you can see where the holes in the floor are."
The CSIRO's Dr Jonathan Roberts says Zebedee works by emitting laser beams while rotating around the spring, and converting two dimensional measurements into a 3D field of view.
SOUNDBITE) (English) DR JONATHAN ROBERTS, RESEARCH DIRECTOR OF AUTONOMOUS SYSTEMS LABORATORY CSIRO SAYING:
"They hit on this idea of putting it on a spring, putting it in your hand and as you walk along the spring naturally moves the laser and it bounces up and down."
The scientists say Zebedee can do in just hours what it might take teams of surveyors days to complete. For historians like Brian Rough, it has enormous potential.
SOUNDBITE (English) BRIAN ROUGH, HISTORIAN, FORT LYTTON, SAYING:
"What's exciting about this 3D mapping project is that we can overlay historic data with over the data that's being collected here today and that will enable us to view the site over a period of time, and from the point of view of interpreting the site that's just something that we could never otherwise do".
A UK company called 3D Laser Mapping has licenced the technology. It hopes to sell Zebedee internationally, and put a spring in the step of researchers around the world.