With laser scanners, a smarter crime scene

British police will use 20 three-dimensional laser scanners to more quickly survey the scene of an auto accident, saving money and traffic headaches.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

When a serious auto collision occurs, one of the most time-consuming processes for law enforcement officials is to log every piece of evidence at the scene.

But officials in Britain will soon do away with the manual process and instead use new laser scanners that can produce a three-dimensional image of the scene, saving time and money.

Police say the almost $10 million investment -- half from the Dept. of Transport, half from the Metropolitan Police -- is a small price to pay in helping reduce the estimated $1.6 billion impact that collisions have on the economy.

Part of that cost is from the traffic backup that ensues after a major accident.

The police explain:

Collision investigators previously relied on a piece of equipment which could produce a scaled computerised plan of the scene, which took much longer to capture. Using the computerised data, it would take an officer about two hours to produce a basic 2D paper plan. The new scanners take about four minutes to complete a 360° scan with photographs. This ensures a comprehensive record of the scene, enabling the evidence to be gathered before the road is cleared. It also allows collision investigators to use the enhanced data capture to provide court presentation plans and graphics of a much higher standard, assist coroners, as well as the criminal and civil courts.

If police can speed up their investigations at the crime scene -- which include detailing road conditions, speed limits, distance between vehicles and a log of every object or marking in the area in question -- traffic can resume more quickly.

Currently, that process can take hours. The British government estimates the cost at more than $86,000 per hour.

The 3D laser is mounted on a tripod and takes a 360-degree image of the crash site. It can record 30 million separate data points, down to the millimeter. A single sweep takes about four minutes; officers usually take four scans of the site to ensure accuracy.

The resulting digital image -- far more comprehensive than the manual process -- helps an investigator more quickly come to conclusions about what happened.

Officials ordered 20 scanners for use in England; field trials included the Leica ScanStation C10 and the Riegl Vz 400, which are used to survey everything from mountain slopes to archaeological ruins.

Photo: Riegl

[via BBC]

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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