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Queensland police mapping crime scenes with 3D scanner

The Queensland police will be using the CSIRO's Zebedee scanner to map crime scenes in 3D.

The Queensland police will be using the CSIRO's Zebedee scanner to map crime scenes in 3D.

3D scan of a Boeing 727 at Aviation Australia, Brisbane. (Credit: CSIRO)

The last we saw of Zebedee, it was being used to create a 3D scan of the interior of the Tower of Pisa in Italy. But it seems there's a lot more to the CSIRO's hand-held 3D scanner than world heritage preservation: the Queensland police has purchased a AU$37,000 Zebedee for its very own for mapping crime scenes.

Zebedee consists of a Lidar scanner, which images spaces by analysing reflected laser light, mounted on a spring with a measurement unit attached. As the user walks around at a normal speed, Zebedee moves constantly back and forth, using environmental features to calculate its location. This data is then used to create a 3D model.

This is particularly useful, the CSIRO said, in areas such as dense bushlands, steep slopes or dangerous caves where it may be particularly difficult to set up tripods and other camera equipment. It also means less disturbance at the scene.

"The benefits of this new technology will reduce interference at a scene, save time, and allow access to previously hard-to-reach areas such as steep declines and bushland," said CSIRO's Dr Jonathan Roberts. "This cutting-edge technology is allowing us to adapt to a new environment of ongoing change and improvement."

Zebedee in use mapping heritage-listed buildings at Fort Lytton. (Credit: CSIRO)

Once the data has been collected, the police can recreate a 3D model of the scene on a computer and view it from any angle, locating and tagging evidence to locations.

Although this is the first use of 3D scanning by the police in Australia, it has been deployed in other locations around the world. Last year, Roswell, New Mexico police obtained a tripod-mounted 3D scanner, and police in the UK have been using tripod-mounted 3D laser scanners since 2011.

The CSIRO's technology, though, is unique in that it requires no mounting equipment, making its potential more far-reaching, the body says. "We’re working on even more ways to adapt Zebedee for a range of other jobs that require 3D mapping, from security and emergency services to forestry and mining, even classroom learning," wrote the CSIRO's James Davidson.

"Film makers may soon be able to use Zebedee technology to easily digitise actual locations and structures when creating animated worlds. Maybe the next Batcave we see at the movies will be more realistic than ever before, created by 3D mapping an actual cave. The potential applications are endless."