Geo Week News

May 20, 2015

LiDAR USA Scans Riot Damage in Baltimore

Lidar USA rig

Image source: Baltimore Sun.

Recently, Robert Graham of LiDAR USA mounted the ScanLook 2.0 system onto a police SUV and set out to document the damage caused by Baltimore’s recent riots. He was accompanied on his drive by Thomas Wisner, a Baltimore PD crime lab technician. Their goal, according to a story in the Baltimore Sun, was to “treat the city as a crime scene writ large and assess the damage as officers would for a police report.”

It may seem like an obvious use for LiDAR, but according to the article this is the first time anyone has ever used it to assess riot damage. “There’s no precedent for this,” said Steve O’Dell, director of the Baltimore police crime lab. “Most of the post-riot documentation is not well developed.”

He goes on to explain that forensic science is rarely used to study riots, though a strategy like deploying LiDAR to create a virtual model of the city can document the areas and extent of the damage. In turn, this documentation helps the Police Department “and other city agencies” to track costs and submit them to the federal government for emergency response funds.

There’s a familiar reason these techniques are rarely used–money. From the article, it’s clear that the Baltimore PD recognized the value of the technology but would not have been able to afford the equipment. LiDAR USA’s rig, for instance, includes a GoLook camera system and a FARO scanner and costs north of $200,000. Even the services of LiDAR USA would have cost Baltimore $5,000. Lucky for the city, LiDAR USA was willing to donate their services and sent Graham to the city in a pickup truck loaded with gear.

This reporter finds it gratifying to see LiDAR used in more ways, and coming closer to reaching its full potential.

For more information, click through to the Baltimore Sun. Thanks LiDAR USA’s Jeff Fagerman for the tip. 

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