Laser scanning 'power trio' sparks excitement among forensic investigators at IAFSM 2020


NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With the theme, “Expanding the Functionality of the Point Cloud,” the International Association of Forensic and Security Metrology 6th Annual International Education Conference (IAFSM 2020) in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 23-27, showcased a broad range of laser scanning technology, from high-speed, high-performance systems capable of capturing entire scenes in minutes (even in the rain!) to software that easily handles data from multiple sensors and enables the fast creation of finished diagrams.  

Point clouds from a mock crime scene captured with two BLK360s show the detail of the scan data. (Photo courtesy of Leica Geosystems)
Point clouds from a mock crime scene captured with two BLK360s show the detail of the scan data. (Photo courtesy of Leica Geosystems)

One of the most talked-about innovations, however, wasn’t a single technology but an intriguing combination. Highlighted in a three-hour workshop, the “power trio” of the BLK360 imaging laser scanner, the BLK3D in-picture 3D measurement tool and the BLK2GO handheld imaging laser scanner drew significant attention.  

Speed, Ease of Use Simplify Laser Scanning Adoption 

The BLK360, introduced in 2017, is already popular among investigators and police agencies for its ease of use and ability to capture a full-dome scan with imagery in less than three minutes. The portable, compact push-button reality-capture solution quickly generates a full 3D representation of a scene. Ryan Rezzelle, manager of the Leica Geosystems Public Safety Group in the US and Canada, showed how two BLK360s were mounted sideways to scan a mock crime scene involving a skeleton at IAFSM 2017, with key details clearly visible in the point cloud data. 

The BLK3D, introduced in 2018, is an electronic distance measurement (EDM) tool with a viewfinder that has a range of 250 m. (820 ft.). It captures 2D images embedded with 3D data and instantly allows you to obtain accurate measurements on the touchscreen. For an accuracy check, Rezzelle showed images captured with the BLK3D compared to point clouds captured with the industry-standard RTC360 laser scanner, and the measurement data was within hundredths. Data and images can be exported to CMI, PDF or JPG. Measurements can be used to quick draw floorplans and “smart room” features, and these can be exported to DXF 2D/3D or DWG 2D/3D. Rezzelle also showed how the handheld, Android-powered tool can be used as a controller for 3D laser scanners, making it an attractive multipurpose tool for public safety professionals.

The BLK2GO, the newest innovation, recreates spaces in 3D on the move. It captures images and dimensionally accurate point clouds in real time and uses SLAM technology to record the trajectory through space. Its speed and ease of use make it an ideal mobile mapping solution for onsite security planning, public building documentation and school safety. Users can get live 2D and 3D visualizations, check the device status, and do quick data inspections with the BLK2GO Live app for iPhone. 

Josh Rayburn, mobile mapping manager for Leica Geosystems in the US and Canada, did a live demonstration and shared data captured earlier in the week on the event venue, The Inn at Opryland.  Notably, the total capture time for three floors of hallways, entrances and exits, the lobby, pool, and all public spaces was just 54 minutes. Attendees had an opportunity to go hands-on with the BLK2GO and work with the data using laptops loaded with Cyclone REGISTER 360 post-processing software and JetStream Viewer.  “This was completely different from anything else at IAFSM,” Rezzelle said. “The data capture speed was stunning. It was immediately evident how much of an impact a solution like this could have on emergency preparedness and school safety.” 

Streamlined Workflows Advance Forensic Capabilities

While the technologies highlighted in the workshop can each be used separately to enhance an agency’s effectiveness, the tools also complement each other in both data collection and software. Rezzelle, who worked more than 16 years as a CSI and forensic specialist, said he could see where a BLK3D would be indispensable as an everyday tool for enabling investigators to capture 3D measurable images in situations that don’t require more sophisticated methods or for simplifying the control of laser scanning. Using a BLK2GO alone or with one of the other BLK tools provides an easy and practical way to capture point clouds on the fly. And Map360 software seamlessly pulls all the data together into clear, compelling, courtroom-ready deliverables that can help bring more cases to justice. 

“Our focus is on making full digitalization fast and easy for forensic investigators and law enforcement professionals while giving them complete confidence in their data,” Rezzelle said. “Whether you’re doing bloodstain pattern analysis, investigating a crime or crash scene, or keeping your community safe by preparing for future possibilities, technology can help you be more efficient and effective—and it’s easier than ever to integrate into your current workflows.” 

About Leica Geosystems Inc.
Leica Geosystems, part of Hexagon, is the standard in 3D laser scanning and digital scene mapping and documentation for public safety and forensics. We provide the tools you need to do the job quickly, precisely and reliably.

Our laser scanners provide industry-leading speed, data quality and range, along with survey-grade accuracy and a rugged design; the ability to geo-tag evidence photos in the field and register data sets in real time so you can share 3D exhibits at the push of a button; and a compact, tactical design that makes quick work of scene documentation.

But laser scanners are just one of the many innovative solutions that make Leica Geosystems the world leader in geospatial measurement solutions. We also offer vehicle-based and wearable reality capture, fast and easy-to-use total stations, and calibration-free GNSS rovers. Our powerful software pulls together data from all sensors to allow you to easily import, process, analyze and visualize data to create clear, concise, court-ready deliverables.

Add to this experienced support and efficient workflows, and you have a complete solution that increases safety, facilitates quick scene documentation, saves money and substantially reduces the likelihood of errors.

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