Dec
18
2015

New methods in the Big Bat Cave

Engineers trial new surveying methods in Kentucky. Parts of the “Big Bat Cave” are precisely recorded with 3D laser scanners. An extremely demanding project: There is hardly any light underground and it is very confined in places.

The Big Bat Cave is a great attraction for cave explorers and nature-lovers. The history of the area comes to life here; rare crayfish, crickets and bats are at home there. For the “Kentucky Karst Conservancy” , conservation of the landscape and nature is a matter of top priority, and in the engineers of QK4, Louisville, they found highly capable supporters.

The experts are testing new methods of acquiring data when surveying – and one of them is recording using 3D laser scanners. The engineers swapped their traditional surveying tools for a FARO Focus3D X 130 laser scanner whilst systematically and digitally recording the “Big Bat Cave” system in three dimensions. An exciting and groundbreaking experiment, which engineer Ben Shinabery explains step by step.

 

The three dimensional measurement is carried out from various standpoints using precisely defined reference points. The laser scanner takes around 8 minutes for each setting, measuring almost 1 million points per second in a 360-degree radius. This provides the surveyors with point clouds, which are then processed on the computer. FARO SCENE software is ideal in this context for creating three-dimensional models. The surveying team worked through the cave metre by metre, including through some tight spots which were difficult to access.

In this cramped, dark environment the advantages of the FARO Focus3D X 130 laser scanner come into their own: small and light, quick to set up and dismantle, and easily transported in the cave. Non-contact scanning delivers true-to-scale and ultra-precise data. The initial results were impressive. Project manager Ben Shinabery: “Now almost anyone can use the 3D models for scientific analysis: students, scientists and consultants.”

Kentucky is a region well-known for its caves – including the Mammoth Cave National Park, the longest known cave system in the world.  However, its little sister in Breckinridge Kentucky also has its charms, as shown by this project. Now it is to contribute to preserving and protecting it. A first impression of the 13.9-mile cave system recorded to date is provided by the fly-through, which carries you off into the widely ramified system of underground corridors.

 

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