Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

3-D laser mapping helps local community

By Dave Smith

21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.    Often the tendency when possessing a valuable piece of technology is to keep close and use it for personal needs. But that’s not how Team Pete’s civil engineer squadron views the scenario.

The 21st Civil Engineer Squadron has a Leica C10 High Definition Survey Instrument, one of only two in the entire Air Force. The instrument is a 3-D laser scanner that allows surveying in ways traditional instrumentation does not. The 21st CES is reaping the benefits of this unique piece of equipment, but so are other community partners throughout the Pikes Peak Region.

When flooding plagued Manitou Springs in 2013 the 21st CES created 3-D maps of the William’s Canyon area to assist in mitigating further flooding and damage from those events. According to city officials it was a boon to their efforts.

A series of community meetings were held including citizens and other local groups. The purpose of the meetings was to describe what could happen and what residents and businesses should do if worst case scenarios played out. The meetings also described what city departments were doing to protect the area.

“We wanted (citizens) to take it seriously and know that if we get a 100 year event they need to be at higher ground,” said Manitou Springs Storm Water Manager Ryan Keene. “It was very helpful because it gave them a better idea of what they could expect; it helped them to see it.”

The CES engineers calibrated a 100 year flood event at the confluence of Fountain Creek and the Canyon near Soda Springs Park. The images made it possible to overlay existing structures with imagery of what water levels would be should the 100 year event occur. The more startling images showed water coming up above the windows on the first level of the Spa building where Adam’s Mountain Café was located.

“We attended community informational meetings and showed scans of 23 foot deep water half way up the windows at Adam’s,” explained Roger Clarke, 21st CES program support chief and geospatial information officer. “The visual imagery was very impactful; it gave them awareness.”

Along with community awareness the group from Team Pete assisted Manitou Springs as experts in emergency evacuation mapping, creating scans used in determining the safest, most efficient evacuation routes. Data created by the 3-D scanner was also created for use in storm sewer work.

The 3-D scanner uses lasers to create exacting maps and surveys other methods cannot. The maps it creates are more accurate allowing for property lines or building footprints to be measured to exacting standards preventing things like too much concrete for example, being ordered.

The scanner has a 360×270 degree field of view, Clarke said, and a range out to 1,000 feet enabling it to build packets of 3-D plot points. It produces a greater level of detail than GPS equipment. In conjunction with its software package the scanner is versatile.

“The software is another key component of that equipment,” Clarke said. “We can capture or scan data once and use it many times. We can update information as needed for accuracy and scale.”

Using images from the 3-D scanner save time and goes where GPS cannot. Clarke said the laser equipment gives four or five dimensions. Because it does not rely on satellites it can see beneath awnings and other things that typically obscure surveys, providing true, accurate ground measurements and rooflines.

On Feb. 19-20, the 21st CES hosted a joint training session to better prepare local entities in emergency preparedness. Representatives from FEMA, City of Colorado Springs emergency operations came together at the Leadership Development Center. The workshop allowed for crisis management personnel to work on the latest versions of the mapping software and better understand its capabilities.

“Once a year it gives us an opportunity to bring our community partners in and build relationships,” Clarke said. “It feels good that we were able to help our communities.”

Clarke first realized the benefit of a laser 3-D scanner when he worked at Nellis AFB. He brought the desire with him when he came to Peterson AFB. Coincidentally, Nellis is the only other base with one of the scanners, purchasing one after Peterson. He said if he had his way every engineering group in the Air Force would have one.

“The thing I like to say is that this thing wins every war where we take it,” said Clarke. “It gives reality of the infrastructure.”

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