Mystery Creek Cave – LiDAR Survey Trial

(Extract taken from Speleo Spiel 450, May-June 2022 Edition)
17 April 2022Gabriel Kinzler (with notes by Craig Stobbs)
Party: Reena Balding, Gabriel Kinzler, Craig Stobbs, Ethan
Stobbs, Oliver Stobbs

This year, Easter Sunday turned into a family caving tech trip for me, Craig and his family. The company he works at, Fulcrum Robotics, kindly let us borrow a portable 3D scanner, namely an Emesent Hovermap, which uses LiDAR surveying technology. We chose Mystery Creek Cave to trial it out, in what could be a Tasmanian first. The Hovermap unit shoots hundreds of thousands of laser beams every second and in all directions. LiDAR data is processed onboard in real time to produce a local 3D map of the surroundings. It is then possible to use this data in various ways, including for simple 3D visualisation on any device. Colourisation is possible too for a more realistic look. It was decided we’d tour the cave (first visit for the Stobbs) before starting to play with the device. The kids enjoyed hunting for the Boiler Room, then we continued along The Skyline and turned around, down The Laundry Chute, to return to The Broken Column via the lower levels. There, Craig took the Hovermap out of its rigid backpack case. The main purpose of the backpack is to protect the unit during transport in harsh environments. The Hovermap uses a battery that can either be attached to the device itself, or
housed inside the backpack (in which case a power cord is connected from the device to an external port on the backpack, which contains the battery plugged in internally).
Craig then proceeded to walk back towards the entrance, holding the Hovermap at an arm’s length. We went with him through the Shipwreck Chamber, the Walls of Sorrow, Glowworm Chambers 1 & 2, and stopped just before the Entrance Chamber. The next part consisted in importing the data on a computer. Different professional software suites are available for point cloud processing, but there’s also open source programs available to the layman, like CloudCompare. In Craig’s chosen settings, the Hovermap shot approximately 150,000,000 points over a 15-minute scan, so roughly 10 million shots/minute, or ~166,666 shots/second, which amounted to a 1.5 GB file. Ideally, though, you want to work with a x10 subsample (150 MB), unless you have a very powerful CPU and GPU. The point cloud can then be adjusted with different parameters: you can cut out certain parts, populate dark zones, change visual settings, etc. There is a plugin that allows you to convert the point cloud to a mesh (polygons/surfaces instead of a constellation of points), but this takes a lot of computing power (and thus time).

Chris and Max prepping a T10 for spraying works. This is the Agras T10 a very capable UAV in the right hands. Fulcrum operate Tasmania's largest fleet of UAV's combined with the best CASA licensed pilots.

Fulcrum's UAV sprayers are very suitable and agile for working large expanses of land and over rough terrains and very flexible with the weather conditions with high efficiency. These drones are prominent in size offering a larger and broader spraying span.

 

Dredge Robotics, using tactical technology to manage assets and the environment.

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