A hi-tech mapping system has been unveiled that could prove
invaluable in a disaster like the Christchurch earthquakes.
The million-dollar system can capture a complete 3D model of New Zealand's streets.
StreetCam3D, which is the first technology of its kind in New Zealand, features a high-density light detection and ranging scanner and high-resolution 360-degree cameras which are mounted on a four-wheel drive utility vehicle.
Wellington based Terralink International developed the technology, and says as it drives along it captures the position and appearance of every object, up to 100 metres in any direction, with "incredible pinpoint accuracy", accurate to a couple of millimetres.
It allows users to measure depth as well as height and width.
Mike Donald, managing director of Terralink International, says StreetCam3D "gives you a near perfect model of the street environment" without leaving the office.
"It captures up to 1.33 million points of location data, in every direction, every second," Donald says.
Primarily a resource for commercial users like construction, engineers, telcos, surveyors, StreetCam3D has real relevance for emergency management.
If the technology was available before the Christchurch earthquakes, "we would have been able to pick up to an accuracy of millimetres any subsidence in a building, the road, the infrastructure," Donald said.
He says an image can be compared from before and after an earthquake, and even the smallest change in a building's height or position can be detected.
"By re-driving the affected areas, response organisations can compare and analyse before and after data, to determine for example, the lean of a building, without having to put ground teams into the affected area, or at risk."
Donald said StreetCam3D will reduce the need for expensive, time consuming and often dangerous fieldwork on and around New Zealand's state highways, local roads and city streets.
"It's going to unlock the benefits of spatial information for almost any organisation that operates on or around our streets, fundamentally changing the way many businesses and people work - from engineers to asset managers and urban planners," he said.
The technology can also be used to check line of sight, see where shadows will be cast, or what views will be blocked by the construction of a new building.
The plan is to map every highway, road, street and lane, in the end providing a 3D streetscape of the entire country. The camera truck will have to drive 126,000 kilometres of roading, an exercise that will take about two years.
"Yeah, it's quite a big responsibility, you know, driving around with three quarters of a million dollars on the back. You don't want to be the one to crash it," said Shane Sullivan, StreetCam3D technician.
Half of Wellington has already been shot and Auckland is next.