Laser Scanning Should Be Required for Every School Building; New Technology Makes It Possible

When it comes to active-shooter events like school shootings, every second counts. “Studies have shown that as many as four shots can be fired in one second,” says Agent Clint Norris, of the New Mexico State Police Crime Scene Team in Las Cruces. “And those four shots could mean four lives. It could mean four different kinds of injuries that would have their own consequences. So even one second is a tremendous amount of time.”

laser scanning schools RTC360 A school building scan captured with the Leica RTC360 laser scanner.

Unfortunately, it’s not theoretical for Norris. In December 2017, his team was deployed to Aztec High School to scan the aftermath of an active-shooter event that left two students dead. “Right now, there's nothing set up to categorically prevent this from happening again, he says. “So we need to be prepared.”

Norris believes preparedness includes comprehensive 3D scan data of all public schools. But the more he strategized, the more he realized accomplishing this goal in his region wouldn’t be feasible with the agency’s existing laser scanner, a Leica ScanStation C10. “The C10 is a tremendous machine,” he says. “But the reality is, in light of current advances in the technology, it’s comparatively slow.”

Acknowledged as the top of its class for a number of years after its introduction in 2009, the ScanStation C10 captures up to 50,000 points per second at high accuracy and long range. However, it has since been eclipsed by significant innovations in laser scanning technology—most notably the Leica RTC360. Introduced in 2018, the RTC360 scans 2 million points per second while simultaneously capturing high-dynamic range (HDR) imagery and streamlines the entire workflow.

Norris recently had the opportunity to put two of the new scanners to the test on a 128,000-square-foot public school in Las Cruces, thanks to sales rep Eric Evans, of Surveyors Source in Albuquerque. After just 22 hours, the two men walked away with 450 scans and a comprehensive 3D representation of the multi-building campus. “The RTC360 just blew me away,” Norris says.

Fast, agile and precise 3D reality capture solution makes every second count

RTC360 in a school classroom for security scanning The portability and versatility of the Leica RTC360 makes it easy to scan building interiors.

Norris was amazed with the RTC360’s speed, ease-of-use and portability. “The workflow actually flows,” he says. “Other platforms get the job done, but there's a lot more work to it. With the RTC360, you're just moving, and there's not a lot of downtime.”

In less than two minutes, the technology captured high-accuracy scans and impressive full-color HDR imagery, even in low-light conditions. It was all Norris could do to keep up. “By the time I got things squared away to move the scanner to the next position,” he says, “it was already done and I was almost behind the power curve.”

In addition to being fast and powerful, the RTC360 is agile. With its light and compact construction, Norris could simply place the scanner on top of a desk or table and scan from there. “We would never do that with the C10. It's too heavy. It's too bulky. It would be too hard to level, and it would take additional time,” he says. “So the RTC360’s versatility was amazing.”

Combining the scans, a process known as point cloud registration, was also accomplished in a fraction of the time. The visual inertial system (VIS) technology in the RTC360 automatically tracks the scanner’s movement and registers the data in the field in real time. From there, the data is transferred automatically to Leica Cyclone REGISTER 360 office software to complete the registration process in hours, rather than the typical days or weeks. “The actual registration process with REGISTER 360 was mind blowing,” he says.  “It saves a tremendous amount of time.”

The RTC360 passes the security scanning test

With its ability to streamline both the scanning and the registration processes, Norris is confident the Leica RTC360 3D reality capture solution has what it takes to make school scanning a feasible proposition, not only for Las Cruces but also for public safety agencies around the country. “It's taking off days, if not weeks, or even, in some cases, months of work to get that kind of data available,” he says. “The opportunity I had to run the RTC360 just solidified in my mind that it’s the direction we need to go.”

To speak with one of our public safety experts about high-speed reality capture solutions, please contact us.

RTC360 school scan point cloud


About the author: Wendy Lyons is a freelance writer living in Canton, Georgia. Lyons, who has a degree in journalism, was introduced to geomatics through her work as associate editor for the nation’s leading land surveying magazine. She now focuses on laser scanning and other geospatial measurement solutions for public safety professionals.