Video: Weather Durability: Leica Laser Scanners Get It Right…Right Now

Rain delays, snow days, heat advisories, and freeze warnings…we can take it. We’re Leica, and WHEN IT HAS TO BE RIGHT…RIGHT NOW, there are no better 3D laser scanning options with which to head into the elements.

In 2016 I finished over 7.5 years as a crime scene supervisor for a sheriff’s office CSI team within a crime lab and 15+ years as a CSI. In my last 5+ of those years, I was a Leica ScanStation user. During that era, our Leica ScanStation and the USPS mail carriers had one thing in common:

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these ScanStations from the swift completion of spinning round and round.”

Okay, so I modified that a bit, but what I want to convey was that, in my span as a field laser scanner operator, no environmental element ever stopped our Leica ScanStation scanner. We had a C10, also known as the PS10.

The Leica PS/P/C line has a very special number attached to it: IP54. IP equals Ingress Protection…things getting through the outer casing and into the mechanics and electronics of the laser scanner. I used to brag about it, and some of the CSIs would make fun of me for being so proud of that IP54. Who carries such an esoteric fact on a flag and marches around cheering its merit? IT WAS ME! That number kept us scanning come rain or snow. Here’s the definition of the IP numbers, in a nutshell:


Now to be fair, when we would scan in the rain or snow with our Leica ScanStation PS10, there would be noise as a result of the scanner “seeing” the rain or snow. That noise was easily removable or placed on its own layer and turned off within Cyclone, and the scene was presented exactly as expected for the level of documentation that became the norm for our Leica.

As we move forward and the technology leads from the front, we continue to solve these problems with math and science! Leica’s on-board and import algorithms have got some serious smarts! Rain and snow noise is now recognized as noise and is disregarded during the collection and import processes! This is done using a concept called “Mixed Pixel Filtration” and it has revolutionized how we are getting data off of the instrument!

What you’re about to see was captured using my Leica ScanStation PS40. It is a beast of a laser scanner with range to 270 meters and speeds of up to 1,000,000 points/sec. I thought I loved my PS10 when I was a CSI; now I’m really in love with my PS40!

The following video was shot at the Illinois Division of the International Association for Identification at the Northern Illinois University – Naperville Conference Center. (I took advantage of a miserable rainy afternoon to double down on my previous post.)

This is a snapshot of the raw scan data literally after soaking the scanner for more than 10 minutes in this steady rainfall throughout the scan. This is 100% raw, straight from the capture and immediately after upload.

Something is clearly missing above…NOISE! There is virtually no noise in this capture. I literally counted a handful of “weather points” in the sky in the data set. What you are seeing here is the power of Mixed Pixel Filtration!

So not only can the Leica ScanStation operate in the rain…the data coming off of the instrument is near pristine, survey-grade measurement data with little to no noise!

Here is an aerial view of the Conference Center for context:

And here’s how I felt about it, getting soaked and all:

When considering an investment in a laser scanner, one of the key questions that MUST be asked of any vendor: What kind of weather conditions can your scanner scan in? Don’t just accept an answer on its face…ask for a demonstration of the weather capabilities…you won’t regret it. The question becomes, Where will I use my scanner? If snow, rain, heavy winds, cold, and any other generally miserable weather occurs in your area, this is a point you don’t want to gloss over. Crime scenes don’t happen on sunny, temperate beaches only…well okay, maybe in San Diego…but I’m sure they still get some rain, at least!

And now for temperature…the Leica PS/P line will scan from -4° F to 122° F (-20° C to 50° C). When comparing the Leica ScanStations against any other make or model of laser scanner, a key question to ask is: What is the operating temperature range of the scanner? Take for example, the city of Naperville, Ill., where I shot the above rainy-day video and host to this year’s IDIAI. This is a WeatherSpark.com graph for the daily highs and lows for temperature through the previous 1-year span.


The upper line represented above is the manufacturer stated low temperature operating threshold for another make of scanner on the market, included here for comparison. The bottom line is the Leica stated low temperature operating threshold. The pink box is the zone in which Leica would function unquestionably, and theirs may not. I point this out bluntly because this is a critical question to ask of any vendor. It’s easy to dazzle doing a demo in the conference room of a police department. Let’s head into the fray and scan in the middle of a deep freeze. It’s not going to be fun for any of us, but at least you (the customer) will get a more realistic presentation of how any given laser scanner functions. When you do a demo, try and recreate working conditions as closely as possible.

If you invest in the major purchase of a 3D laser scanner, you will want to be able to use it 100% of the time. If it’s cold, rainy or snowy and your opportunities for use drop down to 50%, it will be an unhappy discussion with your chief, sheriff, major, captain, city counsel, prosecuting attorney as to why your investment and your access to sound measurements sits on the shelf while you work your scene.

I worked a homicide in my previous employ in which we were outside for 8 hours and the Leica ScanStation sat proudly there with us for the whole day, rocking each scan we tasked to it. The low that day was 3° and the high was 20°, which occurred well after we left the scene. We worked that day with brisk winds and temperatures in the single digits without the slightest of issue (with the scanner…we were frozen solid by day’s end!).


 

The weather durability of a Leica ScanStation complements perfectly the amazingly clean and accurate SURVEY GRADE measurement data for a fantastic user experience and uncompromising output from the instrument.

 

For more information about laser scanning solutions for public safety, please contact us.

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