A new 3D laser camera that takes images from distances of up to one kilometer (0.6 miles) may have a revolutionary impact on defense systems and various scientific projects. The camera, designed by Edinburgh Heriot-Watt University scientists, uses highly advanced lasers and superconducting nanowires to take high-resolution 3D photos of distant targets.
The technology the camera uses consists of sending out an infrared laser beam that sweeps over the distant objects. The 3D image of the target is created based on the time it takes one particle of light to travel back to the camera. The result is a highly accurate 3D rendering of the targeted object.
This technology can be primarily used to scan static objects such as vehicles, but it can have varied scientific applications. The 3D camera scanner is very good at identifying objects obscured by clutter such as foliage. It can also be used to remotely scan the volume and health of vegetation and keep track of rock movement.
The scanner would also be of great help to defense systems, as it could aid military drones in developing more accurate sight of targets during combat operations. If the camera is improved to work well underwater, it could be used to scan the depth of seas and oceans in areas otherwise inaccessible to human-made devices.
However, the scanner has one drawback: it cannot detect human skin. Instead of rendering human faces, the 3D camera draws them as dark and featureless areas. This is because skin does not reflect the light as other objects do and therefore, not enough photons make it back to the camera to offer an accurate measurement.
With more research, the scientists behind the project expect to be able to use the camera from distances of up to 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). The technology at the core of the new device could also be expanded to measure the speed and direction of a moving object. Researchers expect to be able to produce a lightweight, fully portable 3D scanner in as little as five years.