Students and staff from the University of South Wales have mapped in detail for the first time the spectacular underground cave system Dan-yr-Ogof or National Showcaves of Wales. Using a ZEB1 hand held laser scanner from 3D Laser Mapping the group was able to capture millions of highly accurate measurements. From these individual points, known collectively as a point cloud, highly detailed 3D models have been created showing some of the cave system’s most intricate detail. These include the thousands of delicate stalactites which are a highlight of the popular tourist attraction the Cathedral Cave.
Led by Dr David Kidner and Dr Nathan Thomas, members of the University of South Wales GIS department used the ZEB1 hand held mapping system to document the award winning Cathedral Cave including the beautiful cavern known as “The Dome of St. Paul’s”. Due to the compactness of the system and its ease of use, students, with little or no experience of laser scanning systems, were able to undertake the underground data capture after simple instruction. Holding the lightweight ZEB1 system and walking, at a normal pace, millions of highly accurate laser scanned measurements were recorded on the system’s integrated data logger. The ZEB1’s unique design also ensured the spatial accuracy of the captured data despite being operated underground without GPS signal.
Dr Thomas commented, “The ZEB1 was much easier to use than more traditional laser scanning systems. There was no need for a complex set up to reference the captured data as the ZEB1 can self-localise without the need for GPS signal. Due to its simplicity of operation the students were able to be hands on during data capture and integrated data logger recorded the day’s work without having to link up to any other devices.”
Working with the University’s Department of Computing and Mathematics, in conjunction with the Software Alliance Wales, students instigated a series of projects to bring the laser scanned data to life. Alex Bainbridge, a student working towards an HND in Computer Games Development, worked with the data to explore the potential for 3D visualisation. Using both Open Source and commercial applications he was able to process the raw data into a series of output formats including a video tour and various 3D walkthroughs. It is hoped this will prove extremely useful for the National Showcaves for Wales and will feature on their new website together with a series of multi-media projects designed to engage visitors of all ages.