Military Embedded Systems

USAF laser scanner boosts aircraft-imaging accuracy


May 30, 2012

Alice Moss

Military Embedded Systems

According to recent reports from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, the 46th Test Wing’s Air Force SEEK EAGLE Office recently acquired a Leica HDS 7000 3-D laser scanner, in addition to Rapidform reverse engineering software, for $150,000. The technologies’ mission is to facilitate rapid creation of digital models of weapons and aircraft, to be utilized in analyses of weapon-aircraft compatibility. Specifically, the scanner enables testing simulation prior to live testing, which will reportedly cut hundreds of thousands of dollars of test expenses.

The cutbacks in time and personnel costs for aircraft data collection are clear: two weeks and six people (four years ago) for manual 3-D data collection, as compared to the scanner’s capabilities (today), requiring two days data collection by two people – yielding a 93 percent decrease in collection expenses.

Additionally, the laser ups the accuracy of the data to +/- 0.01, as compared to approximately +/-0.03 for manual data collection. And data collection is relatively simple using the laser scanner: The scanner is held at several locations surrounding the airplane. A laser beam is then swept automatically across the aircraft by the scanner, and a 3-D point cloud is produced. If shadows sully the images, the scanner is moved to a more effective location.

And it appears the laser scanner system might have begun a trend among the Services, too, with a SEEK EAGLE representative reporting that the USAF recently had 8 days during which they scanned 13 Navy aircraft.


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