NTSB Uses Laser Scanners at Accident Scenes

 - February 4, 2013, 3:20 PM

The NTSB recently began using laser scanners as a replacement to standard camera photography to record important data at accident scenes. A camera records in two dimensions, but a laser scanner adds virtual reality by viewing evidence in three dimensions.

The scanners mount on a tripod and rotate 360 degrees to digitally record everything within about 300 feet, accurately correlating the time for the signal to return to help build not only three-dimensional still photos, but also digital simulations of past events. Because the scanners cannot see the back of an object, the device is moved to a variety of locations at the scene to build a complete picture.

The data gathered from the scanners can be digitally reassembled to provide information accurate enough to measure tire skid marks or even the deformation of damaged vehicles. The digital scanners also mean that simulations can offer viewers the opportunity to put themselves at any location to observe what occurred before or during an accident.