3D Laser Mapping Executive Chairman Graham Hunter is not exaggerating when he says the small company has a lot going on.

The Nottingham, England-based provider of  LiDAR software and hardware (most notably the StreetMapper system based on Riegl LiDAR technology) has recently released a handheld laser scanner, increased its staff of 35 by six people, opened a new research and development facility, and is putting on a workshop for archaeologists.

Its new handheld rapid-laser mapping system, called the ZEB1, allows users to capture 3D point clouds at accuracy of less than 5 millimeters. Weighing slightly more than 1.5 pounds, the device is designed for mapping caves, buildings and even forests as users walk around. According to a press release, the ZEB1 captures millions of measurements and maps the data on the fly; no software for processing is needed.

3D laser mapping zeb1
The ZEB1 laser scanner.

“It takes laser scanning to a different place; you don’t (need) a tripod or a vehicle,” Hunter said. “Just the freedom and flexibility to walk around with a scanner is incredible. We’re pretty confident. We’ve invested a lot in bringing this to the market, and the response so far has been huge.”

Developed by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, and licensed through U.K.-based start-up GeoSLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping), the product can be used by data collection novices such as archaeologists – who will get a look at the device at the workshop on March 14 – in areas without GPS coverage.

The system is mounted on a spring mechanism that oscillates as users walk. This rotation allows it to convert 2D measurements into 3D fields of view. The measurements are automatically processed on 3D Laser Mapping servers.

Hunter stressed that the ZEB1 is not designed for survey-grade accuracy. Other drawbacks include the scanner being “a bit noisy,” and it offers lower resolution compared to terrestrial scanners. However, for applications that require collecting data while traversing stairs or exploring caves, the instrument could provide a new solution.

“We don’t want to oversell it on the resolution you can get, but if you want a floor plan, the accuracy – the distance between the walls or the volume of a cave – you can work with an accuracy of 5 millimeters,” he said.

Staff at the new 3D Laser Mapping facility will provide support for the handheld device along with its StreetMapper and SiteMonitor technology, as well continued software and hardware R&D efforts. The facility will include simulation technology and a training center. Hunter said he expects the company to release new technology later this year and add another six staff members in the next six months.

3D Laser Mapping is also making a strong push into North America. It recently hired John Arnold as vice president of sales for its Denver office. Calling the United States a “key growth area,” Hunter said the company plans to develop additional partnerships to add value to products like the ZEB1 and Riegl’s offerings.

“Our aim is to build on (our existing) relationships with partners and offer more for customers,” Hunter said. “We have good relationships with our customers. A lot of what we do is defined by the customers. It’s a pull from the market. We’re not pushing things that no one’s asking for. In a lot of cases, we’re working on a customer’s specification, and we turn it into a product and then make it available for everybody.”