There’s a PBS series called “Time Scanners” that aired this Summer. They visit the Colisseum, Machu Pichu, Petra, Pyramids, Jerusalem, and St. Paul’s Cathedral to better understand details of construction, design and usage.

Pyramid scan

Pyramid scan

The principal tool is the 3D laser scanner which emits about a million bursts of laser light per second that bounce off the surface structures to obtain the surface geometry from the “point cloud.” (If you know about art, it’s like pointillism.) And just like with 360 panorama photography, individual scans can be stiched or aligned to form larger ones.

The limegreen tripod mount unit is probably the top of the line Leica P20 which costs over $100k. For architectural scanning, measurement accuracy is typically within 6mm at 100 meters range.

TimeScanners features the heavy lifting by members from the Univ. of Arkansas Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (CAST) and commentary from the celebrity Structural Engineer Steve Burrows.

Here’s chapter 1 of an excellent 3 part intro series to Laser Scanning. You can learn more about 3D scanning at the excellent which also has a subforum for handheld laser scanners. Visit to learn more about the cool Mantis F5 handheld.

Who knows – in 20 years we could be taking 3D laser scan snapshots!