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A new kind of mapping technology being used by the University of Nevada, Reno sounds a little like X-ray vision.
It can create incredibly accurate topographical maps using lasers.
“Basically, it’s sending pulses of light, which gets bounced off whatever it hits off first, and bounces back up to the sensor on the instrument,” said Seth Dee, a mapping specialist with the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology.
The laser technology is attached to airplanes that fly over swaths of land collecting data. The flyover of the Reno and Carson City areas happened in the fall of 2017 but it wasn't until this past summer that UNR received the data.
So far, the research has uncovered previously unknown earthquake faults, landslides and even an Ice Age lake that no longer exists.
But that’s not all LiDAR data can do, Dee explained. Because of how the light bounces off objects it registers vegetation but researchers can delete that data to look only at the 'bare earth' picture.
Biologists, on the other hand, can use the vegetation data for their own look at the tree canopy.
Dee said the information gathered in the mapping for Nevada can be used by a myriad of industries and researchers to find everything from dangerous abandoned mines to roadside ditches.
For Dee and his colleagues, they're getting detailed information about fault lines they knew about in the Reno area but now understand much better.
“What this helps us do is map those a lot more accurately and analyze them in a way that can help us rank their relative hazard,” he said.
The new fault lines they found were in the mountains west of Reno that were difficult to map because of all the vegetation.
“When you don’t have LiDAR, it is essentially blurry and when you do have this it’s like you put on glasses and can see all these things,” Dee said.
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Seth Dee, mapping specialist, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology
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