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CHIPS Articles: LiDAR Scanning of Ships Leads to Better Service

LiDAR Scanning of Ships Leads to Better Service
Enabling a self-sufficient, technological workforce when underway
By Robert Palomares, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division - October 9, 2019
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD), technicians and engineers are using a new type of scanner to capture more realistic views and measurements of a ship’s compartments and structures.

The new tool captures 3D sets of points around a ship, allowing planners and technicians to locate and repair areas of the ship faster and more accurately than they have previously because they now have more precise data to use for planning and drawing verifications.

The 3D data sets are relayed to engineers and installers to develop, manage and verify actual ship conditions, leading to more accurate feedback and better service.

“This will save cost overruns in rework and ship checks due to inaccurate drawings and models,” which is the current process, said Lt. Todd Coursey, outreach military lead for the In-Service Engineering Agent (ISEA) of the Future team. “We are working to become a port of opportunity to collect and process data for the naval enterprise.”

Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR, is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure variable distances. These light pulses generate precise, three-dimensional information about the surface characteristics it is targeting.

LiDAR systems allow scientists and mapping professionals to examine both national and manmade environments with more accuracy, precision and flexibility, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, whose scientists use it to map the earth for geographic information.

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division, and Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) RESTORE lab in San Diego are training PHD technicians and engineers and loaned them a scanner that PHD recently used to scan USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) while she was moored at the Port of Hueneme. PHD will get its own scanner next year, Coursey said.

“We’re doing the weapons systems here, scanning the (ship’s) Vertical Launching System and the hull,” Coursey said. “We are still in the collection phase of the process. Later, we will be able to use the scans to download a virtual reality view of the compartments and structures of the ships.”

Electronics Technician 3rd Class Fayt Rodriguez of NAVWAR’s Configuration and Validation Team is on annual training from Commander Naval Information Warfare Systems Command in Groton, Conn. and is working with Coursey on the scans.

“In the future, we’ll be able to take a virtual reality tour of ships using this technology,” Rodriguez said. “Right now, we’re concentrating on collecting the data for correct measurements around the ships. But it’s going to be very exciting.”

Coursey described the LiDAR scanning technology as “enabling.”

“We want to pivot to a more technological workforce that’s self-sufficient when underway,” Coursey said. “That’s the ISEA of the Future aspect of this project. We would like to build upon this effort next year, and introduce scanning to ships’ crews, possibly having them deploy with one, and determine the accuracy of what they scan.

“That’s the enabling part. The ship’s crew becomes the data collector, while the shore-based support can laser focus—appropriately punned—on repair and modernization on time and on budget.”

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