Frikkin’ LASERs

Another wonderful development in the world of LIDAR – LIght Detection And Ranging – has lead to the possibility of mapping the surface and geophysical properties of other planets with with “differences [in height] down to one centimeter“. Pixel resolution has also greatly increased, “from kilometers square to a few feet by a few feet.

LIDAR works on a similar principle to radar, but through the use of lasers rather than radio waves. The laser is shot at an object, and the time delay between the pulse and the reflection is measured in order to accurately gauge the distance. The advantages of LIDAR over radar are twofold: LIDAR can be used to measure smaller objects, and it works on a greater variety of materials.

Of course project leader Professor Donald Figer is keen to promote his system’s anti-terrorism credentials:cctv

“Imagine,” he says, “that you have this 3-D, 180-degree fish-eye system . . . in every city scanning continuously for biohazards.”

I know it’s meant to be scanning for biohazards, but presumably the system could also be used to create real-time, centimetre-resolution maps of cities, including the relative positions of every individual. Combine this with currently existing surveillance systems and we could have ourselves a nice panopticon by the middle of the century.

[original story from Technology Review][image by Mike Licht]