In 2021, the UK hosted the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall. As part of planning for the event, Devon and Cornwall Police’s specialist mapping team was asked to use 3D mapping to provide support to the event’s security and planning operation.
The result of our work was the ground-breaking use of new technology to create virtual 3D environments of the summit venues from the ground and the air.
Creating 3D scans
In 2020, Devon and Cornwall Police started a project to focus on the utilisation of 3D intelligence and identified two main areas of innovative technology. First, rapid data capture using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) scanners were used to create a 3D picture of an environment, floor plans and 360° images generated and shared to operational teams, creating a ‘digital twin’ of any location.
Secondly, photogrammetry using 3D models of key locations was created utilising our specialist drone Unit. These 3D models can be viewed in virtual reality or on a standard computer/phone.
The corporate objective was to increase our location intelligence and reduce our carbon footprint, by having 3D replicas of all our key sites available to every officer. As our 3D project developed, we were given our inaugural task to respond to the needs of the G7 summit.
As well as the exciting opportunities that the G7 created, we also encountered several obstacles, notably the tight timeframes and the sheer scale of the geography; the G7 was held roughly 110 miles from police headquarters in Exeter.
Other problems our project faced included having to upscale for a major international event, using hardware and software bought for the capture of smaller sites. The LIDAR scanner we had planned to purchase was now too slow for the large venues and our drones while perfect for individual sites could not create entire 3D cities.
Rapid data capture using LIDAR
Early in our preparations, we spoke to our specialist firearms team, who had been working with officers from Police Service Northern Ireland and had experience working on a G8 event. We also sought advice from Professor David Mcllhatton, Professor of National Security Innovation at Coventry University on rapid data capture methods for 3D data.
These conversations highlighted a new LIDAR scanner (The NavVis VLX) which would allow us to capture data five times faster than our initial recommendation. A LIDAR scanner uses lasers to judge distances and depth; the biggest benefit was that it allowed our data to be shared securely online and this would become pivotal in the successful global deployment of our 3D intelligence.
Devon and Cornwall Police now had hardware fast enough to capture the venues and the added value of a fast, secure way to share the data. Our team spent days travelling to collect the data, capturing 360° imagery every two metres within every key site, including a wide range of buildings, roads and coastline.
The data was uploaded and shared with key stakeholders, with each given a unique username and password. Using any phone, tablet or PC, our officers, staff, and partners could measure any object within any venue, and they could add points of interest and analyse the fastest routes. When the internal 3D service was successfully up and running, we then focused on the external 3D model.
Using drones to capture data
Our Drone Unit captured the data to create the 3D models, with prominent sites and landmarks used during the summit subsequently built in 3D using Skyline’s Photomesh. While this data was providing us with a fantastic visualisation of those sites, we were still missing citywide models, so during the planning phase, we met staff from Ordnance Survey (OS) who were also innovating in the 3D geo space and they agreed to work with us under a specific licence, providing us with intelligent 3D models of entire towns.
We took their data and enriched it with our higher resolution drone models, so with our external 3D project nearing completion, we simply needed to share it. We had two software systems at Devon and Cornwall Police which could utilise the 3D models: Skyline’s TerraExplorer and Cunning Running’s CTS-PRAS and these systems allowed detailed analysis of the data models.
Post G7 3D services
Once the G7 concluded, we continued with our plans to create additional digital twins. All our sports stadiums locally have now been captured in 3D and we have started using the capability for event planning, with the most recent event being the Boardmasters Festival in Cornwall. The positive feedback from event planners, our control room staff and other specialist officers around the organisation has been fantastic.
Devon and Cornwall Police now has the hardware, the experience, and the momentum to contribute to national projects. The innovations we uncovered within the 3D geospatial field can have a legacy throughout the emergency services reaching far beyond the south west.
Devon and Cornwall Police will continue to innovate with 3D and are keen to work with any emergency services who would like to see the benefits mentioned above. We believe the project highlights the numerous benefits of investing in geospatial innovation and making sure partner agencies work together on major projects.